The language of football commentary evolved dramatically in the 1990s. Big Ron Atkinson was at the forefront of this work, though there were other linguistic innovators, such as Mark Lawrenson and Andy Gray. And the lexicon continues to be developed by the likes of Paul Merson today. But for a spell, the first language of football was undoubtedly Ronglish.
Not a long ball man, but Ron was rarely more chuffed than when he saw a spectacular pass delivered accurately over distance. And such was the stockpile of air miles the big man amassed trekking South for tan top-ups, he had no hesitation distributing a generous allocation among European football’s playmakers.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, Beckham’s been picking out those runs for fun all night, but that ball traveled so far it should have had air miles.
Much as he liked a player to have a trick in his locker, suspicious Ron was wary of anyone selling one lollipop too many at the expense of “knocking it out of his feet” and “having a dig”. Such dilettantes were dismissed as amusement arcades.
Ronglish: Alright, the kid’s a crowd pleaser, Clive, but by ‘eck he can be a bit of an amusement arcade. Go on son, give it the full gun!
It wasn’t easy single-handedly shaping the evolution of your own language. Sometimes Ron got tired, he struggled for inspiration, turning to that more primitive means of human communication, English. In an inspired bid to develop the ideal description of a perfectly timed run into the penalty area, Ron cunningly transformed the verb, to arrive, into a noun.
Ronglish: Veron’s pinged that in the gulley, Giggsy’s faced one to the first post, Coley’s missed out, but look at the arrive from the little ginger fellow. One-Zero.
Bagatelle was a slightly messy early hybrid of billiards and ten pin bowling. Smaller table and cues and with pegs surrounding the holes like a kind of flimsy defensive wall. When the action kicked off, there were pegs tumbling and balls pinging everywhere. Which is what Ron saw during a frantic goalmouth scramble between Leicester and Middlesbrough.
Ronglish: He’s flipped that in the mixer, there’s a crowd scene in there and it’s bagatelle football with the ball pinging around.
In Ron’s impressively double entendre-free world, the little beaver (he never identified a full-size one) will do the work of two men — most likely a packhorse and a natural dog, always solid citizens — ratting the ball at every opportunity. For a really hardworking side, attempt to bolster your midfield with “two little beavers”.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, I know Madrid are loaded with fantasy players, if you like, but for my money, the two little beavers in the Milan midfield will give the Italians an insurance line.
One of Ron’s most telling contributions to modern linguistics. In the brave new world Ron shaped — with more than a little help from Andy Gray and Mark Lawrenson — every player injury or suspension became an out of some shape or size.
In particularly galling circumstances — perhaps your little beaver’s gone missing — a big out can quickly escalate into a massive out. It is in such testing times that a team truly learns what it’s made of.
I just wonder if Shearer is feeling a groin, Clive. He will be an absolutely massive out.
In the karmic world that Ron occupied, the smooth will always balance the rough. Where there’s an amusement arcade, there’s also a fiery little ratter, for every solid citizen, someone else in the midfield is a little bit milky. Just as Ron gave us the big out, so too did he lighten our spirits with the occasional big up.
Ronglish: I’ll tell you one thing, Clive, Alex won’t half be pleased the little ginger fella’s fit. That is a big up.
The single most controversial and debated term in the lexicon. Original Ronglish teachings provided a disappointingly straightforward explanation, insisting the Buddy Holly was simply rhyming slang for volley. So and so goes bonking down the right, knocks one to the second post and such and such catches it clean on the Buddy Holly. End of story. Or so it appeared.
Ronglish conservatives hadn’t, however, reckoned on a startling alternative theory. In these remarkable findings, it is suggested that the Buddy Holly finds daring Ron in another of his less politically correct moments, evoking the memory of the unfortunate crooner’s airborne demise, to paint a picture of any sharp descent to earth.
Ronglish: He’s got no right to even hit the target there, Clive, but to be fair, he’s bought a ticket and caught that bang on the Buddy Holly.
OR: Tell you what, Clive, I know the lad’s got a nudge, but Pires has gone down like Buddy Holly there.
Ron equated any sudden exertion of physical effort with an inevitable and painful need for bloodvessels to sunder. A midfielder in his day, it is primarily to those that man the engine room that he attributes this debilitating condition. In particular, any midfield man with a penchant for late runs into the box could expect to burst at least half a dozen bloodvessels during an average 90 minutes.
