Football is officially back this week. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming RG3 vs Johnny Football pre-season matchup I’m referring to the more aptly named international version of the sport. Most of the major European leagues get under way this weekend including the richest and most prominent one, the English Premier League. Also, for all Americans still inflicted with the World Cup itch, it is the most accessible league since the announcers speak a very similar language to us, English. Plus becoming an EPL fan gives us a valid excuse to show up to a pub as early as 6am and get our Saturday or Sunday started right.
The first thing that any American has to do before showing up at the local English pub for match days is pick their team. Any American not born in England has the right to choose any team he wants instead of being stuck with the local teams of whatever city your mother popped you out. It is a daunting choice, so I’m hear to help give you a rundown of the best options and help find everybody their right match.
Nickname: The Hammers
Location: Upton Park, London (Northwest London)
League Titles: 0
Biggest Rival: Millwall FC
Player to Know: Mark Noble, Center Defense Midfielder – The Hammers lack a truly special player on its squad, so the fundamentally sound Noble stands out as its best player. He may not be fancy, but he is usually in the right place at the right time and is a great distributor from the back, unfortunately the Hammers don’t have much finishing talent up front to take advantage of Noble’s distribution prowess.
Reason to Cheer: West Ham has pop culture cache thanks to the 2005 Elijah Wood film Green Street Hooligans. It follows the story of a dopey, wimpy American, obviously a perfect role for Wood, who gets caught up in the world of English football hooliganism. It is a terrific flick filled with some badass fight sequences.
Reason to Boo: Is a badass movie reason alone to root for a sports team? I would think not. I’m all for rooting for the underdogs, but the Hammers are so bad they do not even qualify as such. They’re only two seasons removed from the lower league and in danger of relegation every season.
American Team Equivalent: The Durham Bulls. Another team from an incredible movie and they have the same chance to win this year’s World Series as West Ham does the Premier League title.
Nickname(s): The Blues/The People’s Club
Location: Liverpool (Home of the Beatles)
League Titles: 9 (Last one in 1986-87)
Biggest Rival: Liverpool in the Merseyside Derby
Player to Know: There are plenty of good choices. The speedy fullback Leighton Baines or prolific goal scorer Romelu Lukaku. However, I’m going the homer route and GK Tim Howard. Why? Cause he can save anything.
Reason to Cheer: Besides the obvious American interest to root for the incredible Tim Howard on a weekly basis, Everton lives up to its nickname as the People’s Club. They constantly outperform their budgetary limitations to compete against the richest clubs in the world. Last year’s team finished in fifth place, only seven points away from qualifying for the Champions League for the first time. Everton is also part of the best rivalry in the EPL against crosstown rivals Liverpool in what is called the Merseyside Derby, so all fans that love intense rivalries should jump into this one.
Reason to Boo: Not many, but for all those fans that cannot take the heartache of your team constantly getting so close to a major breakthrough only to constantly bang into the limiting glass ceiling that is the top tier of the EPL, then don’t choose Everton cause it is not for the feint of heart.
American Team Equivalent: Everton has become a weird mix of a historically successful team that hasn’t been good since the 80s, say the Dodgers since both have a history of success but not nearly as much as some other teams. While also being like the Tampa Bay Rays, a small budget team competing against the richest teams in the sport and find a lot more success than would be expected.
Nickname: The Reds
Location: Liverpool (duh)
League Titles: 18 (2nd most all-time) Last title 1989-90
Biggest Rival: Everton, see link above on Merseyside Derby
Player to Know: The prolific 24-year old English goal scorer Daniel Sturridge. Last year he had the benefit of playing along side the EPLs top goal scorer and Italian cuisine expert, Luis Suarez, which helped him to 31 goals in 43 appearances. Since Liverpool shipped the cannibal and his 36 goals to Barcelona, the onus is now on Sturridge to carry the goal scoring load on his own if the Reds are to improve on its 2nd place finish last year and finally win the title that has eluded them since 1990.
Reason to Cheer: If you’re a fan of teams with rich winning traditions, but not much success in the last two decades, then this is the team for you. Also, Liverpool is owned by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group, or better known as the same person that owns the Boston Red Sox. Therefore, to all die hard Bostonians and the Red Sox Nation, Liverpool is the club for you.
