LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 16: John Terry and Frank Lampard and the Chelsea Football Team parade their silverware on an open top bus on the Kings Road, Chelsea, on May 16, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Being the sports-loving American that you are, you may have decided it's time to give this Premier League stuff a shot (it's on ESPN now, after all). But if you're unsure who you should root for, we're here to help you figure it out.
The advent of the English Premiere League is upon us, and as Americans we must ask ourselves: "Do we care?" The answer is "Yes, because ESPN will be showing it, and will continue showing it, and because we eat whatever is shoved down our throat we will consume it. So yeah, we care."
In light of these developments, you need to figure out rooting interests. Therefore we bring you the 20 teams of the EPL arranged by rootability in descending order starting with the most likable and working our way down. Please note: these are written from an ignoramus American perspective, and favor teams with Americans, teams in the sweet spot between obnoxiously dominant and charmingly competitive, and teams with interesting fanbases, traditions, and innovative ways of saying they just slept with your mother. Some of them are completely arbitrary, and one assumes the team in question is in fact made up of wolves.
Enjoy? Sure. Enjoy.
PS. Ignoramus American is redundant ahahaha very funny. Your country looks like it needs...liberating.
PPS. That's really cool that you don't like soccer. I'd love to hear all about it as soon as I go see the doctor from spraining my hand making this wanking motion.
The rival Liverpool club to LFC, Everton plays the part of Auburn to Liverpool's Alabama: slightly less successful, but an extremely likable side for the American fan because a.) they have Landon Donovan (on loan with options, etc, but still,) b.) they compete as underdogs to Liverpool much of the time, and c.) they enjoy a "team of the people" image. The Merseyside Derby played against Liverpool is a ferocious rivalry game, and their current sponsor is tasty Thai brew Beer Chang. Positives in all directions.
Celebrity fan: Paul McCartney.
Negatives: Heavy Australian following (thanks to Tim Cahill) may make you feel like the inadequate, non-Australian man you are.
We're just putting them this high because they have Clint Dempsey, and U-S-A! U-S-A!
/takes off shirt
/sings the Star-Spangled Banner
/misses high note
Besides having our favorite American player, Fulham also had the best season in their recent history in 2009-2010, are a plucky but not annoyingly successful London team, and play in Craven Cottage, which is the most English name for any English soccer stadium anywhere. It just sounds like they hand you tea and biscuits at the door.
Celebrities who root for this team: Sade, making Fulham the Bedroom Anthem of soccer teams.
Negatives: Being a small-fry surrounded by giants, but as you'll find, that's kind of common in the EPL.
18. Tottenham Hotspur
Smashing logos with fighting chickens are always a positive, as is the central location in the EPL's axis of London. Also positive is the general trend of the club, which led a one-team insurrection against the cartel of Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool in 2010 and became the first team outside of the big boys to make the qualifying rounds.
They also have this chant, which is catchy:
If I had the wings of a sparrow,
If I had the arse of a crow,
I'd fly over Arsenal Tomorrow,
And shit on the bastards below, below,
Shit on the bastards below.
Celebrity fan: Bob Marley, if you're herbally inclined. Bill Simmons, if you want someone to write about your newly adopted EPL like they're the only soccer team on the planet NO ONE DENIES THIS.
Negatives: Famous for having a particularly large Jewish following, which is not a bad thing, but woo boy the nasty anti-Semitic chants, taunts, and other abuse hurled in you direction are. Not the team of choice for the thin-skinned, and that is saying something in a league where producing coordinated invective of a repellent nature is a point of pride.
Celery! Both the name of a celebratory song and what used to get thrown in the air after victories, Chelsea plays big fish in the EPL with a quirky zeal. It's all there: shadowy Russian billionaire owner, diving prima donna forward (Drogba), stars stricken with sex scandal (John Terry, Ashley Cole) a vaunted but aging hooligan squad in the Headhunters, and a knack for devouring other team's talent with a quick checkbook. If you must go big in your EPL choice, you could do worse than the oddball mix of posh and prosaic in the Chelsea fanbase, which is split between posh neighborhoods and the old blue-collar homegrounds of Stamford Bridge.
