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Football Phrases 2007-08

2006-07 Football Phrases

Each week Damon and Damian explain a football phrase on the weekly languagecaster podcast. Below is a list of these English for Football expressions from the 2007-08 season in order of when they appeared on the show. Click on the audio link to hear them, while there is also a pdf of the transcript and a link to the podcast in which it appeared. If you have questions or comments about this or any other phrase then email us at:

2008 Summer Podcast 6: To take apart

Today’s English for Football expression is the phrasal verb to take apart. Now, the basic meaning of this phrase is to break something down into separate parts but it can also mean to destroy something and it is this meaning that is commonly used in football. So, when a team easily defeats another team we say that they took them apart. Spain took Russia apart 3-0 in the semi-final of the European Championships while Holland took France and Italy apart in their earlier group matches. Unfortunately for Damon he was taken apart in the summer predictions battle by Damian. To take apart.

2008 Summer Podcast 5: Never say die

Today’s English for football phrase is never say die or have a never say die attitude. Now, to never say die means never give up, always keep trying, don’t admit defeat. It’s a very positive way of thinking and it’s used in sport and football to describe a team or a player with a great fighting spirit. You can say a team has a never say day attitude. Attitude means way of thinking, so to have a never say die attitude means your character or personality never gives up. In the Euro 2008 Championships one team has stood out as having a never say die attitude, and that team is of course Turkey. With two remarkable come from behind victories against the Czech Republic – scoring 3 goals in the last 15 minutes, and against Croatia last night with a last-gasp equaliser sending the game to penalties. Never say die!

2008 Summer Podcast 3: To cause an upset

Today’s English for football expression is to cause an upset which means that something surprising has happened. We use this phrase in football to describe it when a stronger team is beaten by a so-called weaker team – a surprising result, an upset. Croatia caused an upset when they defeated Germany 2-1 in yesterday’s Euro 2008 match while the hosts Austria will be hoping to cause another upset by beating Germany next week. Actually, that wouldn’t be an upset, more a miracle. To cause an upset.

2008 Summer Podcast 2: To put down a marker

Today’s English for football phrase is to put down a marker The ‘marker’ in this phrase originally meant a line in the ground, a boundary which could not be crossed. To put down, or to lay down, a marker originally meant to outline your territory, what is yours. Nowadays, it is most often used to mean ‘to send a signal’, ‘ to announce a ‘presence or power’. So, in football, if you lay down a marker you have a good result in an opening game in a competition. The win shows your opponents that you are a strong team and that you have a good chance of winning the competition. In the European Championships this week, Germany, Portugal and last night Holland, have all put down a marker showing the other teams that they will not be easy to beat. To put down a marker.

2008 Summer Podcast 1: Underachiever

Today’s English For Football phrase is underachievers which we use to describe something or someone that fails to achieve or reach their potential. In football we use this expression when a player or team does not do as well as expected beforehand. This is the case with the Spanish national team who have always produced a great number of talented players raising expectations that they might win a championship. However, since 1964 the team have won nothing despite being tipped to do so by many, hence the term underachievers. Yet again many are tipping the Spaniards to do well and they themselves are hoping to shake off this term of underachievers by going all the way in this month’s European Championships. Underachievers.

Podcast 42: To be pipped at the post

This week’s English for football is to be pipped at the post. This phrase was originally used in horse racing. The post is the finishing line in a horse race. To be pipped at the post means to be beaten at the last moment, just before the post, just before the end of the race or game. In football, we use this to talk about a team who loses the race to be champions at the last minute. This season, it looked like Inter and Manchester United would be pipped at the post because both Roma and Chelsea finished the season strongly. However, Inter and Man U held off their opponents. Unfortunately at I couldn’t hold off Damian. He pipped me at the post in the predictions race beating me in the last week! I was pipped at the post!

Podcast 41: To move up a gear (find another gear)

This week’s English for football is to find another gear. This phrase is used when a team suddenly improves, becomes a lot better, plays faster and more effectively. Sometimes in a match or in the race to become champions a team is in danger of losing or is caught by another team. It looks like they will be beaten or lose the race to be crowned champions. If they can overcome their difficulties, if they can defeat their rivals, we say they have found another gear.

