The Eleventh Hour.

Yesterday saw the the transfer window slam shut and with it a cluster of clichés get trotted out. Players all over the country failed to do their ties up properly and practised their best “I didn’t want to leave XYZ but as soon as I heard ABC were in for me, it was an easy decision” rubbish. The loan system was put to good use, with a number of teams sending out their 17-year-olds for valuable first team experience to prepare them for the next twenty years of really needing first team football at this stage of their careers.

Sky Sports News get terribly excited on days such as this, with actual things happening that they can report on rather than endlessly looping mildly controversial incidents from four days ago. However, it was still not quite enough to prevent them from stating on their news ticker:


Well, fancy that - a manager trying to sign a player he thinks will do well. Although, this being Harry Redknapp, [this part of the sentence has been censored to ensure that Mr. Redknapp will still talk to us rather than have Tony Adams taking four hours to finish an interview].

Portsmouth signing Jermaine Defoe produced one of the finest examples of how ingrained the cliché has become in the discourse of modern football, giving rise to the first of an occasional series entitled Nonsensical Cliché of the Week.

It’s a great opportunity to play football…

Good start to the sentence there, a slight variation on the “at this stage of my career” theme.

“…I just want to play for Portsmouth and score as many goals as I can this season…

Second point well made, you would think. Fans of Portsmouth must be pleased that their new £7 million striker plans to score as many goals as he can, because that, after all, is what he is there for.

However, as we are about to see, something goes off in Defoe’s mind - a flicker of recognition of a lesson he had in “Media Training” at Charlton Athletic's academy, possibly called “Lies to Tell Towards The End of Interviews

"…but what’s important is the three points.

This obvious lie, developed at the Shearer Institute for Inane Comments, was designed to perpetuate the myth that strikers aren’t selfish and don’t really care about scoring.

So deeply ingrained is this in the minds of footballer that they trot it out even when, as in Defoe's case, there aren’t even any specific three points at stake – unless of course their new signing expects Portsmouth to gain a mere 3 more points between now and May.

Now that would be interesting.



Mansfield v Middlesbrough: A Case Study of Cliché

Some casual, unstructured observations from today's FA Cup game between Mansfield Town and Middlesbrough, live on the BBC. I'll try and avoid addressing the usual Cup clichés, as that would, in turn, be an act of cliché in itself:

2 mins - Martin Keown, today's co-commentator, contends that the "swirling wind" will be a problem for the Midlesbrough defence. Therefore, watch out for a plucky Mansfield defender getting caught out by the swirling wind at some point.

5 mins - BBC coverage of a lower-league side hosting an FA Cup match is not complete without some young scamps (probably on the Beeb playroll for the afternoon) clambering up a tree outside the ground. This will, whatever its position, be described by the tradition-struck commentator as "the best seat in the house".

7 mins - David Wheater, apparently, has impressed this season. Why? The young, English, homegrown local lad has scored FOUR goals this season, making him the club's joint-top scorer. Oh, right. He can't manage to stop his side conceding to drag them away from the dropzone, but he has scored 4 goals. That's what he's in the side for, obviously.

This is typical. No defending can really catch the eye of any pundits, but a couple of goals will always be conspicuous for a defender. Furthermore, as soon as one media outlet describes him as "having an outstanding season", others will blindly follow.

My advice to any young defender would be to go up for a few corners. Get lucky at some set-pieces, and the media will be all over you.

17 mins - In a massive turn-up for the books, Mansfield's bright start has been followed by a straightforward Middlesbrough goal, caused by the Mansfield defence getting caught out by the swirling wind. The opener is "barely deserved", of course, because Mansfield have had a couple of corners at the other end.

25 mins - Robert Huth is booked for clearing the ball and following through on Michael Boulding's midriff. Cue horrified yelps from the commentators, convinced that a red card should have been issued. You wonder, if a Mansfield player had done the same, if the incident would have been dismissed as "clumsy". But no, Huth's foot "cut Michael Boulding in two".

47 mins - The second half begins with another bright start by Mansfield. A couple of corners brings about an "air of belief" at Field Mill.

60 mins - Mansfield embark on a "magnificent spell" of two corners and zero shots on goal.

73 mins - Martin Keown shares a joke with the commentator about the size of the latter's car. The nation can breathe a sigh of relief as it collectively ticks the box marked "Self-Deprecatory Joke between Commentators".

81 mins - Gareth Southgate demonstrates the modern skill common amongst aspirational, young English managers - standing up from the bench and clapping earnestly towards one or more of his players.

84 mins - A Mansfield defender commits an "understandable" foul, to go with the home side's "unfortunate" individual errors and under-hit set-pieces, which have been "a shame".

86 mins - Mansfield score an own-goal. "Cruel".