Reason to Boo: Plenty. For starters Liverpool fans get the same hate as any fan of a front running organization, only without the benefit of bragging about recent victories. Pub goers are not interested in hearing about the golden days of the 1970s any more, but they also are not going to give you any underdog sympathy like crosstown rivals Everton get due to the absurd money Liverpool spends in the transfer window.
American Team Equivalent: This one is pretty easy, Notre Dame football. Both equally blessed with rich winning traditions and both are experiencing nearly the same championship drought. 26 years for the Irish and 25 for the Reds.
Nickname: The Gunners
Location: Holloway, London (North-Central London)
League Titles: 13 (Third Most) Last title was in 2003-04
Biggest Rival: Tottenham
Player to Know: Alexis Sanchez, FW. The newest Gunner might not have much team history, but anyone that saw the 25 year old play for Chile in the World Cup knows how electric he can be. Sanchez never quite clicked in Barcelona the last three seasons, but a change of scenery could be exactly what the doctor ordered for this talented Chilean. His blazing speed alone makes him a huge threat to all EPL defenses, but with his deft touch and finishing ability around the net he could be the top goal scorer in the League this year.
Reason to Cheer: Love following trends? How about being a sheep and blindly following the pack without full understanding the reason? Then the Gunners are the team for you. Americans love offense and flair, so it is no surprise why so many have picked Arsenal to follow over the last decade. They’re known for playing a “sexier” version of football. A lot of possession, fancy passing, and emphasis on scoring a lot of pretty goals over easy ones.
Reason to Boo: Being an Arsenal fan is a bit like being a John Cena fan in the WWE or thinking that Nirvana is the best band of the 90s. I see the appeal, but disagree with the practice. This is the typical American “football” fan choice. If you hate the masses, but especially those that blindly follow them without really understanding why, then boo the fuck out of anyone in an Arsenal kit at your local pub.
American Team Equivalent: John Cena, yes I know he is not technically a team, but as the leader of Cenation he is basically a team onto himself.
Nickname: The Blues (have you picked up on the unoriginality of most of these nicknames)
Location: West London
League Titles: 4, Last title in 2009-10.
Biggest Rival: Manchester United, really Man U could stand as everyone’s biggest rival
Player to Know: John Terry, Center Back. The 33-year old captain might be past his illustrious prime, but entering his 17th season with the club he is the first name to become acquainted with if you’re to choose Chelsea. He’s a 3-time UEFA Best Defender winner. Has taken home FA Cups, Premier League Titles, and Champion League titles. Basically every title possible on the club level. Terry is also still an important contributor to this team as he is more than capable of still stifling great strikers in this league. If Chelsea are to make up the four point difference that separated them from last year’s Champions Manchester City, then it will need Terry to provide tremendous leadership from the back line.
Reason to Cheer: Chelsea is the London squad to achieve the most success in the past decade, so if you’re looking for a team from the country’s capital that can give fans the best return on investment then look no further than the Blues. This year’s squad is especially loaded with the addition of Diego Costa at Forward and has a great chance to win multiple titles.
Reason to Boo: Chelsea falls into the modern day big four, which has become a big five (more on this later.) A club that has far more money to spend than anyone else, so if you enjoy parity and hate the 1% Cheslea is not the team for you. Another reason to hate the blues is that it is owned by this man, Roman Ambramovich, Russian billionaire that made is money off of oil. Double threat to the United States. Abramovich is like a crazy cross between Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, and Vladamir Putin, so if you hate anyone of those guys and fear the product of them, then boo away at Chelsea.
American Team Equivalent: The Boston Red Sox, lovable losers turned into hated front runners.
Location: North London
League Titles: 2, Last Title in 1960-61
Biggest Rival: Arsenal in the North London Derby
Player to Know: Kyle Walker, Right Back. A potential English star in the making is a player to know for two reasons. One, he could have a breakout year this season. Secondly, he could become young American star in the making, Deandre Yedlin’s competition for a starting role if his rumored transfer to Spurs go through. It is possible that both Walker and Yedlin could play together, which would also be great practice for Yedlin for meshing with Fabian Johnson on future US National squads.
