The essential building blocks of Paul Merson’s innovative new language of football.
Ashford and Simpson
A notable display of stout defending occasionally prompts Merse to recall this romantically confident soul-pop duo and their 1984 boast about the stability of their love.
Mersage: “When he plays, they are solid as a rock, Jeff. They are Ashford and Simpson.”
Bag of nails
Merse keeps an untidy toolbox.
Mersage: “Wigan look like a bag of nails. They’re all over the place.”
Beans on toast
The slippery slope – or glass mountain, as he’d call it – that kick-started Merse’s addiction to the rhyming slang. (AKA ‘The Beans’)
Mersage: “He’s hit an absolute worldy, Jeff, but it’s come back off the beans and toast.”
Just like his incorporeal friend, grown-ups sometimes look at Merse with fright. Another rhyming slang symptom of his chronic obsession with the woodwork.
Mersage: “Ohhhhh. he’s hit the Casper, Jeff.”
Merse: “Casper the friendly post.”
When model pros get complacent.
Mersage: “I think they turned up last Saturday and thought it would be a catwalk.”
Short for codpiece, although used by Merse to indicate a painful injury has occurred as a direct result of a player not sporting such a protective garment.
Mersage: “He won’t be going out tonight, Jeff. He’s taken one in the cods innit.”
Towards the end of his Chelsea spell, the previously livewire frontman began to play like a long inanimate object. Funnily enough, Merse has also pressed him into employment as a long inanimate object.
Mersage: “For me, he has to score there, Jeff. But it’s come back off the Demba.”
Spotter’s badge Peter McCarthy
Bishop Desmond 2-2, the action-packed South African clergyman and score draw.
Mersage: “They’ve missed a lorryload of chances, Jeff, but it looks like they’re going to come away with a Desmond.”
Dog and Duck
Not necessarily the venue from where Merse has just arrived, but his version of ‘chalk and cheese’, indicating he can’t think of anyone more different than the two protagonists he is discussing.
Mersage: “I aint having it, Jeff. I mean, for me, Rafael and Fabio are dog and duck.”
Fish up a tree
Average pundits might rely on the phrase ‘fish out of water’ to describe a player who appears to be playing at a level beyond his ability. But water has rarely been Merse’s liquid of choice.
Mersage: “David Nugent tore up the Championship but he went to Portsmouth and he was a fish up a tree.”
Merse does, at times, tend to overestimate his own powers, occasionally claiming everyday language as a unique concoction of his own making.
Mersage: “Landon Donovan; he’s what I call a good football player.”
Any number greater than a lorryload.
Mersage: “They have had a gillion chances, Jeff. Still nil-nil.”
Nothing says desperation to the Merse more than an eighties night in watching a Channel 4 chat show.
Mersage: “Mertesacker’s pushed himself up front, Jeff. It’s all gone a bit Jonathan Ross – the last resort.”
Dame Dench has won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar a few times and Merse also awards her a supporting role in the dugout.
Mersage: “For me, Jeff, the lad Dzeko’s had a torrid. I mean, Pellegrini must be looking at his options on the Judi.”
Knife and fork
The polite way to help yourself to a goal-scoring opportunity that should be ‘meat and drink’.
Mersage: “That should come with a knife and fork, Jeff. That is on a plate.”
Merse has never truly embraced the digital age, so whenever a side looks in danger of shipping ‘threes and fours‘, he can’t help worry about the sustainability of this avalanche in terms of scorekeeping resources.
Mersage: “To be fair, Jeff, if they get another before half-time, they could be putting lightbulbs in the scoreboard here.”
Any quantity greater than three.
Mersage: “They have had a lorryload, and I mean a lorryload of chances, Jeff. Still nil-nil.”
Many pundits and scribes have struggled with the confines of the Oxford-English when it comes to describing the antics behind the scenes at Chelsea. Merse, fortunately, knows no such restrictions.
Mersage: “It is ludious, Jeff.”
New York Minute
OOOH OO OO OOOH…
Mersage: “Steven Gerrard can change a game for you in a New York minute,”
Merse might well have changed the course of English football history had his 1993 free kick in Rotterdam not hit a post. Well he might, at least, have saved Graham Taylor from himself. Perhaps that is where Merse’s lifelong fascination with the woodwork was born, this being its most picturesque manifestation.
Mersage: “Uhhh, oww, uhhhhhhh…. he must, he must, he must score… oowwwwww… he’s hit the inside of the Norfolk coast, Jeff. Still nil-nil.”
The defence rests. While Merse’s favourite seventies TV lawyer proved a dab hand at getting murderers off the hook as he roamed the US southwest in a pickup truck, there’s little or nothing he could have done, in Merse’s view, to mitigate some of the atrocities performed by modern defenders.
