Dictionary365: A is for Abramovich, Ace, Allardyce, Aplomb, Argyle and Arsenal

Dave Tickner
A is for Arsenal, Aston Villa and Alli, Dele

We’re bringing back a (very, very) old Football365 favourite for 2023. Fairly obvious how it works, and in theory at least there’s six months’ worth of these if we do one a week…


Aberdeen – Sir Alex Ferguson origin story and one half of Scottish football’s most tenuously named rivalry with ‘New Firm’ antagonists Dundee United, who are located a full 65 miles away from Aberdeen. ‘New Firm’ is itself a neologism, coined in the 1980s to describe the other two teams in Scotland that were at the time quite good and we propose it requires further updating to bring it bang up to date: The Mixu Paatelainen Derby it is, then.

Abramovich, Roman – Gormless-looking evil overlord who, despite that appearance, managed to plunder the wealth of a country and then use it to make the third best team in London (see Chelsea) the best team in London and also at points England, Europe and the World at what was 15 years ago a staggeringly eye-watering financial cost that is already taking on a Blackburn-esque patina of endearing quaintness.

ABU – Anyone But United. How United fans described the default position adopted by fans of any club other than Manchester United in the first two decades of the Premier League as Ferguson and co clubbed them all over the head with their relentless success. ABUism remains present in the English game but is now passed down the generations as a tradition that still retains really quite impressive potency despite the original reason having not remotely applied for at least 10 years now. There remains something close to a 100% chance that any Football365 article that even vaguely hints at the possibility of Manchester United not being wonderful and ace and the bestest will lead to at least one BTL comment of ‘ABU365’.

Ace, England/Footie/etc. – In tabloidese, an Ace or Footie Ace is any human who has ever earned so much as one single Earth pound from kicking a football about and has now done something newsworthy, be that committing a serious crime or buying food at a supermarket or having a house or driving a car or whatever. One of those bizarre newspaper stock words and phrases like ‘bonk’, ‘love rat’, ‘romp’ and ‘TV funnyman’ that has literally never been said out loud by anyone, even by the hacks that use them in written form, and thus occasionally expose that weird tabloid habit of inventing convenient expositionary quotes from a transparently fictitious onlooker. Crucially Footie Ace must never be used to describe someone who actually could be described as a Footie Ace if Footie Ace was a phrase anyone would ever use. Similarly, England Ace must be reserved exclusively for your Anthony Gardners, your Michael Rickettses or the David Nugents of this world and on no account deployed for your Harry Kanes or Wayne Rooneys.

Adams, Tony – Wildly successful one-club player with Arsenal and notably unsuccessful four-club manager with Wycombe, Portsmouth, Gabala and Granada. More recently, a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing before being ruled out of the latter stages with a hamstring injury, which is surely the most football way for someone to leave a dancing competition.

Add-ons The extra bits of a transfer fee that are only triggered when certain conditions are met, such as certain numbers of appearances or winning particular trophies and so forth. A straightforward concept easily understood by all except football content creators who want to use a bigger number to make their transfer fee headline or content more dramatic. For maximum shithousing, bundle in the wages across the length of the contract and call it a “£xxxm deal”. Extra bonus points if you’re just guessing about the wages

Adebayor, Emmanuel – Togo striker and proud owner of the greatest celebration in Premier League history for his 100m Gooner-enraging dash after scoring for Manchester City against his former club. The joke was on Adebayor in the end, though; that celebration also so endeared him to a previously antagonistic Tottenham fanbase that he ended up accidentally signing for them.

Adidas – Probably made your team’s best ever kits if hummel didn’t.

Adjudged – Pointed descriptor added to surreptitiously indicate that an offside decision might have been marginal or possibly even dubious. One of those words like ‘derisory’ and ‘lackadaisical’ that barely exists at all in the real world and is heard almost exclusively in its narrow and specific football context and its close cousin from cricket: the questionable lbw decision.

Adrian – Sounds like the love interest in a rags-to-riches underdog story of a working-class Italian-American boxer who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship, but is in fact a former Liverpool goalkeeper.

AFC Bournemouth – Club that climbed in fairy-tale fashion from the brink of extinction to the Premier League (with a billionaire takeover along the way that everyone glosses over because it’s a nicer story without that bit) in the blink of Eddie Howe’s eye. Other main point of interest an official name that technically places them top of the league on August 1 every year in a manner reminiscent of those companies in the olden times that used to call themselves AAAAAAAA Aaronson Plumbers to try and be first in the phonebook.