Ronglish: To be fair, Clive, full marks to Big Crouchy for letting that bounce off him, but, tell you what, the boy Gerard has absolutely burst bloodvessels to make the arrive. One zero.
Buy a Ticket
Seldom did Ron get through 90 minutes without encouraging one of the forward players on display to purchase a ticket for some raffle or other. Generous to a fault, at least he put up a decent prize. No pawning you off with a bottle of sherry or a leg of lamb here. First ticket out of the hat wins the opening goal.
Ron has actually gone on record to attribute the origin of this Ronglish staple to former West Brom attacking midfielder Tony Brown. When he was WBA gaffer, Ron called Tony – who scored over 200 league goals for the club – Der Bomber, after German fox in the box, Gerd Muller. It seems Tony was never shy of taking his chances and having a dig, so much so that his training ground catchphrase became “If you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the raffle.”
Ronglish: Credit to the little beaver for getting on the end of that but I can’t believe he’s popped that off instead of pulling the trigger. If you don’t buy a ticket, you won’t win the raffle.
Ron never lost his capacity to be surprised by events on the field of play.
The change ball takes place when a player cunningly chooses not to pass the ball in the direction he’s facing, but in another direction entirely — in the process, momentarily outfoxing the opposition and perhaps even switching the point of attack. Importantly, the pass cannot actually play a teammate in on goal as a change ball achieving this result automatically earns a spotter’s badge.
Ronglish: Ljungberg’s lobbed him a bit of an ugly one, but the big French fella’s given them the eyes and knocked a lovely change ball. Shame Pires wasn’t in the Wide Awake Club.
Some prefer ‘the hole’ for the frontman who ‘dropped off’ but Ron always had a certain suspicion of gloved amusement arcades who just didn’t fancy challenging for headers with the centre-halves. Thus his term for the illicit pleasures enjoyed by a number ten ignoring his inconvenient everyday responsibilities.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, I don’t think the little ginger fella’s enjoying the attention of these two outhouses. He’s begun to drift a little…taken up the cheating position, if you like.
There was a generous portion of the footballing population of whom Ron was suspicious. Amusement arcades, anybody who was a little bit easy oasy, or simply given to more than the occasional blob. Needless to say, none of these are solid citizens.
Ron sometimes couldn’t quite overcome his misgivings to fully appreciate when one of the unchosen few actually got something right. For example, a moment of assurance from Wes Brown in the Champions League caused Ron to dust off this old reliable: “I’m not sure whether that was cool panic there.”
Tell you what, Clive, the old warhorse has been playing from amnesia all night, but that was a moment of cool panic.
Corridor (Channel) of Uncertainty
In the world of cricket, a ball bowled into the corridor of uncertainty turns up just outside the off stump and just a fraction short of decent length, leaving the batsman unsure whether to swing or prod.
In the Ronglish adaptation, the corridor was a narrow strip, roughly located between the penalty spot and the six yard box, running parallel to the goal line, which could only be found from wide areas.
In Ron’s book, any winger worth his salt should whip one early into the corridor, bisecting the panicky herd of retreating defenders and the fretting goalkeeper, causing both parties to be racked with uncertainty. The defenders – notably Frank Sinclair – are reluctant to stick a foot out in case they concede an own goal, while the goalkeeper doesn’t really fancy coming out in case he misses the ball and looks like “he’s waving at his mother”.
A keeper encountering this difficulty might also be said to have suffered a Yes/No Interlude.
Note also that anything delivered into the corridor of uncertainty was meat and drink for a well-timed arrive.
Ronglish: Top-drawer delivery from little Fernandez, he’s put that in the corridor of uncertainty, and that was a moment of cool panic from Sinclair to turn it round the post.
Ron always liked to give it a bit of Hollywood and every packed goalmouth reminded Ron of what may well have been his natural home on the silver screen.
Ronglish: Little Wright-Phillips has loaded that in the mixer again but the way Liverpool are defending, it’s a crowd scene in there.
Cruelty to Defenders Act
“You just can’t legislate for pace like that,” you’d often hear Clive conclude, as a pair of lightning slow centre halves trail in the wake of a pacy frontman. He underestimated the resourcefulness of Ron, who drafted his very own set of legislation to cater for just such eventualities.
Ronglish: Tell you what Clive, wouldn’t you like to see Ronaldo and Messi in the same side. Mind you, that might be banned under the Cruelty to Defenders Act.
