Dictionary365: H is for Haalands, Handball, Henry, Highbury, History and Hull

Dave Tickner
Haaland and Henry both begin with H
Haaland and Henry both begin with H

Our Dictionary of Football rumbles on to H and that means it’s time for the best striker currently in Our League, and also perhaps the best one ever to grace it…


Haaland, Alf-Inge – Former journeyman Premier League player who was for years most famous for being booted up in the air and screamed at by Roy Keane. Plotted ultimate long-form revenge by fathering a giant goalscoring robot who he would subsequently sell to Manchester City. (see Haaland, Erling)

Haaland, Erling – Giant goalscoring robot who is set to break Alan Shearer’s Premier League scoring record so quickly that Harry Kane couldn’t even be bothered to hang around for a bit and break it first and ran away to Germany instead so he could win some more precious Golden Boots (and, to be fair, probably some other pots and pans as well).

Half time – The midway point of a match where tradition dictates the match-going fan must queue for a piss, secure a pint and/or pie and watch Lee from Grantham attempt to score a penalty past a fully-suited mascot after some gentle banter from a beloved former player turned matchday host. Also a chance for a manager to Get His Players Together and maybe Give Them A Talking To. A significantly improved performance from any team in the second half will lead to speculation about what inspirational and game-changing tactical and motivational messages were imparted during the break. Proliferation of behind-the-scenes fly-on-the-wall documentaries has revealed that it will mainly have been assorted variations on the f-word delivered at increasing volume and intensity. See also Team talk, Half-time and Whistle, Half-time

Handball – Seemingly straightforward and obviously necessary fundamental law of the game which prohibits outfield players from using their hands or arms to play the game because if you can use your hands what you’ve got is rugby and nobody wants that. Now mired in impossible complexity from which it can never escape as VAR increasingly calls into question our most basic understanding of the concept of ‘deliberate’ and perhaps even free will as football contorts itself into an ever-more-ludicrous notion of what constitutes a ‘natural’ position for the hands or arms that requires us all to believe that running, turning and any other kind of movement are generally conducted with the hands placed either behind the back or in front of the chest.

Hart, Joe – Former England goalkeeper who realised he could get away with absolutely any mistake by simply talking about it on camera immediately afterwards and thus earning praise from a navel-gazing self-absorbed media for Fronting Up.

Heartbreak – A setback. Usually falls into one of two categories. A team’s elimination from a tournament, or a player being set to miss a tournament through injury/suspension. Both of these are described in the same way (‘FA Cup final heartbreak’, ‘World Cup heartbreak’, etc.)

Hearts – Widely used nickname for the wonderfully evocatively named Edinburgh club Heart of Midlothian. Pips Spurs to title of Nickname Most Widely Used In Place Of Actual Team Name and contains similar plural-based pitfall into which the unwary user can fall. Heart of Midlothian not Hearts of Midlothian just like Hotspur not Hotspurs. Despite (because of?) being known almost exclusively by their nickname anyway, Hearts are also proud owners of one of the largest collections of alternative nicknames in the game. There are no second-mention concerns when it comes to discussing the Jam Tarts/Jambos/Gorgie Boys.

Henderson, Jordan – Saudi-coin-taking let-down. Never have heroes, kids.

Henry, Thierry – Ethereally gorgeous man and footballer who scored a million goals for Arsenal, all of which were works of art. Firmly In The Conversation when the Premier League’s Greatest Ever Player debate rolls around, but still reviled in Ireland after denying them qualification for the 2010 World Cup with a handball-assisted goal that required none of the above debate about deliberateness or natural positions because it was blatant.

Heskey, Emile – Striker who Made Life Difficult For Defenders and whose game was about More Than Just Goals. Which was just as well because he rarely scored any, accruing just 110 Premier League goals despite amassing 516 appearances to put him seventh on the league’s all-time list.

Hibernian – Second half of the Edinburgh Derby (see Hearts) which is one of the oldest proper derbies in world football. Hearts were formed in 1874, and Hibs just a year later. First British team to compete in European competition, reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural European Cup in 1955/56 having been invited to participate primarily because they were the only team in Scotland whose ground possessed the necessary floodlights and going on to reach the semi-final.

