Susie Dent’s Top Tens: 10 Words to Describe Your Football Team

Want to know how to describe your football team? Here’s the top ten words to do so from everyone’s favourite lexicographer, Susie Dent.


Want to know how to describe your football team? Here are the top ten words to use from everyone’s favourite lexicographer, Susie Dent.

‘Some people think football is a matter of life and death… I can assure them it’s much more serious than that’.

Nearly 40 years on from Bill Shankly’s verdict, not much has changed. Never one to do things by halves, the game still inspires the same heights of reverence and ecstasy, or depths of disappointment and depression. Not for nothing does the word ‘fan’ come from the Latin fanaticus, ‘possessed by a demon’. As Jimmy McGregor sang in the 1960s: ‘He’s football crazy, he’s football mad/And the football it has robbed him o’ the wee bit sense he had’.

Stuart Pearce

Football is also, of course, a microcosm of life. From the fans to the commentators, the referees to the managers – not forgetting the parents spitting blood from the sidelines of the junior game – every form of human life (and lowlife) is here.

But the following list is dedicated to those we adore and abuse the most – the players. It is for the goal-hangers and the whizkids, the divers, darlings, and shithousers who fill us each week with renewed hope and expectation, only to deliver the same anticipointment as last time. Should you need a new epithet or ten for the post-match analysis in the pub or on the punditry sofa, here are a few ideas:

princock: the goalhanger who is only there for the glory, and who somehow neglects to thank the team-mates who did all the heavy lifting.

nickum: the cheat whose dives are a theatrical tour-de-force, or who puts their hands up in doe-eyed innocence after knocking out an opponent.

whiffler: the thoroughly indecisive player who looks around frantically before passing and inevitably loses the ball.

pavoniser: the player with all the gear but no idea. From the Latin for ‘peacock’.

circumbendibus: partner to the whiffler, this is the player who passes the ball all round the houses instead of driving it forward.

huff-snuff: the indignant one who is forever muttering to themselves, shouting at the ref, or scornfully tossing their freshly-bleached locks whenever a decision doesn’t go their way.

cacafuego: Spanish for ‘fire-shitter’, this is the player who is all bluster and little substance. Cacafuego was an impressively-armed Spanish galleon, captured easily by Sir Francis Drake.

dandilly: the fan’s darling who can do no wrong. George Best was often told by Matt Busby not to turn up for team talks, because they largely consisted of: ‘Whenever possible, give the ball to George’.

aliped: the Usain Bolt of the team who leaves all others in their wake. From the Latin for ‘winged feet’.

unasinous: one for the team that promises the world and ends up giving nothing but heartburn. From the Latin for ‘one ass’, this means ‘united in stupidity’.

1 Comment

  • philip.talbot says:

    What a wonderful list – thank you Susie. Again. Love your historical (and historic) references too. I’ve had fun thinking of players to fit the definitions, and sadly can see it in my son’s (21) own team, even after thier mighty cup win against a team in a higher division yesterday. Cheers!

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