Ron loved nothing more than a tactical substitution. Firstly, of course, he had to call it. At the slightest hint of activity on the benches, Ron would use his managerial nous and renowned ability to lean out of the gantry to see who’s warming up, to give it the full gun with loads of “Tell you what, Clive, he might just pull off the big front man and get more bodies in the engine room” type foresight. Then when the switch was actually made, Ron was quick to register his amusement at the departing player’s misfortune.
Ronglish: Yep, I was right, Clive, big Heskey’s getting the curly finger all right.
Ron liked a pass or two. And his favourite passes – whether they are change balls, Hollywood balls, or even a successfully performed fighting ball – are often little floated efforts. The key to the successful chipped pass is, of course, to get the ball to come down at the right time. Or as Ron so magnificently put it, to be able to put enough die on the ball.
Hell of an effort from Valeron to find the little spin run from Pandiani, but he’s just overcooked it. Couldn’t put enough die on the ball, if you like.
As a former midfielder with a nickname like “The Tank”, it’s little wonder that Ron devoted a substantial quota of his dialect to the black arts of midfield play. There are rats, horses, and insurance men, all subtle variations on the humble dog.
If much of the vital work in the engine room is performed by little beavers, the dog exhibited all the industry associated with a beaver, while adding the kind of mean streak that let him dish out the occasional reducer if the situation demands. Indeed, in Ron’s eyes, a manager can have no greater good fortune than to discover a “real natural dog” to get the ugly things done.
As you’d expect from Ron, dog worked just as well as a verb. So if a gaffer wants a high-tempo pressing game, he’d ask his boys to “dog the ball” at every opportunity. A little unfortunately, given the modern interpretation of the word, a midfield man can also be sent out to “do the dogging job”.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, Pirlo will take a lot of the plaudits, but little Gattuso must have done a few hundred of what I call little shuttle runs, just to do the dogging job.
Do the shopping
Ron was quick to advocate the equitable distribution of domestic chores. While one centre-midfielder might be expected to “stay at home to mind the house”, his partner would be called upon to do the shopping. Essentially, this involved “joining up” with the front two whenever possible. Naturally, bloodvessels ought to be burst in the process.
Ronglish: He’ll just ask Makele to stay at home and do the screening job while Lampard does the shopping.
Never truly a fan of the long ball percentage game — where aimless fighting balls are loaded on top of big lighthouses — Ron betrayed his prejudice with this knockdowns as excrement comparison.
Ronglish: ‘There’s only two ways of playing against Big Duncan. If you’re a big lighthouse yourself, contest every ball with him. If not, let him have it and pick up his droppings.’
Ron’s Hollywood fixation comes to the fore again.
Dueling banjos first emerged as a Ronglish favourite towards the latter stages of the 2002/03 Champions League. It was presumably a nod to 1972 movie, Deliverance, a tale of a bunch of US businessmen who came to various kinds of grief on a weekend canoeing trip. Among the highlights an exciting bluegrass duel between guitar-plucking Drew and a nimble-fingered hillbilly, who takes him to the cleaners on a banjo.
Glossing over the fact that there was only one banjo involved, the episode has become almost universally known as the “dueling banjos” scene, and Ron often pays his own subtle tribute by reflecting this inconsistency in his co-commentary.
For example, the on-going contest over free-kick duties between David Beckham and Roberto Carlos teed up Ron nicely. “Carlos has seen his mate hit one. I wonder if we’ll have a bit of dueling banjos here.”
Not of course a Ron original, the term originating in either the theatre or the licenced trade, depending on the Ronglish scholar whose homework you copy.
But Ron has to take much of the credit for early doors firmly establishing itself in the vocabulary of any football man worth his salt and indeed introducing this completely useless phrase to most of the English-speaking world.
For early doors, of course, is actually that most unusual of abbreviations, one that is double the length of the word it attempts to truncate. A somewhat uneconomical alternative for the times when the word ‘early’ on its own somehow doesn’t quite get across the earliness of a situation.
Ronglish: Well United went one down early doors, but all credit, those four penalties got them back in it.
The array of jewels regularly adorning Ron’s person is testament indeed to the big man’s willingness to mix and match. And a school of thought exists that this commonly used piece of Ronglish is, in fact, a cunning amalgamation of the words, easy-going and lazy. And what Ron shall put together, let no man pull apart.