Reasons to Cheer: A North London squad with a lot of tradition, but most of it losing. Perfect for anyone that loves big city underdogs. Plus anyone that really takes a hating to Arsenal and wants to root on its biggest rival in the North London Derby. And finally, people from San Antonio that want to only root for one nickname in sports.
Reasons to Boo: Spurs fans can get pretty annoying as they get cocky with every little success the team achieves and are always ready with a laundry list of excuses for all of the failures. This trait can get pretty annoying in fandom and gives a good reason to root against them.
American Team Equivalent: The Kansas City Royals and Portland Trailblazers, two teams with rabid fan bases that get excited far too easily. Both have a small history of winning followed by a long drought without success. Any fans of these teams will love Tottenham.
Nickname: The Citizens
Location: Manchester, England (Northwest England)
League Titles: 4, Last title in 2013-14 (won two of the last three league titles)
Biggest Rival: Manchester United in the Manchester Derby
Player to Know: It is nearly impossible to choose just one player from this loaded squad. There are fowards, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. Team Captain, Vincent Kompany aka the best defender in the EPL. Incredible miniature playmaker and dribbler Spainard David Silva. But the one player that needs to be known is Yaya Toure. The Ivory Coast midfielder is the closest thing to Lebron James the EPL offers as far as two way dominance. At times Toure looks like a school yard bully playing keep away from the other team. On a team full of must watch players he is the NBC Thursday Nights in the 1980s must see.
Reasons to Cheer: Money $$$!!!!! Piles upon piles of money. Ever since the team was bought by a group of rich Middle East Oil Shieks Man City has gone from Manchester United’s abused little brother to an European super power. All that money has translated to a wealth of talent on the roster combined with what was already the best development squad in England. The Citizens claimed two of the last three Premier League titles and look poised to add many more titles to the Trophy Case over the next decade.
Reasons to Boo: While no Man City fan is complaining about the money the ownership has spent, it has blocked the progression of a lot of young talent from reaching the main roster. Football is a team sport that is more than just simply putting out the 11 best talents, they need to be able to play well together as a team. The Citizens development team has been playing together for years and no doubt that if given the opportunity they could’ve unleashed a beautiful brand of football, but Man City has robbed us of ever seeing such a sight. Plus if you don’t fully trust a shady group of Oil Shieks that seem to have a supply of money as endless as oil in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, then Man City is not the team for you.
American Team Equivalent: This is a tough one as there really isn’t a good comparison to Manchester City. It would be like the New York Mets suddenly being bought by an uber rich Middle East Oil Company and then going on to buy all the best available baseball players no matter the cost and it’s budget rising to $400 million. At the same time they get all the best international prospects and keep them stashed away in the minors till injuries or old age catch up with a player on the expensive Major League roster. Sure at first it would be fun and nice to see the Yankees wipe egg off their face from a crosstown rival, but pretty soon the Mets would become just as hated as the Yanks.
Nickname: The Red Devils (aptly named)
League Titles: 20 (most in England) Last title in 2012-13
Biggest Rival: Manchester City (see link above)
Player to Know: United probably has the most recognizable names for the casual American fans, like Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie, and Javier Hernandez, better known by his nickname Chicharito. Chicharito is a Mexican National star, which is what makes him so well known in America. Therefore lets get to know a lesser known player, Marouane Fellani. Unlike our other players to know Fellani is on this list for being a total Dickbag Doucher. Between the Sideshow Bob haircut and his constant bitching Fellani is an easy player to hate, especially for Americans so disgusted by flopping. Fellani puts Dwayne Wade to shame.
Reason to Cheer: This is the team for fans of the Yankees, Steelers, Cowboys, Alabama Football, Lakers, Celtics, or Lebron’s Heat.
Reason to Boo: Everyone who hates all those teams mentioned above this is the EPL team to direct all fan anger towards.
American Team Equivalent: United is like a super strand, a combination of all those teams. It represents pure sports evil, not to mention it is the richest team in all of sports. In the words of Public Enemy, “Fight the power.”