Picking an English Premiere League team for an American
July 13, 2010 5:25 AM   Subscribe

In the wake of the World Cup, I have discovered that I enjoy watching the football. With the English Premiere League starting up next month, please help an earnest yet mostly clueless American pick an EPL team to back!

Starting off, I have read the Bill Simmons article from 2006 where he ponders this same question. I agree with some of his requirements for his chosen team, but others don't matter.

Stuff that matters:
Playstyle - In the World Cup, I really liked the way Argentina played. While their "schoolyard football" or whatever the ESPN announcers called it wasn't ultimately successful, it was a lot of fun to watch (although Maradona might have been a part of it). Counter this with Spain, whose games bored me to tears with their (ultimately successful) tarpit-like pass pass passing. So +1 for pluck over precision.

Jersey - I'll probably end up picking up a team jersey and tend to favor solid colors over wacky patchwork patterns. Superficial, I know...

Ease of American Viewing - While I'm not expecting to watch many games in bars, that would be nice. I would like to be able to watch games on screens bigger than my computer at home. I'm with Comcast and have ESPN1+2, Fox Soccer, Versus, and so on.

Bandwagoning - Though it is probably counter to the previous point, I'd like to avoid the "Big Four" of Man U, Arsenal, Liverpool, or Chelsea if possible. As an American, picking one of those feels akin to picking the Yankees, Lakers, or Saints. Anyways, I'm in Boston and have a slew of top tier teams should I feel the need to bandwagon.

Not so much..:
With a newborn on the way, the chances of being able to travel to watch a game in the near future is pretty slim. So stadium location, hooliganism, and so on does not matter as much. I don't know enough about owners and the like to get bothered by their antics, although true characters wouldn't be that bad. I also don't need a winning team (or an underdog, really).

At the moment, I'm leaning towards Fulham, but that's largely because of jersey colors and Dempsey. My wife has called dibs on her "beloved West Ham" and at least one friend is leaning Man City.

So what am I missing? Which players/personalities are worth looking out for? How best to watch the football?
posted by robocop is bleeding to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (69 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Out of curiosity, why the MLS snub?
posted by blueplasticfish at 5:28 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't pick a team - let the team pick you. Watch for a season or two and see which players and managers you start to like and want to follow. There are always a lot of interesting stories. Watching the promoted teams is always fun. Everton is interesting with Tim Howard, and maybe they will get Donovan back on loan again in the spring. Liverpool should also have some interesting stories - with the new manager and Torres and showing his love for the club (did you see the Liverpool scarf he wore when he held the World Cup?) should make for interesting strategy.

In the EPL, Arsenal probably plays most like Spain (and I'm shocked that you can call that boring, but your call) and maybe Man U or Man City play like Argentina. But just watch a lot of matches and see what you can see. Definitely try to watch the matches at a soccer bar (if you can with a newborn) - you will enjoy it!
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 5:34 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

You should support this team - The New England Revolution.
If you like soccer, help it grow in your town.
posted by Flood at 5:37 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

Tottenham? Doing well at the moment, classy strip, football not exceptional but they have good attacking players. Should be up amongst the top half of the table next season. And you could have a bit of fun rivalry with your wife.
posted by fire&wings at 5:37 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leeds United? Back in the Championship after three years in League One so most of the games will be on TV; nice kit and definitely not one of the "bandwagon" teams.
posted by alby at 5:38 AM on July 13, 2010

Let the team pick you is the standard advice here. That said, you sound like you're in the same position I was in after the last World Cup, so I'll describe my decision for you.

I picked Everton a few years ago, and have enjoyed it. As a fellow Massachusetts native, I get a bit of a pre-2004 vibe from them. Not the desperation, mind you. But the patience, persistence, and hope. They're not top-4, because they don't have the $$ to compete with the biggest boys. But they're smart, have a loyal fanbase, will always be in the mix for Europe, and there's absolutely no danger of relegation/

If you're interested in the Yanks, Tim Howard (the US's keeper) is on the team, and Landon Donovan was loaned there for a couple months this year (and played a lot better than we would have thought, given his previous European experience at Bayern ). A lot of great young talent comes through the academy.

Moreover, they had a great unbeaten run this year. And (I genuinely can't tell if this is a point in its favor or not) if you're at the slightest bit intrigued at how the Red Sox keep going this year, despite all the injuries, then Everton might be the team for you.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:38 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Right- before this turns into an MLS sucks/MLS doesn't suck mess, I believe there's room for supporting your local (you should) and supporting teams elsewhere (why not?).

If you're set on England for cultural reasons or because it's on TV a lot, you could do worse than Fulhamerica. Dempsey's doing really well there (and he used to play for New England!) and Brian McBride and Eddie Lewis had good runs as well. Everton has also had a number of Americans if you care about that sort of thing (including ex-Rev Joe-Max Moore!), and Tim Howard is fun to watch. As a bonus, when you're Everton you can be anti-Liverpool.