Ronglish: Funnily enough, Clive. I’ve thought the big man’s been a bit easy-oasy all night, but that was a stick-on. The big feller really should have notched.
Simple yet ingenious. A facer is an out-swinging cross, usually executed from somewhere close to the end line, and driven across the face of goal. Or as Ron so often put it; “the kind of ball goalkeepers and defenders hate dealing with.”
In familiar Ronglish style, this works just as well as a verb, so dextrous wide men will always look to “face balls into dangerous areas.” Better still, in an ideal world the facer should be propelled right down the corridor of uncertainty.
Ronglish: To be fair, Giggsy has faced a beauty into the zone, and normally you can hang your hat on the big Dutch fella from there.
Fighting Ball (AKA Quarter-To-Five Ball)
Just as old Bojangles was quick to reward accurate distribution with a spotter’s badge, he was equally likely to complain when the possession retention on display wasn’t as efficient as he’d like.
A team that played too many fighting balls concerned Ron. Also known as a percentage ball (if you like), the fighting ball is usually knocked at around head height by a slightly panicky midfield man in the general direction of a browned-off striker and the inevitable “up his backside” centre half.
It’s a tactic that can work if you employ a “lighthouse up top”, especially if he’s willing
to actually do some fighting. Still, Ron would rather his men just got hold of the ball and played a few bread and butter passes.
Ronglish: I’ve seen Gerard play better, Clive. I know Heskey’s an excellent out man, if you like, but instead of knocking fighting balls on top of the big fella, I’d like to see him work the play and build it into dangerous areas.
First Post (See Second Post)
The first stop in Ron’s mathematical approach to post identification and a key component of any corner kick little eyebrows strategy.
Ronglish: He’s flipped that on a sixpence, smart little eyebrows at the first post and little Hignett was predating in the danger zone.
First Rule of Defending
In truth, Ron rarely elaborated on many other rules of defending. Of course defenders may need to sit on a forward, outhouses should get a head on things, defending should always be done “on its merits”, and there must always always be “pressure on the delivery”. He did, however, confirm time and again rule number one…
Ronglish: Ho ho ho, big Terry knows the first rule of defending. If in doubt, get rid of it then have a discussion about it after.
Since his own turn of pace was replaced by a turn of phrase, Ron sought clearance from air traffic control every time a speedy frontman knocked it out of his feet and turned on the turbo.
Ronglish: They’ve set their stall out to keep it tight at the back, dog the ball in midfield, and get it down the gulleys for the flying machine to chase.
Merse has taken to this in a big way. But it was Ron, of course, who led the way in promoting “football” to honourary verb status. Thus an easy on the eye side could be deemed to have “footballed their way to the last eight”, perhaps even trusting their ball-playing centre-half to “football his way out of trouble.”
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, there might be a few strong words in the dressing room afterwards with the gaffer, but isn’t it nice to see an English player football his way out of a dangerous situation.
Ron’s gangsta tendencies came to the fore with this succinct description of a powerful shot. Curiously, this was normally used only when, despite the fullness of the gun, the brave custodian managed to thwart the violent assault on goal.
Ronglish: Blimey, Parlour’s given that the full gun, but it’s gone straight down Walker’s throat.
Unsurprisingly, the gambler’s run was an attacking tactic long perfected by turf accountant fave, Michael Owen. In Ron’s eyes, this meant Owen was prepared to make countless fruitless sorties into the channels on the off chance that one of Steven Gerrard’s Hollywood Balls would eventually “pick him in.”
Ronglish: Credit to the little fella, he’s had to deal with a lot of fighting balls tonight but he’s stayed patient, looked alive, as it were, and that’s a real gambler’s run Gerrard’s spotted for the opener.
Another Ronglish staple that became a key component of Merse Code. Ron’s sharp plummets took place when “the going gets tough” after Easter, and strugglers found themselves sliding down Ron’s mythical glass mountain to the relegation zone.
Ronglish: A few weeks ago, Clive, Middlesbrough looked to be cruising. But after a performance like that, they could find themselves sliding down the glass mountain if they’re not careful.
Ron got particularly excited when he saw a player given a bit of latitude by opposing defenders. If the escapee in question was a bit of an amusement arcade and Ron felt there was no immediate danger, he might content himself with an “in acres”. But if he fancied the unfettered attacker may give it the full gun, it’s got to be “gone empty”.