Celebrity fan: Michael Caine. <----classssssy
Negatives: Expectations of, you know, actually winning things can get tiresome. Didier Drogba does, from time to time, go insane.
16. Bolton Wanderers
Another hipster pick, especially because you get to pick an obscure team with an obscure American player (Stu Holden) on their roster. You're sooooooooo cool. The bonus of a humorous name, the charm of being a scrappy small squad in a megaleague, and learning something new by finding Bolton on the map will appeal to gluttons for punishment and geography geeks everywhere.
Celebrity fan: Amir Khan
Negatives: Plucky can sometimes mean "pummeled by superior teams." Potential of being out-hipstered when one of your friends drops a West Bromwich allegiance on you.
15. West Bromwich
If you think towns with names straight from a Monty Python skit are hot. If you think a team with the nickname "The Baggies" sounds cool. If you don't care why they're called "the Baggies," since no one in West Bromwich seems to know. If you don't care about rooting for a relatively obscure town of 135,000 people in the Midlands. If this obese, kit-wearing throstle doesn't frighten you.
Actually, if you know what a "throstle" is without looking it up, you pretty much have to root for West Bromwich.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Judas Priest. All of them.
Negatives: Aside from obscurity and status as little fish in the Premiere League...nothing, since being obscure means you have as few negatives as positives.
14. West Ham
Benefit from an exceptional nickname: "The Hammers," a nod to their original affiliation with the Thames Ironworks. Hammers are on the logo, too, along with a castle. What we're basically saying is that if you own a Motorhead song, love speed metal, and own Braveheart on DVD but fast forward through the dialogue, West Ham may be a soul-match for you. Other strengths: fans willing to brawl on foreign soil, lack of bandwagon accusation vulnerability (since after finishing in 19th last year, you may enter on the ground floor of fandom.)
Celebrity who roots for this team: All of them, apparently.
Negatives: A quixotic pick. Despite being old as dirt and just as ubiquitous in the English soccer landscape, West Ham's best finish is fifth in the EPL. Also, you may be expected to fight, and that could add additional expenses to pricey EPL tickets and travel costs in the form of legal bills.
Sponsored by an Irish bookmaker? No, that doesn't sound sketchy as all hell, Black Cats. In fact it gives you a rakish charm you'd otherwise lack. The counterintuitives of the EPL, Sunderland has insanely robust attendance for a club in a city of its size, a fact made even more impressive considering they've been relegated three times and sit firmly in the cheap seats of the EPL. Also counterintuitive: their fondness for black cats as good luck symbols. (This does involve an old story about a Sunderland fan bringing a cat with him for good luck to a match. Drinking has started so many wonderful traditions by accident.)
Celebrity who roots for this team: Peter O'Toole. Everyone quit. Sunderland wins.
Negatives: The ever-present threat of relegation, and dude, it is freaking cold up there.
12. Wolverhampton Wanderers
A small team notable for their orange and black kits, their recent promotion to the EPL in 2009, and for having a roster made entirely of wolves. This is also coincidentally their nickname, which really only makes sense. Finished fifteenth last year despite being, you know, wolves.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Wolves frown on celebrity as a concept, though they accept Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's admiration begrudgingly, because wolves have an underreported fondness for classic rock.
Negatives: Ongoing controversy surrounds the team's play due to wolves technically having four legs. This and their low center of gravity makes for difficult matchups despite the roster's lack of star power. May also attack fans in numbers or be distracted by fans waving sausages on sticks. Media issues, since wolves do not speak English. New uniforms for 2010 may alienate longtime supporters.
For those who like miniature things, we have Blackpool, who play in a stadium that seats only 12,000 very eccentric people. The Tangerine Army is a small force but an intense one, drumming away for most of the game and at one point in its history featured the Atomic Boys, who brought a live duck as a mascot to their games. What we're saying is that Blackpool is the eccentric mad pensioner uncle who wants to talk to you about how he made cold fusion in his refrigerator using only a 9 volt battery and a pan full of beer and shallots. If this idea appeals to you, well hello Blackpool fan.
