Cliché of the week: “He’s really enjoying his football at the moment”

Barnaby Harrison tries to unpack a seemingly mindless phrase for cliché of the week

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

This phrase really irks me, and I think it’s high time someone picked up on it. Commentators have been trotting it out for years, and it’s recently struck me just what a ridiculous phrase it is. What it actually translates into English as is “he’s playing well at the moment”, so why commentators and pundits turn this into an assessment of how much fun a player is having out on the pitch is a mystery.

They have no idea whether a player is actually enjoying himself – all they can assess is how well he is playing. Some players have the capacity to play well even when you sense that they would rather be anywhere else, rendering the link even more ridiculous. Alexis Sánchez, for example, has been consistently excellent for Arsenal, yet I have my doubts as to whether he is even remotely enjoying himself. Wouldn’t he rather be walking out at the Allianz for Bayern Munich, or playing for Pep Guardiola at Man City, than having to dig Arsenal out of holes against mediocre German sides on a Thursday night?

Equally, I enjoy playing for my college side, but remain a distinctly limited footballer. The link between performance and enjoyment is a false dichotomy. The term is complimentary of course, but perhaps does not send out the best message about your career as a whole. It indicates an element of surprise that a player is performing well – you would never hear it used of Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi. It suggests that a player is undergoing a sudden burst of good form, often contrary to popular expectation. A likely recipient would be Theo Walcott after one of his triannual scoring flurries, when the nation yet again wonders if he will finally, yes finally, fulfill that infamous potential. At 28 and counting, I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, enough of the cynicism: I hope that you all “enjoy your football” this term.

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