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Your guide to commonly used football terms on the pitch 

England is widely known as the birthplace of football. Over the centuries, the nation has produced some of the best players of the game, as well as one of the best leagues in the world, the Premier League.

Aside from the beautiful game itself, several terms have been coined around the sport. Many of these originated at various levels of the sport but have stuck through the ages.

Without further ado, We at Sportsdunia have a complete list of English football terms you must know.

Mauricio Pochettino using football terms on the pitch.
Do you know the difference between ‘man on’ and ‘play on’? (Image: Getty)

Common English football terms

All ball

This is said when a player makes contact with the ball before touching any part of the player in control of it.

Back of the net

A quick and handy way of describing what happens when a goal is scored, quite literally.


Usually said when making claims that a handball was unintentional, or that the ball struck the hand rather than deliberate handling.

Bicycle kick

An acrobatic way to kick the ball wherein the player makes contact with the ball aerially, usually as they are sideways or upside-down.

Boot it

A simple instruction to clear the ball with urgency.

Box-to-box player

A player who has the abilities to defend attacks, as well as create moves on their own with their direct running. Think Yaya Toure, Patrick Vieira, Declan Rice.


A word describing a player scoring exactly two goals in a game.

Chip shot

A delicately lofted type of shot that usually leaves goalkeepers with no option. Picture this: Lionel Messi vs Bayern Munich.

Class act

An individual within the officiating team, playing teams, or ground staff deserves praise for their work.

Clean sheet

A team’s/goalkeeper’s achievement of going a game without conceding a goal.


Bumps or studs on the bottom of football boots.

Clinical finish

A perfect shot executed in a composed manner that leads to a goal. Think Thierry Henry, Ronaldo Nazario, Marco van Basten.


A stunning shot from a long distance that usually draws huge crowd cheers. Think about that David Beckham goal vs Greece in 2002.


The dramatization of falling to draw a foul is unethical.

Dummy run

An off-the-ball movement that serves as a decoy for the actual play to take place elsewhere on the pitch. Dummies help confuse opponents.

Feint / Flip Flap

The quick motion of the ball in one direction before a mid-air direction change to leave the opponent stranded. One word – Ronaldinho.

First-time ball

Passing the ball to a teammate with one touch.


A type of pass that saves time as no first touch or cushioning touch is taken. Think Olivier Giroud.

Game of two halves

A cliché that serves as a reminder that the game can change in a matter of minutes, or after the half-time break.

Hairdryer treatment

Loud scolding following mistakes, a method made popular by former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.


A player is notorious for their toughness and physical approach to the game.


Aimlessly kicking the ball in the direction of the opponent’s goal.

Hospital ball

A 50-50 ball where two players vying for it can get injured.


An inexcusable mistake on the football pitch.

Hug the line

Instruction given to wide players to play close to the sidelines.

In his/her pocket

When Player A dominates Player B, it is said that Player B is in A’s pocket.


Nickname for the touchline referees.

Lost the dressing room

A phrase describing a manager/coach’s inability to connect with their team.

Man on

A warning call to alert a teammate about an opponent closing them down.

Midfield anchor

A reliable defensive midfielder whose job is to break opposition play down and build their own teams with smooth passing. Think Claude Makelele.


Usually a team with limited resources.


Putting the ball through an opponent’s legs to get past them.

Off the line

The act of saving the ball from crossing the line, clearing the ball.

On paper

An indication of how events should unfold in theory.

Park the bus

An ultra-defensive tactic, usually termed as reactive football since teams usually give up possession of the ball and wilfully defend.

Play on

A referee’s call is made when s/he deems the advantage rule applicable.

Pea roller

A harmless shot attempted at goal.

Poacher / Fox in the box

A striker/forward that is lethal in the penalty area. Think Miroslav Klose or Andy Cole.

Put in a shift

Working hard and tirelessly to help one’s team achieve their objectives.

Row Z

The furthest row in the stands from the pitch. Usually used when referring to a heavily miscued shot.

Run it off

An instruction to ignore minor injuries and continue playing.


Another term for ‘fired’; mostly used in reference to football managers.


A show-off.


A shocking miss that usually somebody’s grandmother could have scored.

Switch play

Playing a long pass from one side of the pitch to the other.

Target man

Usually, a tall and strong striker who is renowned for their aerial and hold-up abilities. Think Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Romelu Lukaku.


Description for over-the-top reactions.


Winning three major competitions in a single season.

Having the ball strike one of the upright bars that make up the goal.