“There are some people running on the pitch, they think it is all over. It is now.” This is arguably one of the finest and most memorable pieces of commentary in football history. As many Englishmen will fondly remember, this particular bit of punditry was from the legendary Kenneth Wolstenholme. His commentary on the 1966 World Cup Final is as infamous as the game itself.
The above citation relates to the final goal where Sir Geoff Hurst ran into the 18-yard box. His ferocious strike ensured England were triumphant against West Germany in the 1966 final. To this day, Hurst is the only man on the planet to have scored a hat trick in a World Cup Final. Yet, commentators are like goalkeepers to a certain extent. Not only do they have their own unique style but they can certainly be unpredictable at times.
In fact some have been caught with their footballing trousers down after the dreaded commentators curse. This is when a pundit reveals a confident analysis only to trip over his metaphorical shoe laces as things turn out the opposite. Take for example the incident which involved former Liverpool marksman Kevin Keegan. Whilst commentating on the France '98 World Cup game between England and Romania, he declared to iconic commentator Brian Moore, “Well there is only one team that’s going to win this game from here and that’s England”. He was of course referring to his native Three Lions. Unfortunately, moments later, ex-Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu ghosted in to slot the ball home past David Seaman.
Whether a team has supplied a hammer blow or a case of running the channels, there are a number of different phrases that are regularly plucked from the typical commentator’s mind. Here are the 15 most overused football commentary terms of all time.
15 "It’s A Game Of Two Halves"
Not to coin a phrase but the term “a game of two halves” comes during a commentary as many times as Real Madrid have won La Liga. At the end of the day, it does boil down to two halves which consist of two periods of 45 minutes. Who will be the victor no one can tell, whilst drawing not to mention losing are two other variables. However, this does not detract from the fact that commentators seem to use this particular wordage as their go to phrase. This is especially the case if everything else goes to pot or there are no other options available.
14 "A Cold Windy Night In Stoke"
This phrase is often referred to as the ability for a team to tackle the toughest of oppositions when everything is against them. This includes the likes of the weather which is a predominantly important aspect when commentators use this phrase. The term originates from the Britannia Stadium which is home to Stoke City Football Club. Known for its treacherous weather conditions, some of the corners of the ground are exposed to the elements. Therefore, it makes it increasingly difficult for teams to perform there whether playing during the day or at night.
For many sides, the prospect of facing a gusty wind as well as the incessant driving rain, hail or snow ensures the opposition are in for a difficult match. This phrase has been used more often in order to describe teams challenging for the title. Do they have the grit and determination to go wet and windy places such as Stoke City and put in an impressive display? Will they be able to overcome the odds and conditions no matter what and perform successfully?
13 "Fox In The Box"
The so called fox in the box is utilized by a wide variety of commentators and pundits to describe that deadly striker in the penalty area. It best describes that particular individual who is able to turn that game at the drop of a hat. Down the footballing years, there have been a whole host players who have been depicted as a typical fox in a box. This includes Gary Lineker who was the epitome of a genuine fox in a box. The former Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City striker is the second highest goal scorer for England behind Sir Bobby Charlton. His prowess in front of goal for Spurs earned him this status, whilst there are others who have also made a claim to fame. This features not only Roberto Soldado and Bolton forward Emile Heskey but Jurgen Klinsmann to name but a few.
12 "Running The Channels"
One of the most popular commentary terms which has been used over the last decade has been the phrase “running the channels.” As the modern game evolves, so do the tactics that several football managers use. In this way, coaches are adopting new situations and scenarios to adapt their play during the game. It means that they are asking a lot more of strikers to run down the wings and cover as much ground as possible. This will not only help midfielders but will take away the defenders for the middle men to run into the space.
It can also be called working the channels and some of the best players to do this include Carlos Tevez. The former Manchester City man has been an expert at tormenting defences with his incredibly hard work rate. He is able to create that space by running into the corner and spinning off his defender for the ball over the top.
