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Early doors

November 11, 2016

I’ve been contacted by my old friend Jams O’Donnell, who asks if I’ve noticed the increased use of the term early doors by football commentators and pundits, always used, he says, “without a trace of irony”. The reason we might expect irony is that this is a venerable footballing cliché going back to the 1980s (it was first popularised by Ron Atkinson); how could anyone use it without recognising it as a cliché?

Early doors. Strange expression. It simply means early on in the game, but always seems to be used in the same context: when a defender violently clatters an opposing forward in the first few minutes. Then the commentator will say: “And Barker just letting Parker know he’s there early doors.”

But doors? How did they get in there? In fact the expression is a metaphor from pub opening hours. Up until the late 1980s, pubs in Britain used to close in the afternoon, by order of the Licensing Laws, and would re-open at 5.30 pm. So going to the pub at that time was called having a drink early doors, ie as soon as the doors opened.

But why do pundits today use it without a trace of irony? Maybe because a lot of them are too young to know its provenance: they don’t remember Ron Atkinson and they don’t remember pub opening hours in the 80s. They’re not quoting anyone or referring to anything, as far as they know – just using a familiar, off-the-peg expression.

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One Comment
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    Another possible explanation is that theatres during the 19C allowed patrons in early, for a surcharge of course, so they could secure good seats. They were called early doors entrants.
    As previously mentioned “frenetic” is generally only used in football commentary. Any others? Stalwart? Supremo? Powerhouse? Actually “Gaffer” is becoming a football exclusive as time goes by.

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