Africa – 23 years late and counting for Pele’s prediction that “an African nation will win the World Cup by the year 2000”. The time between now and the year 2000 is also the same as the time between the year 2000 and Pele making that prediction in 1977, which is jarring. Morocco did come closer last year than anyone else had previously managed, though. And Pele was certainly right about the general direction of travel for African football if really quite a long way off about the speed. One day it’ll happen.

Agbonlahor, Gabriel – Crashingly mediocre Aston Villa forward for several nondescript years, now far harder to ignore as chief gobshite-for-hire at talkSPORT where he will say absolutely anything for 30 seconds’ attention. Almost guaranteed to be the pundit behind any headline you see on a formerly good football website that go something like ‘Pundit says your team is a big smelly poo poo head that is well rubbish compared to your rival team’ if the man behind the headline isn’t Jamie O’Hara or increasingly these days Paul Parker. Agbonlahor is also a vigilant, hard-working and self-appointed Detective Sergeant in the Celebration Police working under DCI Keys, a role he takes appropriately seriously.

Agenda – What the media, the FA, the Premier League, UEFA, PGMOL and the world/universe itself has against your team.

Ajax – Legendary Dutch talent factory who rock up every five years with an absurdly brilliant team that gets instantly picked apart by parasitic vultures from England, Italy and Spain only for the cycle to be repeated again and again and again.

Albion – Among the more poetic and evocative football club name suffixes even though it basically just means Britain, which makes it a bit weird. Just once we’d like West Brom or Brighton or even Burton to do something that allows us to call them Perfidious Albion. Will never happen.

Alexander-Arnold, Trent – Culture war avatar and world’s best ever right-back who can’t and doesn’t really play right-back.

Alexandra – ‘A’ is quite a strong letter for English football club suffixes, isn’t it? Seems an odd choice really for a team from Crewe. Odder still that they are so often wrongly called ‘Crewe Alexandria’ instead.

Alisson Becker – Sounds like a tennis player of famous lineage who causes a stir when reaching the last 16 at Wimbledon on her first SW19 appearance at just 17 years of age before flaming out, falling out of love with the sport altogether and eventually retiring at the age of just 21, but is in fact a current Liverpool goalkeeper.

Allardici, Sam – Fictitious self-created nemesis of Sam Allardyce. A hard-nosed pint-of-vino-quaffing head coach whose fancy name nevertheless gets him all sorts of wonderful opportunities that would simply never come the way of poor plain unloved Sam Allardyce, such as getting half-a-million quid for spending three weeks somehow making Leeds even worse.

Allardyce, Sam – Very real, no-nonsense, pint-of-wine-guzzling veteran gaffer who has managed 17.6% of all Premier League teams ever. Also has a 100% win record as England boss. Might however have now pissed on the last of his chips with doomed yet lucrative emergency attempt to keep Leeds in the Premier League.

Allen, Clive – London-club-hopping striker who famously scored 49 goals for Spurs in a 1986/87 season they nevertheless ended empty-handed after finishing third in the league, losing 3-2 in the FA Cup final to Coventry and going out of the Littlewoods Cup in the semi-final to Arsenal despite winning the first leg 1-0 at Highbury. Spurs were Spursy long before the word existed and Harry Kane has got nothing on Clive Allen, is what we’re saying here. When not scoring loads of goals that didn’t win Spurs any trophies, the man even had a bit of a go at being an American Football kicker, which is literally Kane’s dream job.

Alli, Dele – Former footballer turned cautionary tale.

Alloa Athletic – A club admirably committed to alliteration (they were initially formed as Clackmannan County) and also boasting one of British football’s finest badges, featuring as it does a gurning anthropomorphic musclebound wasp.

Alonso, Xabi – 114-cap Spain international who also played for super-clubs Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich yet we would unscientifically reckon is hated by almost nobody due to the attractiveness of both his playing style and face/beard. Has now seamlessly made the transition from handsome, bearded, thoughtful player to handsome, bearded, thoughtful manager.

Alves, Dani – Most decorated men’s footballer of all time and became the first player to win 40 titles when Brazil ended their 12-year Copa America drought in 2019.

America, North – Football wasteland (a great many goalkeepers and very occasional Clint Dempsey or Cobi Jones or even at a push a Tyler Adams or Christian Pulisic excepted) until you remember England are quite literally incapable of beating the USA, and Mexico is there and not in Central America like to be fair we all thought it was, and also that women’s football exists.

America, South – Football heartland and still one of only two continents to provide a men’s World Cup winner.

Amortisation – Arse-clenchingly boring financial term we all now have to vaguely understand because of bastard Chelsea and their nonsense.

