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We love football. And we love football terminology. From classic football clichés to modern football phrases, if someone uses it then we're interested in hearing it.

So, here's a list of some of the football terms and phrases we've come across over the years.


When a player tackles an opponent but then immediately decides to sneakily stick the boot in again when he thinks the referee isn't watching.

Can often result in a bit of handbags, or something more serious.


Manager. Gaffer.

Classic Hat-trick

Desperate Lunge

A last-gasp, full-stretched, slide tackle in a wild attempt to stop another player.

Early Doors

When someone scores early doors it means the opening few minutes of a half.

False 9

A False 9 is a decoy forward in a formation set up without a dedicated striker. Instead of playing like a traditional no.9 on the shoulder of the last defender, the False 9 will look to drop deep, almost into midfield, leaving the opposition defence with a decision on whether to follow them, potentially leaving space behind them, or not follow them, giving the False 9 space and time to do damage.

Whilst it’s a modern phrase, there are wide ranging examples of players in the role; Matthias Sindelar played a similar role for the Austrian Wunderteam of the 1930s, as did Nándor Hidegkuti for the Hungarian Mighty Magyars of the 1950s, and Cesc Fàbregas did a sterling job there when Spain won Euro 2012. At club level, two of the most famous exponents of the False 9 role have been Roma’s Francesco Totti under the management of Luciano Spalletti and Lionel Messi under Pep Guardiola.

Fergie Time

Taken from the 1990s when Alex Ferguson was at his managerial pomp, Fergie Time is that unexpectedly long period of injury-time, usually just enough for Alex Ferguson's team to grab a late winner.

Flawless Hat-trick


A bit of a quarrel or skirmish between players or coaching staff, often in the tunnel or on the touchline, sometimes resulting in handbags.


Manager. Boss.

German Hat-trick

A hat-trick of goals scored by a player consecutively (i.e. no-one else scoring in-between) in a single half.

Also known as a flawless hat-trick.

Glory Hunter

Someone who swaps teams to whichever club is currently the most successful.

The very worst kind of football supporter.


Someone who is an expert in the art of goalhanging.


The favourite pastime of a goalhanger.

It started out at school - that lad in the playground who did nothing whatsoever but stand near the make-shift goal, waiting to pounce if the ball fell near him. And then some of these lads went onto make a professional living from it.

Golden Hat-trick

Got. Got. Need!

What you'd say when flicking through a big pile of Panini swaps, desperately looking for that missing sticker.

Group of Death

When the draw is done for the World Cup or European Championships, there's normally one particularly tricky group that stands out above the rest, the Group of Death.


"Nothing serious between them, just handbags."

Players pretending to be angry and threatening, probably with a bit of gentle pushing and shoving thrown in for good measure, but in reality zero-chance of anything serious actually happening.

Hairdryer Treatment

Much-used managerial-technique employed by old school managers in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Often used at half-time in the changing room after a dodgy performance, the name comes from the effect on the players as the likes of Alex Ferguson shout loudly at them, seemingly making their hair pin back with the sheer force of the screaming.

Often used by managers alongside the reading of the riot act.


Obviously it's when a player scores three goals in a match. But why hat-trick ? Apparently the term was first used in cricket in the mid 1800s. A bowler took three wickets in a row and fans held a collection for him and bought him a hat ! The term was then adopted in other sports.

Other variations: classic hat-trick, flawless hat-trick, German hat-trick, golden hat-trick, perfect hat-trick.

Horror Tackle

A dreadful, injury-threatening tackle, often with studs up and/or two-footed. Can often lead to a touchline fracas and handbags.

Hospital Pass

A really bad pass to a team-mate which results in them being heavily tackled as soon as they get the ball.

Jumpers for Goal Posts

When you were a kid and wanted to play football somewhere that didn't have any proper goals, off would come the jumpers to mark the posts. The lack of anything upright and cross-bars led to some great disputes, but that just added to it all.

The Fast Show character Ron Manager would make it even more famous with some of his great ramblings.


Hitting a ball very hard. As in... "He's absolutely leathered one past the keeper in to the onion bag".


Ron Atkinson's phrase for a stepover.

Managerial Merry-Go-Round

A group of managers who constantly seem to be rotating around or linked with the same sort of jobs. Every era has them. It used to be Peter Reid, Graeme Souness, Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce. Now it's Gary Monk, Gary Rowett, Tony Pulis and Steve Bruce.


