29 August ~ “And remember, away goals count double.” I can’t recall which delicately poised second leg was about to begin when Richard Keys brought me that wisdom, but internally, a few of my gears began to grind. I wanted to grab him and say, in the same way he said of Theo Walcott when he thought his mic was off: “You’ve been shite, son. Don’t you realise that if away goals did count double, a team that loses an away leg 3-2 will go through with a 0-0 draw?”

The hairy-handed one is not alone, however. There are numerous examples of things said by commentators that, one feels, would never be uttered by someone who had thought about what they were saying. The excuse, no doubt, is that we all know what is meant by away goals counting double, but why double? Why not triple, or quadruple? Or 1.00000000001?

I’m not talking about the gaffes (David Pleat saying “The sight is in end”) or the mispronunciations (Pleat again, when he talks about “Pascal Chimbomba”) or even the inanities (Mark Lawrenson with the unsurpassable “If anything, he’s hit too well”). I’m not even referring to Andy Gray and his famous “footballers’ conversations” – “Frank Lampard says to Drogba: ‘Go on son, I’ve just played you in, have a goal for yourself.’ And Drogba says: ‘Thanks very much Frankie, don’t mind if I do.’ But Edwin van der Sar’s got other ideas, he’s saying: ‘What ya reckon Didier, I’ve won the Champions League with different clubs and set a clean-sheet record.’ Drogba’s having none of it, though: ‘Don’t care, big man, I’m just going to slide it under your legs.’”

No, it’s those sayings that are just incorrect. Under a player’s legs, for example, is fine, as that’s physically possible. The ball being caught under someone’s feet is a different matter. Does the game stop as a man comes onto the pitch to dig it out? When a commentator tells us that “Liverpool are all in red”, he should be urgently trying to contact the officials to tell them that this is in contravention of the rule which states that goalkeepers must wear a different top. Or else he should learn to talk properly by saying that Liverpool are in “all-red”.

Simple counting remains a problem. “Three games in seven days” is a common description of a fixture backlog, but more often than not what is being referred to is Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday – eight days. How often have you heard a commentator say that a team should be three up, when they have had three chances in a few minutes? Surely I am not the only one who understands that when a goal is scored the game resumes with a kick-off, resulting in a completely different set of happenings than when restarted with a goal-kick.

All of this makes you wonder how easy it is to become a commentator. This feeling increases when a shot that hits the crossbar or the post is said to have beaten the goalkeeper. I don’t think the keeper is worried that he has been “beaten”, given that the shot did not reach its intended target of the goal, of which the woodwork is not strictly a part. When the goals do go in, it does not mean that this nonsense ends, especially when they are “goals either side of half-time”. ‘Either’ means one or the other, not both, or each. “The final ball is lacking” – of course it is, the same way something you find is in the last place you look. “They’re passing in nice triangles” – any three players on a pitch will form a triangle, once they’re not standing in a perfectly straight line. And finally, there's the examining of a replay of a dangerous tackle (by a player who’s “not that type”, of course) and proclaiming that “It looks worse than it is”. It looks exactly the same, only slower. Denis Hurley

Comments (20)
Comment by SlavicScouser 2010-08-29 12:43:52

Excellent article. One of my pet hates is during penalties. If the goalie dives one way and the ball ends up in the other corner, you can almost guarantee you will hear the phrase "he sent the keeper the wrong way". Which is, of course, ludicrous. Sure, the penalty-taker can shape his body to make it look as if he is going to shoot in a particular direction and then play the ball to the other side, but all professional goalkeepers are more than aware of this possibility. The keeper will choose his own direction to dive in. The penalty-taker certainly will not have "sent him the wrong way", that is just blatantly untrue.

Comment by Ghost of Bruno 2010-08-29 13:25:32

I would think you can only send someone the wrong way by issuing a command which is then obeyed, or by (short of physically moving them) exerting some sort of telekinetic control. At best one causes the keeper to go the wrong way and does not 'send' him. And obviously, it's the 'wrong' way only as far as the goalkeeper is concerned.

Comment by Hypnotoad 2010-08-29 14:43:59

"The ball could have gone anywhere" gets me. Clearly it did go somewhere else it would still be attached to the player's foot!

Comment by ooh aah 2010-08-29 16:53:57

I love the Andy Gray bit.

I'm far more annoyed by the stating of the bleeding obvious. I don't know who the cockney twat is who co-commentates for sky (at least I assume it's sky). A couple of his gem-like insights at the Fulham - Man Utd game last week, were that in the second half with the score at 1-1 'Fulham will be hopeful for more than just a point' and after Utd took a 2-1 lead in the last 10 mins we were informed that Mark Hughes 'won't want his team to concede another at this stage' an insight of such staggering clarity that I felt as if a blinding white light had burnt into the very center of my being causing me to fall off my barstool.

At least that was my excuse to everyone present

Comment by densityofsound 2010-08-29 19:24:37

Sadly I think 'the referee's blown up!' isn't used as much as once it was...