This is nothing to do with exercise books but more a case of the manner in which someone performs an action. For example, if a commentator declares that’s a “textbook finish” it means that the player’s goal is accustomed to his usual style of finishing. A typical example of this would be Liverpool and Brazilian midfielder Phillipe Coutinho. The Merseyside man has flourished under Brendan Rogers and he does like to cut in from the left before unleashing a powerful shot. This is his textbook manner of shooting, whilst others adopt other forms of play. Lionel Messi is notorious for his textbook jinking style of play with the ball almost glued to his feet at times.
10 "Couldn’t Hit A Cow's Backside With A Banjo"
This particular phrase relates directly to those players whose job it is to find the back of the net. Now and again, strikers go through purple patches, whilst others suffer through spells where they can’t find the target. The latter is a complete testament to this term as it derides the shooting ability of those players who simply can’t hit the goal. As a rule, this has nothing to do with cattle, never mind musical instruments. However, a little extra training might be in order for those players who are struggling to hit any target with a ball.
9 "Got The Bottle"
If someone does or does not have the bottle, it means that will they stand up to a high pressured scenario. This could relate to a wealth of situations from penalty shoot outs to last minute one on one incidents. Nevertheless, getting stuck in is another important factor of having the bottle. Many refer to England players who simply don’t have the bottle when it comes to competing in international tournaments. As the last few competitions have shown, England’s displays have been woeful and in the most recent World Cup, they didn’t even make it past the group stage. With the Three Lions not winning a single game, this is without doubt one clear example of not having enough bottle.
8 "Early Doors"
Commentators often refer to a team scoring or hopefully looking to score “early doors”. This means that if a team does manage to find the net early on, then usually it ensures a great start to a game. As far as the doors part is concerned, this has nothing to do with anything, especially relating to Jim Morrison. Yet, it often implies teams attempting to get ahead early on so that they can force the opposition back and gain an early upper hand on proceedings.
7 "Stepping Up To The Plate"
When commentators mention stepping up to the plate, they are passing words on which players will come through for their given side. It means that when they put on the shirt, will they actually give their all for their particular team? No matter what side of the bed a player falls out of, it is up to them to give 110% when they step on to the hallowed turf. Whether or not they have it in them to perform on the biggest stages is a question only they can answer.
6 "A Dig"
As the phrase may suggest, it is definitely not to do with digging for victory or finding something in the soil. However, having a dig is often used by commentators to describe a player who is likely to attempt a strike. This shot may be at times speculative which adds to the overall drama of the situation. In addition to this, a player may decide to take a shot from a long way out. This speculative effort is also often described as having a dig.
5 "Putting In A Shift"
If a player has earned his crust and covered literally every single blade of grass, they often use the term “putting in a shift”. A player can often turn in a great performance but if they have gone above and beyond the call of duty then this is referred to at times. Take South American players Luiz Suarez and Alexis Sanchez. Their sheer effort and will to win encapsulates the nature of putting in a shift.
4 "Into The Mix"
When games are tense and run into overtime, teams often launch the ball into the 18 yard box. This is done for a host of reasons but ultimately, it is to force the issue of trying to score. This is often referred to by commentators as putting the ball “into the mix”. This mysterious area is known as the patch around where the goalkeeper is stationed. Many coaches revert to this tactic deep into a match when the tide is against them.
3 "Not Over Till The Fat Lady Sings"
Under normal circumstances, it is down to the referee to call a game to an end. Yet, as many commentators know, the match is definitely not over until the fat lady sings. This phrase is one of the most common used and has been utilised in numerous situations. As many managers know, the game can usually run for more than the allotted ninety minutes. From additional time to wasting valuable seconds, coaches have to accommodate for the unpredictable.
2 "Onion Bag"
Another phrase for the goal, the onion bag has often been spoken about by a wealth of commentators around the globe. But the onion bag signifies a bulging net full of not vegetables but footballs. There have been several individuals who tend to utilize the onion bag instead of referring to the normal goal net. It is believed that the onion bag originated back because goal nets were previously made from an onion bag, or so the rumour goes.
1 "Funny Old Game"
It just goes to show that football is most definitely a funny old game. This term relates to the sheer unpredictability of the beautiful game. From the scintillating highs to the lowest of the lows, football has a habit to bite managers and players where it hurts. This includes an AC Milan team 3-0 up at half time that went on to lose to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2005. It is the complete organized chaos that makes football such a dramatic and highly engaging sport.