EF GO Blog | EF Global Site (English)
The latest on travel, languages and culture by EF Education First
MenuFree Brochure

All the football slang you’ll ever need

All the football slang you’ll ever need

Football is a national obsession in Britain and it’s full of weird and wonderful phrases. From screamers, walls and buses – here are the most common football expressions explained to help you understand the local lingo when watching a match in the UK.

And whatever you do, don’t call it soccer!

What a howler!

If you find yourself watching the English national team play- this phrase will likely come in handy. This expression is used after someone has made a comical mistake. It is usually attributed to red-faced goalkeepers after failing to stop a shot and sullen-looking players who’ve scored an own goal.


Who’d be a referee?! Almost every decision is met with unrelenting cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing,’ and ‘get your eyes tested.’ Disagreeing with the officials is constant in most sports across the world and simply shouting ‘ref’ in disbelief at a dubious decision is commonplace in football.

What a screamer!

Usually reserved for the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Hazard, a screamer (or worldie) is when someone scores a goal from a long distance that creates pandemonium in the stadium.

That was a sitter/he should have buried that

Sadly, these two expressions are my most commonly used due to my team’s world-class inability to score goals. They are delivered with a mixture of shock, sadness, and anger as a player misses the simplest of chances to score a goal.

We need a clean sheet

A phrase often said in hope rather than expectation. When a goalkeeper doesn’t concede a goal, it is known as a clean sheet. Keeping a clean sheet certainly makes it easier to win a game!

It’s time to park the bus

This is an ultra-defensive style of football where teams do anything to preserve their clean sheet. By putting all 11 players behind the ball to thwart the opponent’s attacking threat, and then rarely attacking yourself, is considered to be equivalent of parking a bus in front of your goal.

Man on!

The crowd are commonly known as the 12th man. When a player isn’t aware of an approaching opposition player, cries of ‘man on’ ring around the stadium to warn them of an imminent tackle.

He needs to hug the line

Teams frequently play with two wingers- these are attack-minded players who play on the edge of the pitch. To hug the line is a statement used to encourage these players to stay as wide as possible so to stretch the opposition across the pitch.

He was caught ball watching

Footballers don’t just have to be good at kicking a ball! They also need to be tactically savvy and understand the movement of players around them. By just watching the ball they can be caught out of position, which will be taken advantage of by the opposition.

The wall did its job

It takes a brave person to stand in a wall. When players stand in a line, 10-yards from a free kick, this is known as the wall. If the wall stands firm and blocks or deflects the ball, they are said to have done their job.

He’s a dead ball specialist

Dead ball situations are when the ball is stationary after a stoppage in the game. A dead ball specialist refers to a player who excels at scoring free kicks and penalties and who can whip a corner into the penalty box with pinpoint accuracy.

Stay on your feet

A strange phrase for a sport played on your feet, but fans shout this in a vain attempt to stop a player lunging to the ground to tackle an opponent. This might result in a foul or the opposition skipping past the grounded player.

Image by Kieran Clark, Flickr / Creative Commons

Get the latest on travel, languages and culture in the GO newsletterSign me up