Comment by City till I cry 2010-08-30 04:32:11

My favourite bit of outright nonsense(it was Kevin Keegan I believe), is

"Oh,and the lad's gone down with cramp. And at this stage of the game that's worse than a broken leg."

Well, no.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-08-30 10:41:32

Once the autumn rains start,how long will it be before

"the ball picked up pace on the wet turf"

Or variations on this physically impossible theme ?

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-08-30 11:19:51

"He literally has no left foot" is always good for a laugh.

Comment by Ronny Delgado 2010-08-30 11:21:19

Another one when the ball hits the aluminium: "The post/crossbar stands in the way of a goal." Take them away then and let's see what happens next.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2010-08-30 16:30:11

"We deserved more out the game than a point".

Nope. You scored the same amount of goals as the opposition. You knew before the game started that you had to score more than them to get more than a point.

Ergo, You deserved a point.

"So Spain finally win the world cup - do you think they were the best team at the tournament, Allan?"

What tournament's that then, Gary? The one they just won? yeah they were probably the best team at that tournament ... seeing as how they won it and all that.

Comment by Paul S 2010-08-31 08:32:59

The one that always gets me is "we want a result out of this game".

A 7-0 defeat is a result, so you'd settle for that? Or are you looking for a positive result - i.e. a win? In which case why not say so?

Another pet hate of mine is at a penalty when commentators refer to having "missed" a penalty when it was actually saved. To actually miss it has to go outside the goal - and at least give the goalie some credit for saving the thing in the first place.

Comment by tratorello 2010-08-31 10:36:58

Can someone tell me what an "ask" is? Usually in football they are "big" but I still have no idea what "ask" as a noun actually is.

Also can someone point out to commentators and pundits that there's only one Manchester United and one Chelsea (etc, etc), so I'm not sure what they are talking about when they say "the Manchester Uniteds and Chelseas of this world".

Oh and also why do they refer to "the likes of" David Beckham (for example) when they actually mean David Beckham?

Comment by alex16z 2010-08-31 11:30:12

'The pitch is very greasy tonight.'

Unless some ne'er-do-well has somehow gained access to the pitch, unnoticed, and covered it with grease, I find it highly unlikely that the surface is greasy. It's far more likely to be wet.

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2010-08-31 12:28:03

I really don't understand why people let the mixture of metaphor and cliche that has evolved into football terminology annoy them so much. However there seems to be a lot of you - perhaps Lynne Truss should do a book entitled: Missing the points

Comment by Jongudmund 2010-08-31 13:07:53


I agree. What's even more confusing is when commentators say "your Lampards, your Gerrards, your Beckhams..."

What my Lampards? How did you find out about my secret cloning experiments?

Comment by rckd 2010-08-31 13:33:57

Have to agree with Efficient Baxter. I get riled when commentary is poor or plainly not insightful, but cliches and metaphors are surely fine so long as everyone understands them contextually.

(NB. 'greasy' as an adjective doesn't necessarily imply being smattered with grease; a 'result' in football implies being a positive scoreline given pre-match expectations and the goings-on of the game; a team can be 'better' than another without beating them - surely the joy of football is that precise fact. There is room for interpretation of the game and if scorelines were the sole indicator of success then it wouldn't be worth turning up waving your scarf.)

Not to deny that some commentators are awful, of course. The World Cup proved that.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2010-08-31 14:43:04

One of my favourites has always been the sacrificing of players from the starting eleven. Mere substitution isn't enough; the footballing gods must be appeased.

There's a particular gem that always sticks in my mind, from a game between West Ham and Everton some years back. The West Ham keeper was sent off on the stroke of half-time, Everton scored the penalty with Julian Dicks in goal, and as there was no time to restart the match, a substitute keeper was brought on during the break.

A fairly standard development, which Trevor Francis described beautifully as

'Tony Cottee has been sacrificed during the interval'

which seems to be perhaps a little extreme. After all, they were only a solitary goal behind, surely a little early to be buying the favour of the heavens with the blood of the miniature centre forward.

Comment by Coxy 2010-08-31 18:08:16

You may have Your Gerrard's and Beckhams of this world but At Chelsea we have Eleven Robert Flecks as we all live in a Robert Fleck World.

Comment by Arthur Nibble 2010-09-01 14:34:06

There are others which also irritate me, namely...

1) Something / someone being 'quite unique' or 'almost unique' - it's either unique or it isn't, it can't be anyhting else

2) Giving 110% per cent - you can't give more than 100%, which means you're trying 10 per cent harder than last week, meaning you only gave ten-elevenths of your potential previously

3) Every player's name as prounced by David Plett (he can't be arsed to say their names properly, so I can't be arsed to spell his properly)

Comment by joen 2012-04-12 21:55:41

"He's hit the post!!" Really? What with: his fist, or his open palm?

"What do City need to do to win this game, Kevin?" Well, scoring more goals than the opposition seems like the easiest way to do it.

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