Football Slang. 40 terms you need to know


Here’s our ultimate guide to the most common English football slang terms and phrases used in a small sided football, complete with tips on how to use them in context.

The Footy Addicts Guide to Football Lingo

1. Man on

This is used to alert your teammate that an opposing player is nearby and closing in on them, so you might shout “man on!” during a casual football game to let your teammate know they need to be aware of their surroundings.

2. Well in

Use it to congratulate a teammate for a good tackle or effort. Basically, you can say “well-in!” to show your support and appreciation.

3. Have it

Shout it to a teammate to take possession of the ball and make a move. Also refers to John Smith’s advert with Peter Kay.

4. Big switch

This term describes a long, diagonal pass across the field from one wing to the other.

5. One-two

This is a passing move where one player passes the ball to another and immediately receives it back while speeding up the game.

6. Clear it

This term encourages a teammate to clear the ball out of danger by kicking it as far as possible. Generally, you might say “boot it!” to urge your teammate to get the ball out of the danger zone.

7. Step over

This is a move where a player moves their foot over the ball without touching it, faking out an opponent and creating space to make a play.

8. Through ball

This is a pass played through the defense to a teammate in a scoring position. 

9. Pull back

This is a pass played back to a teammate who is in a better position to create a scoring opportunity. 

10. Sweeper

This is a defensive player who operates behind the back line, sweeping up any loose balls or making crucial tackles to prevent goals. 

11. Over the top

This is a pass played over the defense to a teammate who is making a run towards the goal

12. Press

This is a defensive tactic where players put pressure on the opposing team to force turnovers and regain possession of the ball. You might use this term to encourage your team to press and win back the ball.

13. Tackle

This is a defensive move where a player tries to take the ball away from an opponent. 

14. Nutmeg

This is a move where a player kicks the ball between an opponent’s legs. It’s a flashy move that can be effective in certain situations. 

15. Touch and go

This is a passing move where a player passes the ball to a teammate and immediately runs forward to receive it back. You might use this term to suggest a give and go move to your teammate.

16. Time!

This reminds a player to take their time, to be patient, to keep the ball as long as they want and not rush their next move.

17. Touch

This term refers to a player’s first touch on the ball, reminding them to control the ball properly and not let it bounce away from them.

18. Get stuck in

This phrase means to tackle or compete aggressively for the ball, encouraging teammates to play with more intensity.

19. Play simple

This phrase means to pass the ball to the nearest teammate or to take the safe option rather than trying to force a more difficult pass or move.

English Football Slang explained

Understand English Football slang. Photo credit: @getshot_by_reyes

20. Drop in

This term is used to instruct players to drop back and defend their own goal when under pressure from an opposing attack.

21. Keep possession

This phrase means to prioritise keeping the ball and not losing possession, by making simple passes and avoiding risky moves. In short, play tiki-taka.

22. Show for the ball

That’s how you instruct teammates to come towards the player with the ball to make themselves available for a pass.

23. Pick him up

This instructs your teammate to mark an opposing player and not let them have too much space or freedom on the ball.

24. Get back

This phrase instructs attacking players to get back and help defend when the team is under pressure or in a defensive situation.

25. Hold it up

This phrase is used to instruct a player to hold the ball up and wait for support from their teammates before making their next move.

26. Play it out

This phrase means to play the ball out from the back rather than launching it forward, encouraging the team to play a possession-based style of football.

27. Second ball

This term describes the loose ball that may come out after a rebound or a clearance, and encourages players to be ready to react quickly and win possession.

28. Square it

This is a common football slang phrase to encourage a player to pass the ball across the face of goal, usually to a teammate who is in a better position to score.

29. Take him on

If you hear this phrase, you can dribble past an opponent and create a scoring opportunity.

30. Let it run

This is to inform you to let the ball roll past them rather than trying to control it. Unless one of your teammates touched the ball and it’s going over the goal line, then clear the ball as far as you can.

31. Push up

That’s how you encourage the entire team to move higher up the field, usually when they are in possession and looking to create chances.

32. Open up

This phrase is used to encourage a player to turn their body and face towards the field of play, allowing them to see more of their teammates and opponents.

33. Pinch in

This phrase encourages midfielders to move closer to their defensive line and provide more support in defending their own penalty area.

34. Get stuck in the mixer

This football slang phrase is used to encourage a player to get into the mix of players in the penalty area and try to get on the end of a cross or a loose ball.

35. Go for the far post

This is a phrase used to encourage a player to shoot or cross the ball towards the far post rather than the near post in view of catching the goalkeeper off guard.

36. Get your head up

That’s how you let a player know to look up and assess their options before making a pass or taking a shot.

37. Get back and cover

This phrase encourages defenders to retreat quickly when their team loses possession and cover their teammates who may be out of position.

38. Bang it

That’s how you encourage a player to shoot the ball straightaway with power and without hesitation.

39. Overlap

This phrase encourages a player to run past a teammate in possession of the ball in light of creating a passing option and stretching the opposing defense.

40. Cut inside

This phrase is used to encourage a player to move towards the center of the pitch after starting from a wide position, in order to create space and a shooting opportunity.


Now that you’re familiar with some more common football slang terms and phrases in British English, you’ll be able to communicate effectively with your teammates and make the most of your time on the pitch. All in all, remember to use these terms in context and have fun!

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