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Learn English Through Football Podcast: Rotate

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In this short football language podcast we explain some words and phrases connected to the verb ‘to rotate‘. Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Football Language Podcast: To Rotate

DF: Hello everyone, this is Damian from the Learning English Through Football team. I hope we are all well and staying safe wherever we are in the world. Now, as regular listeners will know myself and Damon, who is based in Tokyo, regularly post about about words and phrases to do with the beautiful game of football and today I am taking a look at the word ‘rotate‘ which is a verb and ‘rotation‘ which is the noun form.

The verb rotate means to turn something around and in football it is used when talking about moving different players in and out of a team. Sometimes the starting XI is unchanged which means that the same players start in successive matches but other times a manager wants to rest their players and bring in new faces and this is known as rotation; they rotate their squad. The idea of rotation suggests that a manager feels that players need to be rested to remain fresh and so players may miss one or two games and then return to the starting line up – it should be noted that managers with a big squad of players can rotate a lot easier than other sides. Rotation often takes place when clubs are involved in many competitions such as European matches and the domestic cups, so for example, Tottenham have played 48 matches so far this season compared to another Premier League side Aston Villa who have only played 31 games.

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Here are a couple of examples, from Forbes (2020, August 21): ‘Liverpool And Manchester United Need To Rotate To Survive Premier League 2020/21 Fixture Pile-Up‘. Here suggests the two sides need to keep changing their starting XIs as they have a lot of games to play (that’s fixture pile up).

Here’s another example, this time from The Athletic (Dec 2020) about the Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhüttl: ‘Southampton face a busy month – but Hasenhüttl will be reluctant to rotate‘. So, the article mentions that even though the manager trusts his fringe players‘, i.e. those not regularly starting, he won’t be making many changes to his starting line up.

Other words and phrases you might hear with this phrase include:

  • Unchanged starting XI – this suggests that the manager is happy with the team and has decided that this is a strong side – an unchanged side means that no one has been dropped or injured and suggests continuity.
  • Fringe players – these are players in the squad that don’t always play in the starting XI.
  • To be dropped – this means that a manager doesn’t choose or pick a player probably due to bad form or maybe ill-discipline.

Stinger: You are listening to (in Turkish).

DF: Thanks everyone for listening – we hope you enjoyed our look at words and phrases connected to the verb ‘rotate‘. Listen out for examples of this phrase when you are watching more football and maybe you can let us know how we would say this in another language. Drop us a line at or, of course, you can leave a comment in the section below the post here at languagecaster.

Don’t forget there is also a transcript for this report which can be accessed for free here at  Enjoy all the football this week and we’ll see you soon. Bye bye.

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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