This post originally featured on the former Language of Football blog in Summer 2012
The Guardian reminded me today of the classic documentary Premier Passions, a five-part series following Peter Reid and his Sunderland side during their doomed Premier League campaign of 1996/1997.
I vaguely remember it being broadcast back in 1998 but, at the tender and highly impressionable age of 13, presumably my parents must have shielded me from the seemingly endless torrent of “colourful” language cascading from Reid and Saxton’s mouths. What I have learned about language use since then I can attempt to apply to this video example from the series.
Sure, Reid and Saxton are both angry and frustrated at how their instructions have been realised on the pitch but the constant use of “fuck/fucking” in their utterances indicates a high level of phatic speech or, put simply, filler. It is this reliance on phatic profanity that indicates not only a level of frustration with their audience but with themselves, a frustration at their collective inability to articulate themselves fully. It could also be argued that the amount of throwaway, “colourful” language indicates a nervous, uncertain air from Reid and Saxton. In attempting to motivate their team, the two are resorting to absolute linguistic means in which to achieve their goal.
Unfortunately, Sunderland didn’t score enough goals that season, and went down.
Further to this rare, behind-the-scenes gem, I will endeavour to forage around for further foul language in football, for archival reasons of course. Big Ron Manager comes to mind immediately.
(On a side note, one of my earliest memories watching football was at the Kingswood R.F.C. grounds in Bristol, open-mouthed in bemused wonder as my uncle was sent off for what Dad referred to as “colourful language”).