Celebrity fan: Kanye West. (He's not, but since he's unaffiliated and no one's claiming him, we'll go ahead and assign him here.)
Negatives: The perils of being tiny in a jungle of larger predators. Nothing goes with orange.
10. Aston Villa
Not a London or big four team, and hence more likable instantly. Venerable and aged, Aston Villa will be attractive to the traditionalist looking for a long-term relationship , as they has been around since 1874 and have been largely successful in that run. If you have Daddy issues this is your team, especially because they will abuse you, but only because they love you.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Ozzy Osborne, though he likely doesn't remember where Aston Villa actually is.
Negatives: Motto is "Prepared," and no one likes a smug bastard. When Arsenal's Eduardo suffered a ghastly leg injury against Aston Villa in 2008, the fans chanted "He used to have silky skills, now he walks like Heather Mills" Owner is Randy Lerner, he of the Cleveland Browns, and is sure to continue Aston Villa's recent relative lack of titles and glory by contaminating them with whatever virus has infected the Browns since the 1960s. Coach quite a week before the season, and players texted each other pictures of champagne bottles to celebrate.
Just outside the cartel of teams that have actually won the Premiership and blessed with a striking black and white striped kit, Newcastle can be downright charming, what with their dual nicknames ("The Toon Army" or "The Magpies"), and their fans' willingness to skip rent, starve, and possibly sell children in order to buy tickets. Add in their generally competitive nature on the field, their kickin' stadium, and being from a place way, way outside of the national center, and you've got a contrarian's pick in the making here.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Brian Johnson of AC/DC
Negatives: Again, it's cold up there, man. Disorientation may result from rooting for squad of men dressed like particularly athletic American football referees. If you hate bad personnel decisions, you'll LOVE Newcastle.
8. Blackburn Rovers
Rovers is so much more positive a way to say Wanderers. Wandering is aimless, but "Roving?" Well, you're looking for something there, something like 10th place in the EPL last year and a more than respectable record as a club of their size. Other than that, er...they're Blackburn.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Matt Smith, the current Dr. Who.
Negatives: The stadium's a bit hard to get to.
If we're continuing the American sports parallels, then Liverpool is the Alabama football of EPL teams. They win. They're from a "rustic" place. They wear red. Their fans border on the psychotic, and often go into psychotic without passports, prior warning, or visas. They sing when they beat you (and before, and during). They will swear, without irony or qualification, that the sport revolves around them. This is all far more entertaining than it sounds, by the way, since whatever they may be Liverpool are never boring and often successful.
See? We told you there was singing.
Celebrity who roots for this team: Sam Jackson, making Liverpool the choice for those who like constant yelling.
Negatives: A repeated onslaught of the most inventive and brutal chants in the EPL, all mentioning poverty and theft.
In the Liverpool slums,
They knock on the door when they want something to eat,
They find a dead rat and they think it's a treat,
In the Liverpool slums.
In the Liverpool slums,
Your Mum's on the beat and your Dad's in the nick,
You can't find a job 'coz you're too f*ckin' thick,
In the Liverpool slums.
6. Birmingham City
Chicago fans may gravitate to Birmingham City, because they have blue jerseys, play on a field allegedly cursed by gypsies, and aren't very good. Birmingham City also invented these chants.
In those Liverpool slums, They go to the dustbins for something to eat, They find a dead dog and they think its a treat, In those Liverpool slums.
Hail, Hail The Blues Are Here, Shag your women and drink your beer
As you can see, they're quite good at soccer chants. Additionally, they finished ninth with a roster of nobodies, so VORP dorks and Billy Beane fans should logically gravitate toward their thrifty, intelligent futility.
Celebrity fan: The band UB40, who did "Red, Red Wine," and now by association made you hate Birmingham City. Terribly sorry about that. They also played in this kit in 1992, which according to Unsilent Majority of KSK "looks like it was designed by a developmentally challenged macaw."