A player who picked out a teammate who had gone empty invariably earned a spotters badge.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, shame the little ginger fella’s not in the Wide Awake Club there, cos if he could have dug one out, Forlan was in acres and van Nistelrooy had gone empty at the second post.
A mythical land of much prosperity situated roughly between the centre halves and a fullback. On more prosaic European nights, Ron might settle for calling it “the channel”. Whatever, the gulley is the first port of call for any player a little unsure what he should do next.
If in doubt, frontmen should attack the gulley, wide men ought to run down the gulleys and much fortune and favour shall be heaped on he who “knocks one into the gulley for the little runaway striker to chase”.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, it’s stick or bust for Chelsea now, let’s get the trumpets out and attack them down the gulleys.
When it came to athletics, you suspect Ron’s specialties may have been in the field events. Thus, when he’s looking to assemble a centre-half partnership, the first thing Ron looks for is not a sprinter, a middle distance runner, or even a hop, skip and jump man, but a hammer thrower.
Much like the unfortunate Irishman whose wayward hoists thrice attempted to dismantle the hammer cage at the Barcelona Olympics, neither were Ron’s hammer throwers the most stylish of players. However, while they won’t knock any Hollywood balls or produce any lollipops, you can “put your mortgage” on the big hammer thrower putting his head on things, going to war, and winning all the fighting balls.
In the grim but gritty days of the mid eighties, hammer throwers like Steve Foster and Brian Kilcline were also, invariably, outhouses. It was a sign the game was nearly gone when the nearest thing Ron could find to a hammer thrower were pretty Italians like Nesta and Costacurta.
Ronglish: Ferdinand has given them, what I call, the clever option in there, but sometimes I just wonder if Sir Alex couldn’t do with a real hammer thrower at the back.
Hailing a taxi (See Waving at his Mother)
There’s nothing more likely to cost you a goal than when an excitable goalkeeper forgets you’re defending a 91st-minute corner and hares out of his goal with an arm aloft looking for a ride into town.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, this fella’s normally Mister Dependability between the sticks, but he’s come out there like he’s hailing a taxi.
Throughout David Beckham’s United career, he was challenged only by sometime teammate and amusement arcade Juan Sebastian Veron as the undisputed king of the Hollywood Ball, an ambitious pass that practically craves the award of a spotter’s badge.
Ronglish: I just wonder, Clive, if Beckham shouldn’t get hold of it and put a threat on, instead of launching those Hollywood Balls towards the big feller.
Cruder, more blood-thirsty, co-commentators might speak of killer balls, but sensitive Ron knew that an occasion of footballing beauty is no time to consider man’s mortality.
Fingering the pulse of a game like the experienced commentating GP that he was, Ron knew when a worldly old midfield general is content to prod and poke rather than look for a spotter’s badge at every turn.
For example, a hurting ball might be knocked down the gulley for a flying machine to chase. Or it could be eased into the big lighthouse up top in order to pick up his droppings.
Ronglish: I just wonder, Clive. Zidane’s been knocking why I like to call hurting balls all half. Something tells me the big Brazilian fella is looking to join up and explode.
Fast-moving Ron was particularly skeptical of the beautiful game’s less lively protagonists. The poet of the gantry had a host of barbed dismissals in his locker, but “in installments” is reserved for displays of ground-breaking slowness.
“Installments” became extremely popular with the kind of pundit who might also suggest that wingers go down “like a sack of spuds”. Stand up Jim Beglin.
However, despite his fine work in the whole slowness area, Ron must still give way to the classic Eamon Dunphy description of a tardily diving goalie: “He’s gone down like a roll of lino”.
Ronglish: Tell you what, I know Big Dichio’s lightning slow but he was JCBing it there. Reckon I’ve seen the QE2 turn faster and the big lad’s gone in the box in installments.
Insurance Man (aka The Insurer)
With all the gold in Atkinson Towers, Ron’s insurance broker was probably on a retainer. And a cast iron policy was just as important to Ron on the pitch. Always on hand in case a natural disaster afflicts the rest of his midfield, the insurance man sits in front of his back four, breaking things up, “filling in holes” and ratting the ball as if his life depended on it.
There are, of course, the cagey among us who spend all our spare cash on insurance premiums. Everton were known to flood the middle of the park with a whole pound of dogs and ratters – in the process assembling, what Ron would call, an insurance line.