Mersage: “I mean, it’s an absolute ricket, Jeff… I mean… Petrocelli couldn’t make a case for the lad.”
Merse isn’t sweet on inconsistency.
Mersage: “Liverpool are like a bag of Revels, Jeff. You never know what you will get with them.”
Rocking horse shit
To Merse’s credit, he has so far showed the restraint to confine this lyrical description of any kind of rarity to his career in literature.
Mersage: “A Lee Dixon goal was like rocking horse shit.”
Limited but willing footballers usually employed by Aston Villa.
Mersage: “You need more than runarounders, Jeff. They ain’t gonna score you goals the way Darren Bent will.”
Spotter’s badge Shane Mulhall
The 1984 charts continues to be a happy hunting ground for Merse’s stylish brand of nonsense. The slightest hint of crowd engagement at the fixture he is covering is usually enough to justify him telling us the “Russ Abbot is frightening.” For a time, blank looks from Stelling, Le Tissier and co invariably followed, requiring Merse to launch into the opening strains of Abbot’s ‘Atmosphere’ – a no 7 hit in ’84.
Mersage: “That early goal has killed the Russ Abbot Jeff and this could be threes and fours if they aint careful.”
Funnily enough, probably not the kind of player you want in a derby.
Mersage: “Balotelli? Shergar, Jeff – just went missing.”
By a long way the most audacious of Merse’s impressive catalogue of rhyming slang suggestions for ‘post’, one that required a deal of explanation the first time he rolled it out. Has been regraded to the more straightforward ‘gameshow host’ since Jeff left Countdown.
Mersage: ”Oooooh, he’s hit the Stelling, Jeff.” Jeff: “What?” Merse: “You know; Jeff Stelling, gameshow host, post.”
Streak of bang
As Andy Gray might have said, when he shared an employer with Merse, this is one of those indefensible ones, you can’t defend against them.
Seemingly, it means killer instinct.
Mersage: “For me, they’re lacking that real streak of bang, Jeff. Still nil-nil.”
Much like Big Ron’s versatile, if controversial, employment of ‘Buddy Holly’ – as useful when referring to a volley or any sudden, extravagant descent to earth – Merse, as you can tell, has got a fair bit of mileage out of his Sunday roasts.
Rather predictably, it is frequently selected from Merse’s bulging locker of woodwork-inspired rhyming slang.
“He’s hit an absolute belter Jeff, but it’s come back off the Sunday roast.”
But just as Ron’s ‘Buddy’ is occasionally repurposed to shame divers and simulators, Merse reserves the right to roast blinkered frontmen who refuse to pick out a better-placed colleague.
Mersage: “He’s tried to be greedy and he’s done the Sunday roast, Jeff. Goal kick.”
Threes and fours
In an oversight not even rectified during the experiment with Dean Windass, none of Sky’s pundits are supplied with an abacus. This allows Merse a somewhat vague approach to the complicated business of counting.
Mersage: “For me Jeff, I mean, for me, if they get another one now, it could be anything, I mean it could literally be threes and fours.”
As Merse slowly but surely rebuilds football and language piece by piece, many amendments are subtle but nonetheless critical.
Mersage: “We know what’s coming here, Jeff. Stoke have got a throw-on.”
Perhaps Merse’s single greatest contribution to modern civilisation – noun-free living. The labour-saving device that keeps on giving.
“I mean, he never played Jeff, I mean he never. I mean he’s come out and had an absolute torrid.” With the principle established, the possible applications are endless.
Mersage: “For me Jeff, when you pick your team, he is an automatic.”
“It looks bad, Jeff. He’s having some medical on.”
“I mean, between the Premier League and the Championship, Jeff, I mean, it’s a massive.”
“That’s the problem with rotation, Jeff. They haven’t had a settled all season.”
Once a Commonwealth reward for valour in the armed forces, now available to all nationalities for valour in a defensive wall.
Mersage: “There’ aint going to be a Victoria Cross for Mertesacker, Jeff. He runs out like Wayne Sleep.”
A rare foray into rhyming slang for Merse’s second-favourite part of the woodwork.
Mersage: “He’s hit the wine, Jeff.”
“World-class” is a term bandied about rather too often in football today. In an unspoken defiance of the increasing hype that rewards players not fit to lace his own cocktails, Merse cleverly produced the term “worldy” to describe exceptional acts or performances that are not necessarily any guarantee of ongoing competence.
Mersage: “I ain’t joking Jeff, I mean, Rooney’s hit that, I mean he has. But Mannone has pulled off an absolute worldy.”
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