In this podcast we introduce a phrase used in football to talk about a type of player. The phrase is ‘piano carrier’. You can read the transcript of the show below, which is a great way for learners of English to practice. You can also check out our massive glossary of footballing phrases here. We have hundreds of previous posts and podcasts too on our website. If you are a teacher of English, why don’t you use the audio and transcript to provide practice for their students: Try a gap-fill activity for example. And learners of English can access all resources for free. Let us know if you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at email@example.com.
Learn English Through Football
DB: Hello there everyone. My name’s Damon, and you are listening to languagecaster.com’s football language podcast. This is the podcast for all lovers of the beautiful game – football – and for those interested in learning English, too. I’m based in Tokyo, Japan, which is till uncomfortably hot and humid. When is autumn going to come? The weather is much cooler I think in London, where Damian is based. He’s recently posted on the recent international break. There were qualifiers for the 2024 European Championship, the 2024 AFCON tournament, and it was the start of the CONMEBOL qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup, too. Check out that podcast for language connected with the international matches, such as ‘need a miracle’, and ‘much too good for’.
OK, on today’s football language podcast I am going to talk about an uncommon, but interesting, phrase to describe a type of player in a team’s squad. The phrase is ‘piano carrier‘. Now, you are probably wondering what a piano and football have in common. While you have a think, let’s listen to a message from a Swedish football fan.
Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Swedish)
DB: Yes, you are listening to languagecaster and that message was in Swedish.
DB: OK, so pianos and football, what’s the link. First we need to talk about a famous manager, Bill Shankly, who managed Liverpool FC between 1959 and 1974. Shankly is famous for many quotes about football. Maybe the most famous is: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Of course, football is not more important than life and death, but this funny quotation does capture the love most football fans have for the game.
But, Shankly is also meant to have said the following: “A football team is like a piano. You need eight men to carry it and three who can play the damn thing.”
Skillful players – Piano players
In this quote, he suggests that a team needs a few skilful players to ‘play’ the piano‘. These players are skilled and have talent and flair, just like a top piano player. A piano carrier on the other hand is the type of player who does all of the hard work – piano’s are heavy, right, they carry the piano, the team – which allows the skilled players to shine.
Hard working players – Piano carriers
So, if we describe a player as a piano carrier, we mean they do a lot of the important work, tackling, covering, short passing, that is the platform for the skilful players. It can sound quite negative, and a piano carrier sounds like a boring player. However, the point about the quotations is that a team needs a good mix of flair and hard work.
Now, this season, my team, Liverpool, signed the Japanese international Wataru Endo. Many fans were not very excited with the signing because Endo is already 30 years old, and did not seem like an exciting player. However, it looks like he will be a perfect piano carrier, someone who can work hard for the team in his role as defensive midfielder. He may even step in at centre back or right back if needed. He is a utility player; a very useful player.
Here is what a poster on Redandwhitekop.com said: “A well made point on TAW is that Endo may be a piano carrier but that’s possibly fine if it lets the world class players be able to excel. You don’t need 11 top elite players to do well, you just have to create an environment where you can allow the best players to flourish.”
And here is another use of the phrase piano carrier, describing Manchester United midfielder, Fred: “Fred appreciates his role as a squad player at United and embraces the title of ‘piano carrier’, acting as the roadie who ensures everything is in place for the headline performers to steal the show.” And that was from the Manchester Evening News.
Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Twi from Ghana)
DB: Thank you for that message and that was in Twi from Ghana.
So, we talked about the phrase piano carrier, and of course piano player, as ways to describe a type of player in a squad. The piano carrier is hard working, adaptable, reliable, while a piano player has flair, catches the eye, and may be the star of the team. But to paraphrase Shankly, you need piano carriers to let the piano players play the tune!
If you have a phrase in your language for this, let us know by emailing us at languagecaster.com or find us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and leave as a message!
DB: OK, thanks for listening and enjoy all the football where ever you are. Ta-ra!
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