Ronglish: I think Sir Alex has said to the little ginger fella, “Go on son, burst a bloodvessel to get in contact with the front two, Roy will sit in and be the insurance man.”
Jam Butties (See Lollipop)
When Ron spoke of lollipops, he meant stepovers, or as Niall Quinn rather saucily called them, legovers. “Ronaldo throws the leg over, comes inside and goes bang. Every kid in Dublin will be trying those legovers tomorrow.” But that’s another story.
Anyway, the jam butty, brought further, much-needed, refinement to the vexed area of stepover description. It may have had its roots in a momentary flight of fancy, when Luis Figo danced giddily down the Juventus flank at the Bernabeu, generously dispensing extravagant lollipops from his pitchside locker.
Clive Tyldesley – always keen to stay abreast of the latest Ronglish developments – wasn’t so sure, sensing Luis’ high-kicking goose-step may not necessarily have conformed to stringent lollipop manufacture regulations. “Those high stepovers, are those lollipops Ron?”
Ron seemed perplexed for a moment, but perhaps drawing some inspiration from the remains of his half-time refreshments, seemed to improvise: “No, jam butties.”
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, the boy Ronaldo’s produced half a dozen jam butties there. Shame about the finish, Bread and butter down the keeper’s throat.
An enthralled footballing world has never quite been able to establish whether Ron preferred a jinker or a flier. The flier – or flying machine, as Ron prefers to call him when not comparing him directly to a jinker – likes to knock it out of his feet, take the full back for pace, and face one into the danger zone. The jinker, on the other hand, will meander towards a similar conclusion, producing lollipops and jam butties aplenty on his way.
The nearest Ron has come to clarifying the issue was when he nominated Luis Figo as his ideal winger, So is Luis a jinker or a flier? Ron’s verdict: “A jinking flier”
Ronglish: The little Swede is more a jinker than a flier, but he’s had Gary Neville on toast at times.
Lay and Knock Player
What happens when a flier loses a yard of pace and finds he can’t, all of a sudden, simply metamorphose into a jinker? That’s right, he becomes a lay and knock player. He gives, he gets, but he never goes. Sometimes, in fairness, a lay and knock man is just what a manager needs, maybe even sending an experienced hand on to do a lay and knock job late doors, perhaps forming part of an insurance line.
Ronglish: I just wonder, Clive, will Wenger be tempted to pull Pires off for the last ten and get Edu to sit out there and do a little lay and knock job.
From the same family of outlandishly proportioned players as the outhouse. However, while the outhouse spent a childhood down the pie shop, the lighthouse just hung from the landing banister a la Peter Shilton.
Ronglish: It’s desperation time, if you like. Aim for the big lighthouse and burst a bloodvessel to pick up his droppings.
The rich visual content of the Ronglish vocabulary is showcased with this delightful description of a glancing backward header. Often used in conjunction with ‘second post’.
Ronglish: It’s gone in there, little eyebrows from Bouldy and there’s big Tone steaming in at the second post.
Little Ginger Fella
Ron’s affectionate term for perhaps the real love of his football life, Mr. Paul Scholes. The little ginger fella had everything Ron needed in his locker. He could rat the ball, slip into the cheating position, he wasn’t afraid to give it the full gun. He even perfected the archetypal “fantastic little arrive.”
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, the little ginger fella’s been absolutely phen-om-enal tonight.
While more prosaic pundits might worry about a team going into its shell, Ron painted an entirely prettier picture of these convenient hiding places for amusement arcades, easy oasy midfield men, and anyone who’s not exactly a solid citizen.
Little shellholes are usually found deep inside a team’s own half, into which these characters of dubious backbone retreat whenever, for example, their side is clinging onto a point away from home.
Ronglish: For my money, they’re still get-at-able Clive. Ever since Real equalised, they’ve just retreated into little shellholes.
Ron’s description of a popular football skill, essentially a stepover, usually performed by a ‘tricky’ winger.
It was suspected that this Ronglish classic owed something to the lollipop stick/trick Cockney rhyming slang staple, although an early form of the term can be traced to the early sixties when Ron’s gaffer at Oxford United, Arthur Turner, greeted Ron’s ill-advised attempt to dribble his way out of trouble with the cutting – and confusing – rebuke: “You’re nothing but a dustman’s lollipop.”
Ron was interviewed about this once, in the Liverpool Echo, paying glowing tribute to DH and its work in chronicling his legendary dialect:
‘I’ve heard of the website,” he gushed.