Now, this season in the Premier League, Manchester United have always managed to find another gear at important moments. At the end of the season they went on a poor run, but ended by finding another gear to win their last two league games and become champions.

Podcast 40: Squeaky-bum time

This week’s English for football is squeaky-bum time. This phrase was made famous by Manchester United manager, Alex Ferguson in 2008. He used it to describe the very tense, nervous, finish to the league title race against Arsenal. Squeaky is an adjective derived from to squeak. to make a short, high pitched sound. Bum is a casual word for a person’s bottom or behind. When squeaky and bum are combined it makes an image of someone on the edge of their seat, moving forwards and backwards in a nervous manner. This is exactly what happens when a match is nearing the final whistle and your team is winning, but only by a small margin, you are literally on the edge of you seat. So, squeaky-bum time is that time at the end of the season or a game when your team has nearly achieved the title or victory (or safety if at the bottom of the table), but it isn’t decided yet, it’s close but not finished yet. It’s squeaky-bum time for Inter fans in Italy. they are three points ahead, but there are two games left. They should win the title, but they could lose it. It’s squeaky-bum time.

Podcast 39: To end in tears

This week’s English for football phrase is to end in tears. As the word tears implies, this phrase is used when something bad happens, when something ends sadly or not in the way you wanted. Mothers and fathers often tell their children ‘it’ll end in tears’ when a game the kids are playing will result in one child getting angry or upset. Now, in football we use this expression to say that a team has started well, but now has failed. The Champions League was going very well for Barcelona and Liverpool, but it ended in tears when these two teams were knocked out of the semi-finals last week. To end in tears.

Podcast 38: To break the hoodoo

This week’s English for Football phrase is to break a hoodoo. The word hoodooto break a hoodoo generally means bad luck that usually lasts for a long time and is associated with witches and black magic. In football if a team wants it means that it has probably not beaten another team or won in a certain place for a long time.

So, in next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg match between Chelsea and Liverpool both sides will be trying to break their hoodoos. Liverpool have never beaten an English side away from home in Europe, while under their current manager, Rafa Benitez, they have yet to score a goal against Chelsea in 8 previous attempts. On the other hand, Chelsea have played and lost to Liverpool in two recent Champions League semi-finals. Therefore, both teams need to break their hoodoos in order to qualify for the final. To break a hoodoo.

Podcast 37: To be in the bag

In the bag means to be secure, to be safe. So if a title is in the bag it means we think there is no way a team can lose the title, they are certain to win. The origins or roots, of this meaning lie in another sport – baseball. At the start of the 20th century, the Giants were on a historic winning run and if they were leading in the ninth innings, the end of the game, they superstitiously carried the bag of balls off the field – the balls were in the bag and the Giants hoped the game was won. If we look around the leagues in Europe as the season comes to an end, the title is in the bag for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and it looks like it’s in the bag for Manchester United in England. In the bag.

Podcast 36: To avoid the drop

This week’s English for football expression is to avoid the drop. Here the noun drop means relegation or being moved down a division. So, to avoid the drop means to survive or not be relegated. With only five or six matches left in most European leagues there are still many teams desperately trying to avoid the drop. Zaragoza from Spain and Paris Saint Germain from France are two big teams that need to start winning in order to avoid the drop to the second division. To avoid the drop.

Podcast 35: The tide turns

Today’s English for football is the tide turns. The tide is the movement of the sea connected to the moon. There is a high tide and a low tide, so when the tide turns the sea becomes higher or lower. This phrase is used in football to talk about when a game’s character has changed, when the fortunes of the teams changes, or perhaps in the longer term, when a team in the league suddenly starts to do well or badly. Now, in the Champions League quarter-final first leg game between Fenerbahce and Chelsea, the English team had looked comfortable and in control of the game in the first half, taking a one-nil lead and having lots of chances. However, ‘the tide turned’ when Fenerbahce equalised soon after the second half started. Kazim’s goal turned the tide and the Turkish side began to dominate the game. Chelsea went on to lose 2-1. The tide turns.

