Clichés have been a part of football since the game began, and some have grown bigger than the sport to become a part of everyday life - 'over the moon' and 'sick as a parrot' are definitely football's fault. Today's fans can appreciate football clichés on a bigger level though, thanks to the sheer amount of football we can watch, the age of stats and analysis we live in and the new ways we now have to share information online. Nothing sums this up better than Football Clichés, a brilliant blog and Twitter feed dedicated to highlighting the ridiculousness of modern football and the phrases that surround it. Looking to learn more about the art of the cliché, we tracked down Adam Hurrey, the man behind Football Clichés, to get the lowdown on the site and how it shapes his experience of watching the game. Warning, there's a fair few clichés ahead...
Where did Football Clichés originally come from? Was there a particular spark that brought it all to life, or have you been plugging away for years in the lower leagues before finally gaining some recognition?
'I had ambitions as a youngster to be a football commentator, as I watched goals videos on loop - including the semi-legendary VHS tape 101 Great Goals. Then I came across the excellent
Football Lexicon 1, which laid out, dictionary-style, many of the words and phrases that had become ingrained in football. After countless pub conversations, usually after playing Sunday League football against cliché-spouting morons, I decided to start blogging about it myself. Perhaps the only thing this story lacks is a chapter about me being released by a football website as a youngster for being “too small”.'
Does an appreciation for a good cliché add to the enjoyment of the game?'
'Definitely. Even the most boring games are riddled with commentary clichés, while the mannerisms of footballers these days are fascinating. When it comes to punditry, I struggle to believe anyone enjoys listening to it, so being able to feel unashamedly superior to its nonsense is very fulfilling. Now we’re all saying the clichés out loud before the commentators do.'
Do you think that the sheer glut of games on television and the Best League In The World being on your doorstep has created more clichés for you to get your teeth into?
'TV coverage, and particularly the tortuous build-up and aftermath of the big games, is a conveyor belt of clichés. It keeps the existing ones going, and produces a steady stream of new ones every season. There really is only so much you can say about a football match so, with coverage reaching saturation point, they need to rely on clichés more and more. So, unlike Rafa Benitez, you’ll never find me doing any bemoaning about how thick and fast the fixtures are coming.'
Are clichés the same at all levels of the game? Do you think certain clichés trickle down to the lower leagues, albeit without the finesse you would expect at a higher level? Can you enjoy a Sunday League clogger of a cliché as much as the slick team move you might find in the Premier League?
'Plenty of clichés find their way down to grass-roots level. I've seen Sunday league players making that giant ball-shaped arm gesture after a free-kick's been awarded - they try and copy everything they see on TV. As for the professional game, not much seems to change in manager and player interviews as you go down the football pyramid - they all start their answers with the customary "Yyyyeaah, no...". I just want to know if Premier League footballers still instruct each other to “box ‘em in” when the other team have a throw-in deep in defensive territory.'
Can concentrating on the clichés ruin a game of football for you, or do you find yourself chomping at the bit for a game so that you can comb over the finer details?
'Any games in which I'm a neutral observer have become infinitely more enjoyable. I try not to ridicule commentators too much, as I've started to understand how much of a tricky job it can be. Their co-commentators, on the other hand, don't get the same leniency - most of them are stealing a living.
I note your use of "chomping at the bit", there. I'm fairly sure it should be "champing at the bit" (it originally described impatient horses), but football happily butchers clichés for its own purposes. See also: lacksadaisical - there's no "s" in the middle, but football doesn't care.'
The work you’ve been doing with Football Clichés has inspired a glut of similar blogs and projects elsewhere; do you see this as an appreciative nod from admirers or a snub, denying you some well-earned recognition?
'I hadn't noticed! I'm more than happy with the recognition I've got - elsewhere, football has long needed a healthy dollop of self-awareness, so I hope others are picking up on clichés as they see and hear them. To employ the textbook footballer’s response to your question, though: “Yeah, it’s always nice.”
Do you ever fear that you could hit a real barren spell when it comes to clichés, or lose the knack completely? Or do you think that the amount of football around will keep the cliché conveyor belt going for a few more seasons?
'There's just about enough of a turnover of new clichés to keep me in business for a while yet. Football clichés are everywhere, remember - words, phrases, crowd chants, players, managers, chairmen, tea ladies...
If I’m having a barren spell in front of Twitter, I just have to hope that a tweet goes in off my backside. They all count.'
Is there one cliché that you would hold up as a shining example of playing the game the right way, the archetypical cliché that is head and shoulders above the rest?
'Most clichés qualify as such because they represent a tried-and-tested opinion - as a result, quite a few of them are dreadfully lazy. On the other hand, some simply encapsulate an element of the game so perfectly that they deserve to be repeated mindlessly. I'm certainly not against football clichés; they just deserve a bit more scrutiny.
With that in mind, my favourite football cliché has to be “if anything, he’s almost hit that too well.” It’s an absolute rollercoaster of non-committals and counterintuitiveness, all of which come together to produce a cliché that everyone, somehow, understands completely. Perfect. I’m also partial to an “FA disciplinary rap”. It conjures up a wonderful image.'