Another team for the hipster in you, Wigan is pretty obscure, you probably haven't heard of them. They have only played in the EPL for six years, with 2009-2010 being a spectacular year for them. Spectacular: beating Chelsea 3-1! Also spectacular: suffering a 9-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, and then finishing the season with a 9-0 hammering at the hands of Chelsea in their final game. They do live on the edge of being relegated but have avoided it so far, so adrenaline junkies take note: THIS MAY BE YOUR TEAM.
Also the team for people whose college football teams still have tracks around their fields, since Wigan really only cares about rugby, and then football as a distraction.
Celebrity fan: Richard Ashcroft of the Verve, recognizable at matches for shoving people out of the way rudely without looking.
Negatives: May actually get relegated in the near future, and what then, Mr. Hipster Soccer Team Pick Guy?
4. Manchester City
The Mets to Manchester United's Yankees, Man City has of late fallen under the ownership of crazy wealthy Dubai investors, turning the club into "Blankchester City" overnight and only strengthening the comparison with New York's lesser but still beloved baseball franchise. Like the Mets, they're also good at long dry streaks, have a rough and tumble fanbase, and have a tendency to blow money fast like Rick Ross.
Celebrity fan: Oasis, meaning Man City is the team for those who peaked in 1995.
Negatives: Like Mets fans, being the Daffy Duck to Man U's Bugs Bunny will wear a hole in your soul after a decade or two.
3. Stoke City
Old, but not necessarily venerable, and nicknamed "The Potters." In other words, the team for the Luddite in you all, and the choice of survivalist antiquarians everywhere. "Survivalist" is included there because Stoke City fans believe in a good fight, too, boasting a toned-down but still fierce hooligan wing in their fanbase.
Celebrity fan: Robert Smith of the Cure.
Negatives: Not the choice if you don't like pottery, small clubs punching above their weight in the EPL, or the threat of being relegated.
The Red Sox to the Yankees of Man U, and just as lovable/detestable depending on your affiliation. Additional parallel: the Miami Dolphins, since they are the only team to go through an EPL season without a loss. Successful, dominant, blessed with vociferous supporters in the middle of London, Arsenal will reward you with wins and self-congratulatory canon of books and movies telling you what a special little snowflake you are to root for Arsenal.
You're to blame for this, Arsenal.
The American version of Nick Hornby's Arsenal ode Fever Pitch focused on one fan's obsession with the Red Sox, and the resemblance is uncanny for so many reasons, but mostly because no one can stand smug Arsenal fans, and because despite all the arias and drama they remain the second best team in the EPL. (SAD FACE GOES HERE.)
Bonus fun! Watch as Arsene Wenger plucks obscure teenagers from even more obscure teams and turns them into goal-mad monsters overnight!
Celebrity fan: Osama Bin Laden. (SAD FACE ALSO GOES HERE.)
Negatives: Doing anything but winning everything all the time will make your life a living hell, and make you insufferable to others. Being an Arsenal fan this is a given anyway, so go ahead and roll in it.
1. Manchester United
Please note that the following excepts those who were born into the Man U fanbase, those who have followed Man U for over 15 years, and all other acceptable members of the Manchester United fanbase.
Do you have no soul? Do you watch sports simply as a kind of buoyant aid for your flagging ego, eschewing all forms of identity and individuality in the pursuit of rooting for the biggest, richest, and most successful team? America, let's cut to the chase: are you a Yankees or Lakers fan born outside of their home cities?
You are? Well, then. You are a Man U fan. They win everything, have despicable owners, are a global brand recognizable everywhere on the planet, and are your choice, pod-person, for an EPL team to root for year in and year out.
Celebrity fan: David Gray, who sang that song your mom liked, "Babylon." I told you they were that team.
Negatives: Sadly, only the accusation of being a soulless bandwagoneer, since they buy the best players, have a legendary coach, a fantastic stadium, and are on television approximately 5,000 times a day. Oh, and thanks to the Glazers, everything will cost you everything. Enjoy.