Podcast 34: Crackdown

On this week’s English for Football we focus on the expression crack down. Now sometimes this expression is used as a verb to crack down on something and sometimes we use it as a noun a crack down. It means to take strong action against someone after they have done something wrong. This phrase has been in the football news this week after referees decided to crack down on dissent from players, this means that they will not tolerate bad language or strong protests from players anymore. This crack down seems to have started after Ashley Cole’s behaviour against Tottenham last week with the referee in the Manchester United Liverpool game continuing to crack down on dissent by sending off Javier Mascherano. How long this crack down will last is another matter. To crack down on, a crack down.

Podcast 33: To be sucked into

This week’s phrase is to be sucked into. To be sucked into means to be drawn into, to be pulled into something you don’t want. In football, a team can be sucked into a relegation battle. This means they keep failing to win and suddenly find themselves close to the bottom of the league table. Every game becomes a hard fight. They are sucked into the relegation battle. In the Premier League, Newcastle have found themselves being sucked into the relegation battle. They haven’t won a game since last December. To be sucked into.

Podcast 32: To grind out a result

On this week’s English for Football we focus on the expression to grind out a result. Now, this usually means to produce something in a routine or even slightly ugly manner. So in football if a team grinds out a result or a victory it means that even though the team has not played very well it has won or drawn the match. Now, with only ten games to go in the Premier League it is important to win matches in any way possible so teams may be happy to grind out a victory rather than playing attractive football. To grind out a result. To grind out a victory.

Podcast 31: To be brought back down to Earth

This week’s English for football is be brought back down to earth. Now, this phrase is used to say someone or some team has returned to reality after being very happy about something. ‘Be brought down to earth with a bump‘ is to emphasise the gap between the high feeling of happiness and a low feeling – a feeling of shock. For example, Premier League side Tottenham recently won the Carling Cup in England and their fans and everyone at the club were very happy: they were over the moon – this expression means very very happy. But of course, you can’t be up and happy all the time; you have to come down and be more normal sometime. In the Premier League, Tottenham were beaten 4-1 by Birmingham. They were brought back down to earth. They also lost to PSV in the UEFA Cup last night. They were brought down to earth with a bump.

Podcast 29: To be finely balanced

This week’s English for football is to be finely balanced. We use this phrase when we want to say that a game, a team, or a competition does not have a clear leader or a team that is obviously the strongest. The result or the outcome is unknown, it is finely balanced. Now, this week Chelsea drew with Olympiakos away 0-0, but didn’t score. Olympiakos must come to Chelsea for the second leg, but Chelsea are not clear favourites because of the away goal rule – if Olympiakos score, Chelsea have to score two. The tie is finely balanced. Also, in the languagecaster predictions race, Damian has 145 points to my 143 points. It’s very close. It is finely balanced.

Podcast 28: To do the double over

This week’s English for football is the expression to do the double over and is used when a team beats an opponent twice in the same season, that is home and away. To do the double over one of the big four teams in England is quite rare so this week Manchester City fans are very happy indeed after beating Manchester United 2-1 to do the double over their rivals for the first time in 38 years. To do the double over.

Podcast 27: To be sewn up

Today’s English for football phrase is to be sewn up. This expression is a phrasal verb using the words sew and up and means to be successful in something you do. It also carries the meaning of being dominant especially when we use this expression in football. So when a team looks as if it will win a game, or more usually a title, we say that they have sewn up the championship. For example, many people thought that Real Madrid had sewn up La Liga until they lost last week though few would disagree that Inter have the Serie A title sewn up in Italy. Which team will sew up the African Cup of Nations title this weekend? To sew up, to be sewn up.

Podcast 26: Recipe for disaster

Today’s English for football phrase is a recipe for disaster. This phrase combines two words: recipe, which means how to make a meal or drink, and disaster, which means a terrible event, a mess. Put together this phrase means that the subject of the conversation will result in a terrible mess. So, this week Denis Wise has been given an important job at Newcastle with Kevin Keegan. The mix of Wise and Keegan is a recipe for disaster, their personalities mean that they probably won’t succeed together. Also, Derby have recently been bought by an American company. Some people see American ownership of English football clubs as a bad thing, a recipe for disaster. They don’t believe it will be good for the club.

