Football Language: To Trail

In this post we explain the word ‘to trail’ which has different meanings when used in football and you can find out…

In this post we explain the word ‘to trail’ which has different meanings when used in football and you can find out more about this phrase by reading the transcript below. You can also find many more examples of soccer vocabulary by going to our football cliches page here and our huge football glossary here. If you have questions or comments, please email us at:

Football Language: To trail

The word ‘trail‘ has three different meanings when used in football. One of these is to do with losing, another with penalty or free kick decisions, while another can be heard in the world of transfers.

So, in the first of these, we might sometimes hear the verb ‘to trail‘ used when a team is losing to another team. A radio commentator, for example, might say that the home team are trailing to the away team or maybe that the home team are trailing 1-2. If we see or hear the verb in the past – the team was trailing or the team trailed then we might expect to hear about a recovery or a comeback, so for example, the team trailed at half-time but came back in the second half to draw.

The second meaning of to trail is linked to transfers and means that one club is chasing another club’s player – they want them to sign for their club. Sometimes we can hear that a team has been trailing a player for months which means they have been tracking or following the player in order to sign them.
Embed from Getty Images
We might also hear the phrase, ‘trailing leg‘ sometimes, especially when describing a penalty decision. So, if a player trips or falls over an outstretched leg we might hear that they have been brought down by a trailing leg.

  • Example: ‘City twice trailed by two goals before scoring three in the final 20 minutes’ (BBC,, 16 Feb, 2022)
  • Example: ‘Spurs were heading for defeat as they trailed 2-1 after 90 minutes…’ (Leicester Mercury, January 2022)
  • Example: Many different clubs were trailing the striker before she finally signed for United.
  • Example: The player’s trailing leg caught the attacker and the referee awarded a penalty.

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

Welcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Soccer fans can enhance these skills with lots of free language resources: a weekly podcast, football phrases, explanations of football vocabulary, football cliches, worksheets, quizzes and much more at

Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.