Hairdryers and squeaky bums: the colourful world of football words

A small number of players and other figures involved in the sport have becomeimmortalized in the English language, although it is

hairdryer_gunnot always the best or most memorable players. The Cruyff turn may be named after one of the trademark moves ofone of the best footballers to have ever played, but a far less famous player has arguably had more of an impact on the game: the Bosman ruling, allowing players to move freely to another club when their contract has expired, is named afterJean-Marc Bosman, the Belgian lower-league player who has enjoyed little of the power and wealth that his breakthrough gave to modern players. Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has no move named after him, while the only linguisticlegacy of a rival for that title, Maradona, is the infamous Hand of God. Antonin Panenka, a talented Czech player but hardly one of the all-time greats, has however been immortalised thanks to a delicately chipped penalty kick that won the 1976 European Championship, forever after simply to be referred to as thePanenka penalty.

Some of the most memorable recent phrases to enter the vocabulary have come from the mouths of football managers, for whom talking to the media has become an essential part of their job. When Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s most successful manager of all time, described the tense final stages of the 2002-2003 Premier League season as ‘squeaky bum time‘, did he realise that the phrase would become a fixture in the football lexicon? It has also recently been used to describe the final few minutes of a close (= with little difference in score between the two teams) game. Similarly, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho complained after a 0-0 draw against Tottenham Hotspur that his opponents ‘brought the bus and they left the bus in front of the goal’, meaning that they were more interested in not conceding a goal than scoring themselves. The phrase has been shortened to simply ‘park the bus‘, a disapproving term for when a team play very defensively.

Finally, pundits and commentators of the game have given us some evocativephrases over the years. Take hairdryer treatment, the popular term used to describe a manager loudly rebuking his players after a poor performance, the image being of the manager shouting right into a player’s face like a hairdryer. Thecorridor of uncertainty may sound like a bad episode of Doctor Who, but is in fact frequently used by commentators to describe the area in front of the goal but behind the defenders, in which there is uncertainty about whose responsibility it is in the defence to deal with the ball. And when an underdog triumphs against superior opposition, it is invariably described as Roy of the Rovers stuff, after a popular long-running comic strip for children.

 

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