Podcast 25: To book a place in

This week’s English for football is to book a place in. Now, the verb ‘to book’ means to reserve , or to keep, and so you can book a room in a hotel for example. In football, this phrase is used when a team wins in a tournament or a qualifying game. If the team wins the game then their place in the next round or match is guaranteed: it is reserved. So, this week saw Tottenham book a place in the Carling Cup Final by beating Arsenal 5-1. Can Mali book their place in the last stages of the African Cup of Nations by beating Nigeria?

Podcast 24: Thrills and spills

On this week’s English for football we look at the phrase thrills and spills. This is used to describe a particularly exciting match where lots of incidents have taken place. Thrills is the plural noun form of the adjective thrilling so it means exciting while spills suggests that something has gone wrong or that there is a mess so in footballing terms there have been many defensive errors like penalty misses or own goals. In the recent FA Cup 3rd replay between Havant and Swansea the game was end-to-end, an incident packed match that had many thrills and spills.

Podcast 23: It’s all to play for

This phrase is originally a sporting term used when a competition or a match has not been decided. If, in football, a team is only one goal behind and playing well we say, it’s all to play for. The team still has a chance. In a football league, if the teams at the top have similar points and are all playing quite well then, it’s all to play for. So despite being 6 points behind Arsenal, Chelsea are still winning games and still have a chance of becoming champions. It’s still all to play for.

Podcast 22: To be in with a shout

This week’s English for Football is to be in with a shout and it means to have a chance of doing well in something even though you may not be expected to do so. In football we use this expression to describe a situation when, for example, a team has fallen behind the leaders or may be losing in a match but people still think they may have a chance of catching up or winning. Avram Grant, the Chelsea manager, said that his team were still in with a shout of winning the League despite being 7 points behind the leaders. I wonder if any of the non-league teams in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup are in with a shout of going through?

Podcast 21: Thick and fast

This week’s English for football is thick and fast. When someone says, ‘Things are coming thick and fast‘, they mean that a lot of things are happening at the same time. There is a feeling that too much is happening and it is hard to cope. In football, you could say that the shots came thick and fast, or the games are coming thick and fast. In England the Christmas and New Year season is a time when a lot of games are played. At this time of year, the games come thick and fast.

Podcast 20: To stamp your authority on

On this week’s English for Football we take a look at the expression to stamp your authority on something which has a basic meaning of showing who is in charge or demonstrating control over someone.This expression can be broken down into two parts. Firat the verb to stamp means to impress or to crush and carries the extra meaning of coming down from above. Authority means power, strength or influence so when we put the two together, stamp your authority, it means to bring your power or influence down on something or someone.This week of course has seen Fabio Capello become the new England manager and he is someone who is well-known for being a strict or authoritarian figure. Many in the English media hope he uses this power to stamp some authority on the English players to improve the team’s discipline and character. To stamp authority.

Podcast 19: At the end of the day

Now, this week’s English for football phrase is at the end of the day. When you talk about a problem or discuss a question, you look at both sides and you listen to many arguments. When you’ve finished your arguments and opinions, you use this phrase at the end of the day and then what you finally think.Now usually this means that your original opinion hasn’t changed. We can also say, ‘all things considered’ or ‘when all has been said and done’. So for example this week we were talking about the big teams in the Premier League because of their money and their television exposure. When all has been said and done and at the end of the day I can’t see it changing.

Podcast 18: Jinx

On this week’s English for Football, we are going to focus on the word jinx which means a curse or something connected to bad luck. In football we use this word when a team does not do well on a regular basis. We say that a team is jinxed when it fails against the same opposition or at the same stage in a competition.So for example, Tottenham’s jinx team were Chelsea as they had not beaten them for 16 years. England’s jinx seems to be quarter finals of competitions losing out on penalties. Now in this week’s Club World Cup, Milan are hoping to break Europe’s jinx and win the competition for the first in five years. Jinx.

