Learn English Through Football Podcast: The Pecking Order

pecking orderIn this short football language post, we take a look at some language connected with players on the bench, or players who want to play in the first team. Check out our football glossary  and  football cliches pages for loads more explanations of the language of soccer. If you have questions or comments about this, or any other football phrase, you can email us at: admin@languagecaster.com. (DB=Damon)

Learn English Through Football Podcast: The Pecking Order

DB: You’re listening to languagecaster.com. Hi everyone, this is the Learn English Through Football Podcast brought to you by the languagecaster.com team – Damian and myself Damon. Happy New Year, and we hope you are all well and that you have a great 2021 wherever you are.

On today’s show I’ll be talking about some phrases connected with players who are not ‘starters’. These players are not in the first 11, but they are trying hard to get into the starting 11.

On today’s show I’ll be talking about some phrases connected with players who are not ‘starters’ – they are not in the first 11 – who are trying hard to get into the starting 11.

Pecking Order

We’ll start with the phrase ‘pecking order‘, which is a phrase that originally describes chickens, or roosters, the male chicken, and to peck is the verb to describe a bird using its beak to strike or eat something. When male chickens, or roosters, fight, they peck each other. If a chicken is top of the pecking order, it means they are the dominant or strongest bird.
The pecking order is like a ranking and we use it in many situations, and in football we use it to describe which players are in the first 11 or far from the starting team. So, if a player is way down the pecking order, they are not close to being chosen for the first team. If a player is moving up the pecking order, they are doing well in training and the manager may be thinking about choosing them to start a match.

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Here is an example from the Irish Mirror talking about the England team: ‘Rooney reckons the teenager (Mason Greenwood) is more of a natural goalscorer than Rashford and deserves to be second in the pecking order.’ Here Wayne Rooney, ex Manchester United and England striker is saying that Greenwood should be considered as the next choice striker, after Kane.

Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (in Welsh)

OK, next we have two phrases to describe a player who has moved up the pecking order. The phrases are ‘push for a place‘ and ‘knock on the door‘.

Push for a place

The first phrase, push for a place, means a player is trying really hard in training to get a start int he first team. They are playing very well, which puts pressure on the manager. the manager has to decide whether to reward the effort of the player pushing for a place, and choose them for the team.

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Here’s a BBC headline with an example from 2018 about the 18-year Ben Woodburn, then at Liverpool: ‘Wales boss Ryan Giggs is expecting Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn to be pushing for a first-team place next season.’

Knock on the door

The next phrase is knock on the door, which means a player is doing well in training, has maybe caught the manager’s eye, and should be considered for the first team. In this phrase, the ‘door‘ means the manager’s door, so the image is of a player knocking on the manager’s door to say they are ready for the first team. 

Here is an example from the Liverpool Echo : “Jurgen Klopp has highlighted four Liverpool youngsters who are knocking on the door of the first team.” This line means that some youth players are close to the first team; they are close to opening the door to a starting place in the first team.

Another meaning of knock on the door is used in a game to describe a team putting pressure on their opponent and close to scoring – the ‘door’ on this case is the opponent’s defence.

Stinger: You are listening to languagecaster.com (Vasco da Gama fan)

So, there we have three phrases talking about players close to the first team: pecking order, push for a place and knock on the door.

Join Damian and me next year for more on the language of football. Have a happy, healthy and peaceful new year! Ta-ra!

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at admin@languagecaster.com
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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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