Highbury – Stunning former ground of Arsenal, its spectacular Art Deco architecture and famed marble halls so awe-inspiring that all supporters who visited were so moved by its beauty they would spend the next two hours sat in silent and thoughtful reverie. Now converted into ghastly cheap-looking yet wildly expensive flats because of course it is, prompting a fearless investigative journalist to pop along every couple of years ago to have a look and speak to some residents and write the exact same feature 20 other journalists have already written in a sort of stadium-based variation on those ‘Player X is unrecognisable now’ features in which a player from 20 years ago has gone a bit bald or otherwise aged approximately 20 years in 20 years.

Hint, transfer – Literally anything a player or manager does or says if a newspaper or online source is desperate enough for sales or clicks. Which they always are. If interpreting what’s happened as a transfer hint is a particularly egregious reach, the canny modern journalist can cover his or her back by adding the further descriptor cryptic.

History – What you convince yourself your own piss-poor club possesses in rich and vast quantity yet currently wildly successful clubs both lack and desperately crave. Whatever helps you get through the day.

Holding role – Old-fashioned name for a DM, used in the long-forgotten days before Claude Makelele apparently invented it. The sort of player Andy Gray used to point at on his big tactics screen after the line-ups were announced and go “He’ll just sit” when he and Richard Keys were inexplicably at the very forefront of TV tactical analysis.

Hole, The – The cheating position. Where your mercurial and often South American or Iberian No. 10 does his best work. See also Space, pockets of.

Home – see Away.

Home and Away – Long-running Aussie soap opera and also how the most committed (and, increasingly necessarily, wealthy) supporters follow their team.

Homer – Simpson patriarch and derogatory nickname for every referee your team has ever had in an away game due to his propensity for favouring the home side with his decisions. Inexplicably, your team never receives such an official for its own home games. Because of The Conspiracy, presumably.

Hospital pass – An unwelcome and unnecessary pass, often slightly under-hit for good measure, that a player – often a beleaguered and clod-hopping centre-back – does not wish to receive in a tight spot under pressure when the passer should have just Got Rid or Put It In Row Z rather than Trying To Play Out From The Back.

Huddersfield Town – One of only five teams to win three consecutive English league titles. For at least another several months, nobody has managed four. Huddersfield also get bonus points for being the first to do it, those being their only three league titles and, well, for doing it while being Huddersfield.

Hull City – Formerly yo-yo now Sky Bet-stranded football club based in the picturesque East Yorkshire city and, more importantly, the only professional team in England whose name contains no letters you can colour in.

Hungary – Perhaps the greatest national team never to win a major men’s national title, the revolutionary Magnificent Magyars of Ferenc Puskas and co lost just one game out of 50 between  1950 and February 1956. Alas, that one game was against West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final. It was the second time Hungary finished runners-up, but a third final never came and now feels some way off. Quarter-finalists in 1962 and 1966, they haven’t been beyond the group stage since or even qualified since 1986. Do have three Olympic gold medals, but nobody even pretends those are important in football.

Huntelaar, Klaas-Jan – Dutch striker who scored 279 league goals in almost 500 games around Europe and 42 goals in 76 appearances for the Netherlands but whose main achievement was in somehow never playing in the Premier League despite being strongly linked at some point or other with at least 27 different English top-flight teams across a stellar, near two-decade career.

Hurst, Geoff – Solid and reliable West Ham and England striker who had the ultimate day out when becoming the first – and for more than half-a-century only – man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final. Now merely the only man to be on the winning side after scoring a hat-trick in a World Cup final because Kylian Mbappe is a loser.

Hurt, thirty years of – The period between winning the 1966 World Cup on home soil and hosting Euro 96 during which the England men’s team failed to win another major tournament. They still haven’t won another major tournament, and when the 2026 World Cup rolls around the original Three Lions will be as close to 1966 as it is to the present day and now we need a long sit down.