Podcast 17: To Lose faith in

If you have faith in something you believe in it, you trust it. This phrase was and still is used to talk about religion, but it is more commonly used to talk about what people think about other people. This week in the Premier League we have seen Derby’s chairman lose faith with the manager, Billy Davies, the Newcastle fans lose faith in Sam Allardyce, and Rafa Benitez and Liverpool’s owners losing faith with each other. To lose faith in.

Podcast 16: Shot to pieces

On this week’s English for Football, we’re going to look at the expression shot to pieces. Now, this basically means to be destroyed and it can be used with words such as ‘hopes’, ‘dreams’ and ‘nerves’. So for example, England’s hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 were shot to pieces by the defeat at home to Croatia last night. Shot to pieces.

Podcast 15: By the skin of your teeth

This phrase means to achieve something by a narrow margin, to only just succeed. So last year in the Premier League Wigan Athletic stayed in the top flight by the skin of their teeth, they stayed up with a goal difference 1 better than Sheffield United. Now, we have talked about England and Euro 2008 – they need Russia to lose and they also need to win all their games. Can they make it by the skin of their teeth?

Podcast 14: Surprise package

On this week’s English for Football we are going to focus on the expression surprise package. Now this generally means something positive that unexpectedly arrived. So in football this expression refers to a team that unexpectedly does well, that not many people think that they will do well in a competition. So, for example when Greece won the European Championship in 2004, they were a complete surprise package, while in this year’s premier Asian club football final that’s being played this week, the Iranian team Sepahan were not expected to make the final so they are also a surprise package.

Podcast 13: Dead Man Walking

On this week’s English for Football we have the phrase, dead man walking. Now, this phrase originally refers to a criminal waiting on death row who finally takes his last walk to be executed. His fellow inmates, of course, would see him walking down the corridor and say, dead man walking. In football this refers to a manager who everyone knows will soon be sacked, will soon be fired. He will soon lose his job. When a manager is in this situation everybody says, ‘he is a dead man walking‘. Of course, for the last few months, if you believe all of the reports, it was Martin Jol who was a dead man walking.

Podcast 9: Last-gasp equaliser

On this week’s show we focus on the expression last-gasp equaliser.This expression is made up of two parts, last gasp and equaliser and is used when a team scores a last-minute goal that ties or draws the game. Last gasp refers to the final breath before death and in a footballing context refers to the final moments of a match, usually in injury time. While equaliser is the goal scored to tie a game or bring the teams level. This expression can also be used with goal, win or victory so David Trezeguet scored a last-gasp winner against Torino last week.Earlier in the show we talked about Tottenham’s amazing comeback from 4-1 down to draw with Aston Villa in the Premier League, 4-4 with the final goal coming in the 93rd minute – a real last-gasp equaliser. Perhaps a more famous example would be Steven Gerrard’s last-gasp equaliser for Liverpool against West Ham in the FA Cup Final of 2006.

Podcast 8: Go pear-shaped

This week’s English for football is to go pear-shaped. When a plan goes wrong, is not successful, and it results in a disaster you can use – The plan went pear-shaped. Now, a pear is not a perfect circle. So using the phrase pear-shaped is to show that the result of a plan was not perfect. Many people believe this meaning a plan that didn’t succeed – is from World War Two when British pilots would use the phrase to describe a pilot trying, and failing, to do a loop in his plane. Instead making a shape like a pear, failing to do a perfect circle. In football this week, we could say that Chelsea’s plans to win the league have gone pear-shaped after Mourinho was sacked and many players have become unhappy. Or, Tottenham’s hopes of finishing in the top four have gone pear-shaped since their terrible start to the season. Pear-shaped.

Podcast 7: Days are numbered

Now, on this show’s English for Football we’re going to look at the phrase days are numbered. Now, this phrase means that something is not going to last a long time. And we usually use this with a person as the subject. For example, Martin Jol’s days are numbered at Tottenham, or Sammy Lee’s days are numbered at Bolton. And indeed Shevchecnko’s days at Chelsea could be numbered as he didn’t impress his boss Jose Mourinho.So, when we say somebody’s days are numbered we mean we don’t believe that they will last long in their job. They will soon lose their job. Now, out of those three I’ve just mentioned, Martin Jol, Sammy Lee and Shevchenko, I believe that Sammy Lee’s days are really numbered at Bolton.

