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Football pundit

Scientists suggest that the kind of agility displayed by professional footballers is due to their brains being wired in such a way as to maximise the coordination of muscle, motor and perception skills.

This high ‘physical intelligence’ comes at a price: it tends to intrude into the pathways used for verbal skills.

Post-match football player interviews are yet another delight that you miss out on by actually bothering to attend a match. Footballers being creatures of habit, the same phrases tend to crop up again and again, so it is imperative that the bluffer is familiar with them:

“It was a game of two halves,” – this means that the pattern of play before half-time was markedly different from that after the break. Footballers should not be mocked for using this cliché. In their terms, the concept of two halves adding up to a whole constitutes advanced mathematics.

“We set out our stall early doors,” – we showed the other team that we were determined to win the game…quite quickly.

“We came to do a job,” – this means the same as “we came to play a game of football”.

“Obviously,” – players have started using this as a generic verbal fill-in, rather like ‘um’ and ‘er’. They say it about things that are the exact opposite of obvious. “Well, you know, obviously in the dressing room at half-time the manager told us to feed the ball more down the left.” Yes, obviously.

Do not think badly of players for constantly falling back on stock expressions. It’s infinitely preferable to what can come out of their mouths when they ad-lib…then we’re into the rich territory of the terrible football quote:

Here, submitted for your approval, are our top ten football pundit gaffes:

“We’re in a no-win situation, except if we win we’ll go through to the next round,” – Graeme Le Saux.

“It was like living in a different country,” – Ian Rush, discussing moving to Italy.

“I don’t want to see him [Rooney] leaving these shores – but if he does I think he’ll be going abroad,” – Ian Wright.

“If you stand still there’s only one way to go, and that’s backwards,” – Peter Shilton.

“Football’s football; if that weren’t the case then it wouldn’t be the game that it is,” – Garth Crooks.

“Arsenal are streets ahead of everyone in this league and Manchester United are up there with them,” – Craig Bellamy.

“You need at least eight or nine men in a ten-man wall,” – Mark Lawrenson.

“I’d been ill and hadn’t trained for a week and I’d been out of the team for three weeks before that, so I wasn’t sharp. I got cramp before half-time as well. But I’m not one to make excuses,” – Clinton Morrison.

“Gary Neville was captain, and now Ryan Giggs has taken on the mantelpiece,” – Rio Ferdinand.

“If you closed your eyes, you couldn’t tell the difference between the two sides,” – Phil Brown.

For more throw-away lines, that you don’t want to instantly throw away, pick up The Bluffer’s Guide to Football