Then, Echo man Paddy Shennan, pressed Ron on the origins of the lollipop. While clearly impressed with DH’s theory, Ron confirmed our suspicions, there’s no good reason at all:
PS: Does it, as dangerhere.com suspects, come from the rhyming slang of “lollipop stick: trick”?
RON: “That’s not a bad shout. I wish I’d known that — but no, it doesn’t. It is a trick, though. It was the only trick I had. I don’t know why it’s called a lollipop, though! But you can’t say ‘The Brazilian, Denilson, has put his right foot over the ball, then his left foot and he’s taken it away with his right’ — because the game would be over. So I say ‘He’s done a lollipop.’
Couldn’t be clearer.
Milky (aka Leafy)
Ron described as milky, any player — invariably foreign, usually an amusement arcade — he suspected might be somewhat lacking in what John Giles would call “moral courage.” Stick a reducer early doors into a milky opponent, and he’ll wander disconsolately into the cheating position, stick his hands on his hips, and go easy oasy for the rest of the night.
Ronglish: Just maybe, Clive, if United can put a tempo on, I just wonder if Ballack isn’t a little bit milky in there.
Playing From Amnesia
Somewhat surprisingly, given his own gainful employment through his golden years, ageist Ron is quick to have a pop at veterans he reckons may well have outlived their usefulness.
Ronglish: The little ginger fella’s done him no favours with that ball but, tell you what, Clive, Blanc looks like he’s playing from amnesia out there.
Clearly Ron was a student of Roy Race — or maybe even Hot Shot Hamish.
Ronglish: Tell you what, he’s been reading comics if he thinks he can hit one from out there.
Though not a violent man, even Ron accepts the need for a bit of argy bargy every now and again to put the frighteners on an opponent. This classic piece of Ronglish referred to the type of “introductory” challenges defenders liked to dish out to potential amusement arcades early on in a game.
Ronglish: I just wonder if Babbel will put a little reducer into Pires early on.
That’s the problem with your amusement arcade dropping into midfield and going easy oasy. Fancies he can play a bit and tries to knock a change ball to the full back who has started creeping. Leaves it a little short and it turns into a fifty-fity with the opposition frontman, who reckons he can have “a nibble at it.”
Ronglish: To be fair to Ayala, you don’t see him playing too many risk balls, if you like. But, tell you what, Clive, that is a rick.
Second Post (See first post)
Where less helpful pundits would talk about the ‘far post’, Ron thoughtfully provides a clue as to the location of this post to those not familiar with the rudiments of goalpost construction.
Ronglish: And nobody’s picked up Cole at the second post. Shame about the finish.
A collection of insurance men, ratters, and natural dogs you can hang your hat on.
Ronglish: The big players have done it for Arsenal. Now they just need the solid citizens not to do anything stupid.
Sound of the Trumpets
Ron did love a good old-fashioned cavalry charge, particularly one telegraphed by a bold tactical switch.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, I think they’re going to pull off the little full back, stick the big man up the front and go to the sound of the trumpets.
A metaphorical prize awarded by Ron when a player he likes makes a perceptive pass.
Ronglish: Spotter’s badge for Beckham to put Cole clear. Shame about the finish.
Anyone who saw Ron’s tremendous turn as himself in one of the early Dream Team seasons will appreciate that only the finest classical training could have honed his splendid thesping skills. Little wonder then, that Ron recalled the birthplace of the old bard every time he witnessed a noteworthy piece of stagework during commentary.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, he’s gone down like Buddy Holly, but I’m not sure if he’s even caught the little fella there. It could well have been a Stratford-Upon-Avon job.
Ron’s devotion to perfecting his distinctive Tangoman colouring left little time for sitting around watching television. However, when he did have a few minutes to spare, Ron loved to catch up with his favourite Tom and Jerry episodes. Hence, when the big man witnessed an outlandish act on the field of play, he reckoned the protagonists involved had also been taking their cues from his heroes.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, he’s been watching cartoons if he thinks he can beat Barthez from there.
Wide Awake Club
Child at heart Ron recalled the glory days of would-be entertainer Timmy Mallett, to rebuke players who reacted less than brightly when presented with a goalscoring opportunity.
Ronglish: Tell you what, Clive, the little Ginger Fella’s done wonders there to ghost in and pop that off. Just a shame the little Norwegian’s not in the wide awake club tonight.