Podcast 6: Football’s a funny old game

Today’s English for Football expression is football is a funny old game. Now, what this means is that football is unpredictable: that we just don’t know what is going to happen, or anything could happen in football. Now, funny has two meanings: first of all it means something humorous, or to make you laugh; The other meaning is that something is strange and this is the meaning we use here. Football is a strange old game. Now, recently Malta and Turkey drew 2-2. This is a very strange result, so we use the expression football is a funny old game. And also England in their recently improved performances have been applauded by the press, particularly Emile Heskey, the striker, and the coach, Steve McClaren. Now, both of these people have suffered real criticism before and now they are regarded as being the heroes or the saviours of the team. Football is a funny old game.

Podcast 5: Scapegoat

This week’s English for football is scapegoat. This word has a long history dating back to the Old Testament. Here it refers to a goat that carried all the sins of Jerusalem, which forced out into the wilderness, carrying all the sins with it. Therefore we have escape and goat being shortened to scape and goat, scapegoat. It is now used as a metaphor for someone who is blamed for something bad happening. Blaming this person hides the real cause of the problem. For example, this week sees Emile Heskey recalled to the England national side. When he played for England he was often blamed for England’s poor performances. He was often the scapegoat. However, the real reasons for England’s bad results were many and not only Heskey’s poor goal-to-game ratio. He was a scapegoat for the team’s performances. Another phrase for scapegoat is fall guy, or specifically in sport, a ‘boo-boy’. On, Damian wrote a post for his Tottenham column on players in Tottenham who have all been scapegoats for the fans to boo. Check it out in the Fans Voices section on Scapegoat.

Podcast 4: To crash out of

Now, on this week’s English for football, we’re going to focus on the phrasal verb to crash out of. Now, it’s made up of three parts: a crash is the main verb, and then there is out and of. And usually after of we have the a competition name because the meaning of this phrasal verb is that a team loses a match and then is knocked out the competition because of that defeat. So, this week, the English League Cup has started where we have teams from the Premier League playing against smaller teams, teams from the lower divisions. And it’s generally regarded as a shock or a surprise if they lose. And this week, Sunderland of the Premier League played Luton from the Championship and they were beaten three nil, so the next day’s headlines had, Sunderland Crash out of Competition or Keane Boys Crash Out of the Cup. To crash out.

Podcast 3: To be under fire

This week’s English for football phrase is under fire. We can use this phrase with the be verb, so for example, Martin Jol of Tottenham is under fire after some bad results, or we can use it as an adjective: for example, under fire Tottenham coach, Martin Jol, has been supported by some of his players. To be under fire means to be under pressure, to be criticized and in danger of losing your job. In the football world, the phrase is usually used with managers or referees for decisions they have made or poor performances they have had, but it is sometimes used with players. For example, England’s goalkeeper, Robinson, is under fire after his poor performance against Germany. Under fire.

Podcast 2: To get off to a flyer

Now, this week’s English for football is the expression off to a flyer. Now we usually use this with the verb ‘get’. So, get off to a flyer. And it simply means that a team has started a match or the season very well indeed at a very early stage. So, for example this year in the Premier League Manchester City, Everton, and Chelsea have won both of their first two games, so we can say they’ve got off to a flyer.

Podcast 1: To set your sights on

Today’s English for football phrase is to set your sights on. This means to have a goal, to decide you want to do something. It has a much stronger feeling that want to. If you set your sights on something it means it is your target and that you will try hard to achieve it. The phrase is made up of the noun sights and the verb to set. Sights are used on guns and the person shooting the gun looks through the sights at the target.To set means to fix, to decide. This week’s headlines report that Brazilian Daniel Alves has set his sights on Chelsea, meaning he wants to make a move to the Blues. Another example may be, Everton have set their sights on a top four finish this season.

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

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