And it’s LIVE! – Trademark pre-match catchphrase of Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler and something that has long since become an albatross around his neck. You can almost hear the sigh as he counts down in his head to the moment he will have to once again say the line, something he now does every week of the season with the enthusiasm of a railway station announcer informing passengers that the 7.48 to Carlisle has been delayed by six minutes. Retired now, and we unscientifically reckon this one phrase has taken four or five years off his career through sheer ennui.

Anfield – Home of Liverpool, scene of many glories, Those Famous European Nights and most memorably of all that 2-2 draw against West Brom after which Jurgen Klopp led his side in raucous celebration in front of the fans which apparently is totally normal and happens after every game in Germany actually.

Aplomb – Descriptor for a particularly accomplished and composed finish – often from the penalty spot – and another one of those words that doesn’t exist outside football or at least sport (see also Adjudged).

Ardiles, Osvaldo – Insanely talented Argentina playmaker whose arrival at Spurs after winning the 1978 World Cup has to be placed in proper historical context. The sight of Ardiles rocking up at Tottenham was as incongruous then as it would be today to see one of the best players in the world suddenly turn up at, well, Tottenham. Went on to manage the club which went…less well. Unfairly maligned as a clown for his ‘Famous Five’ attack-focused Tottenham side, a team whose fluidity and intricate forward play were in fact way ahead of their time for English football, which was still a few years away from its Wengerian revolution. In hindsight, the mistake wasn’t so much trying to play with five brilliant attackers, but trying to play with five brilliant attackers and Stuart Nethercott.

Argentina – Three-time World Cup winners, multiple Copa America champions and traditionally and simplistically provide the dark-arts shithouse Yin to Brazil’s Joga Bonito Yang. But how then to explain Lionel Messi, the most beautifully pure footballing talent of all time? Also proud owners of one of international football’s very greatest kits and indisputably the best one to be based so unashamedly on the country’s flag.

Argyle – Another beautiful ‘A’ suffix and one that either suggests a curious link between Plymouth and a Scottish army regiment or more likely something to do with the Argyle Tavern or even more prosaically Argyle Terrace in the city. Whatever the etymology, Plymouth Argyle is a great name.

Armfield, Jimmy – A football broadcaster of such talent held in such universally high regard that he is far better remembered for that than a 600-game club career and an actual World Cup win.

Arsenal Hugely successful retro sports clothing brand and also occasionally a football club who were never even expected to challenge for the title in the first place, actually. Famed for Doing Things The Right Way in an era of megarich superclubs shortcutting their way to the top. Earned their own place in the top flight by getting voted in for being rich, the same way everyone else got there. Supported by both the best and worst football fan you know.

Arsenal, The – How the hackiest pundits and very worst fans (often the sort who run Twitter accounts called things like ‘Arsenal Gentleman’ or ‘The Last Clock Ender’) refer to the above for some reason.

Ashley, Mike – Cartoon supervillain yob tycoon, zero-hour bastard, and disastrous former owner of Newcastle United. Let his legacy be that when the government decreed all non-essential shops close to stop the wildfire spread of a deadly virus he tried to argue that Slazenger socks and Lonsdale T-shirts were essentials and that therefore his grotty sport caverns should be allowed to stay open even if it meant his staff and their loved ones died. Also remains vastly less problematic than the present owners.

Assist – Very important statistic in relation to that cerebral, creative player you like, simplistic and reductive statistic in relation to that lazy show-pony you hate.

Assistant referee – You can’t even say linesman these days, in case a woman sees it.

Aston Villa Erstwhile big club now tentatively making moves towards getting Back Where They Belong under Unai Emery.

Athletic – Not as good or mysterious as the other football club suffixes beginning with A, with not a great deal of thought required to work out where that name might have come from. Fun Athletic fact: No football club with the suffix Athletic has ever won the English league. And none of Charlton, Wigan or Oldham feel particularly close to ending that particular hoodoo.

Athletic Bilbao – Not Athletico Bilbao.

Atletico Madrid – Not Athletico Madrid.

Australia – Historically football-averse nation more interested in cricket and its own impenetrable and absurd version of ‘footy’ played with a wrong ball on cricket ovals, but then it churned out a green-and-golden generation of players, qualified for a few World Cups even after said green-and-golden generation had faded away and now even produces Premier League managers who are sure to be greeted as warmly and openly and in no through as narrow, parochial and suspicious a lens as the poor American sods who’ve given it a crack.

Away goals – Patently absurd method of separating two-legged ties that was nevertheless responsible for some of the most dramatic and exciting moments in football history, and is thus now so missed and lamented that said patent absurdity has been entirely forgotten.

Azzurri – Tremendously cool and alluring nickname of Italian national team even though it just translates as the thoroughly prosaic and generic Blues. Beautiful language. (see also Matthews, Bob Di Matteo, Roberto).