MEXICO SIGUE EN PIE is the first message that Socrates famously wore on a headband at the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

It translates as MEXICO STILL STANDS, and it was the Brazilian's tribute to the people of the host nation following the terrible earthquake that had struck the country before the start of the tournament.

It remains one of the most iconic images of Mexico '86, and Socrates would follow it up throughout the tournament with different headband messages, such as "Need Justice", "No Violence", and "No Terror".

Mind Games

A tactic employed by certain managers to toy with opposing managers, players and fans, getting under their skin and rattling them before important matches.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Neil Warnock are three classic exponents of it.

Mutual Consent

When a manager is sacked it's often first reported that it was "by mutual consent", implying that both parties agreed to it, when in actual fact it's normally just the chairman who desperately wants rid.

Onion Bag

The goals. The nets. As in... "He's absolutely leathered one in to the onion bag".


The classic cheeky penalty, named after the Czech midfielder Antonín Panenka who used the technique to win the Euro'76 final against West Germany.

We're not sure where you've been if you don't know what a Panenka is, but it's basically just pretending to take a normal peno but then just chipping the ball gently straight down the middle and hoping to God that the keeper has dived one way.

Panic Buy

When an under-pressure gaffer makes a desperate last-minute plunge into the transfer market just for the sake of buying someone, anyone, in an attempt to placate the fans and give them and the team some hope !

Think Andy Carroll's 35m transfer to Liverpool on 31st January 2011, or any number of Arsene Wenger's nightmares.


Forget all about the toasted tuna-melt variety, we're talking the de-facto classic football sticker brand here. The Panini World Cup albums and European Championship albums were things of beauty and nothing beat going through a great a great pile of swaps shouting "Got. Got. Need!"


Brazilian football term for a stepover.

Often associated with Robinho when he was half-decent, so... here's a pedala from Robinho.



Perfect Hat-trick

When a player scores a hat-trick that consists of one with the right foot, one with the left foot, and one with the head, it's called a perfect hat-trick.

Also known as a classic hat-trick or a golden hat-trick.

Prawn Sandwich Brigade

A fantastic term that was spawned from a quote by Roy Keane after Manchester Utd played Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League in 2000.

"Away from home our fans are fantastic, I'd call them the hardcore fans. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch."

So whilst Keane never actually said "Prawn Sandwich Brigade", it was quickly picked up on by the media and is now used to described a large swathe of modern football fans, especially those who still aren't sat in their seats 15 minutes after the 2nd half has kicked off at Wembley as they're still tucking into their hospitality freebies instead of watching the match itself.


Relegation Dogfight

When a number of clubs are fighting hard against each other to avoid relegation.

Riot Act

Another favourite half-time activity of an angry gaffer. When he's screaming at his players after a dreadful performance he's sometimes referred to as "being in the changing room, reading the riot-act".

Often used by managers alongside the hairdryer treatment.

Rush Keeper

Playground or park-football rule whereby a keeper was allowed to come out and score, rather than just being forced to stay in his goals. Sometimes used by just one team if there weren't equal numbers.


A special Panini sticker, usually a club or national badge. A great bargaining tool when you were doing swaps with your mates.

Squeaky Bum-Time

The unbearable tension as a title-race goes into the final matches of the season.

This descriptive phrase was coined by the master of the mind games himself, Sir Alex Ferguson, during their Premiership title-race with Arsenal back in 2002-03...

"Arsenal have a replay against Chelsea and if they win it they would face a semi-final 3 days before playing us in the league. But then they did say they were going to win the Treble, didn't they? It's squeaky bum-time but we've got the experience now to cope."


One of the classic football skills, one of the first things you should teach your kids as soon as they can walk.

Move the foot quickly around the outside of the ball without touching it, to dummy your opponent into thinking you're going that way, but then push off with the ball the other way.

Also referred to sometimes as a lollipop or pedala.


When you're collecting Panini stickers and you get one you've already got, it becomes a swap.

Also known in some parts of the UK as swapsies.


Traditional Curtain Raiser

The last match just before the start of the football season. Usually between the winners of last season's league and cup. In England it's the Charity Shield/Community Cup, in Europe it's often called the Super Cup.


Classic school playground game. The rules were simple, smack the ball against the correct part of the wall and you stayed in the game. Miss and you were out. Repeat until only one kid remains.