Similarly, I first got into Spurs because I liked the way Les Ferdinand and David Ginola played, but also because I hated Arsenal. That stuck. Spurs had a great year last year and there's no reason to think they can't compete for a Champions League spot again this year.

A final suggestion would be Newcastle. They're back in the EPL after an odd year in the wilderness. They have fantastic fans and are great fun to watch. There are lots of Newcastle fans in the Boston area for some reason. You might find the kit busy though.

Now get thee to a Revs game!
posted by GodricVT at 5:41 AM on July 13, 2010

If you are going to be influenced by the Jersey (shirt in English footallesque) then consider whether you find 2nd or 3rd strips attractive, you can see the options by clicking on the team name on the right hand side of this site.
posted by biffa at 5:44 AM on July 13, 2010

Well, if I want to go to a soccer game, I'd end up seeing the Revolution anyways, so they'll get my support there. I have nothing against MLS (I went to high school with the captain of Real Salt Lake), but am an admitted anglophile and enjoyed the more international flavor of the World Cup.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:45 AM on July 13, 2010

Tottenham? Doing well at the moment, classy strip, football not exceptional but they have good attacking players. Should be up amongst the top half of the table next season. And you could have a bit of fun rivalry with your wife.
posted by fire&wings at 5:37 AM on July 13 [+] [!]

Seconding Spurs, but to say they should be up amongst the top half of the table is probably a bit underestimating since they finished 4th last year and qualified for the Champions League. The new shirt (shown here without sponsor) is GREAT and they meet all of your other criteria. However, I'd advise you just watch some games and see who strikes your fancy as it may turn out that you don't like their style of play or can't stand listening to 'Arry Redknapp.

I'd recommend against MLS at least right now because the season is halfway over. I would recommend strongly for the Bundesliga, though. Less "baggage" about picking teams. I would also recommend against the user above who said Leeds, as it's pretty hard to follow Championship teams in the US unless you're a fan of finding dodgy internet streams all the time.
posted by proj at 5:51 AM on July 13, 2010

Personally - (and ignoring your self-professed anglophilia) I would watch a bunch of games in Italy and Spain as well as you might enjoy the style of play there more - especially Spain.

The Argentine Style is called "Bad tactics" btw - so I think you might be hard pressed to find an even marginally succesful club team with a similar style.
posted by JPD at 5:57 AM on July 13, 2010

Man City is a poor man's Chelsea IMHO. Well ok - less statospherically rich Chelsea
posted by JPD at 6:00 AM on July 13, 2010

Couple of years old, so some teams have been relegated/promoted since it was written, but you may find this ESPN2 article on picking a Premier League useful. He seems to have similar criteria: good but not too good, classy shirt, etc. Spoiler: he picks Tottenham.
posted by caek at 6:01 AM on July 13, 2010

caek: He references that Bill Simmons article in the OP.
posted by proj at 6:05 AM on July 13, 2010

Ah, sorry. Well in that case my sole contribution was to point out that they spelt "Premier" wrongly ; )
posted by caek at 6:07 AM on July 13, 2010

Comparing Everton to the Red Sox is something only a Red Sox fan could possibly do with the a straight face. For like ten different reasons.

Everton = Moneyball era A's. Do the most with the least while being an insanely distant second club in the home town. Also very working class fan base in their traditional heartland.
posted by JPD at 6:08 AM on July 13, 2010

spelt "Premier" wrongly

Heh. Whoops. That's what I get for trusting Firefox's spellcheck.

The Argentine Style is called "Bad tactics" btw

I don't disagree. There was just a moment in (I think) the Mexico game where it seemed to be raining powder blue that I really enjoyed. Hoping for a Premier team that can capture that chaotic excitement as well.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2010

JPD -- I admit that the analogy is limited, and it has more to do with the feelings attendant to following the Red Sox prior to their current ownership group. In that way, I'm convinced that the analogy both works, and speaks to the OP's knowledge base. The Moneyball-era A's (minus the steroids) also works an analogy.
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:14 AM on July 13, 2010

(we weren't always insufferable. honest.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 6:19 AM on July 13, 2010

To be honest, the most swashbucklingly idiotic/entertaining football in the Premier League is probably played by Manchester United when they are at their best/worst. Obviously they trivially fail your bandwagon criterion. The modern (i.e. Wenger generation) Arsenal also play famously pretty football, but it's a different kind of pretty to Argentina (and again, bandwagon). If you can face supporting a team as reliably unsuccessful as Wigan, they have a manager who is good for the lols. Every American I've helped pick a team has chosen Everton or Tottenham.

Red Sox = Liverpool, by the way.
posted by caek at 6:22 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, after the World Cup Something Awful does a "beginner's guide" to picking a team that is always quite a fun read. It's not complete yet but it will be soon. If you can't view that without paying for a membership, MeFi mail me.
posted by proj at 6:25 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Liverpool way too successful to be the Red Sox. 18 leagues, 7 cups, 5 Champions Leagues.

Actually pretty comparable to Man U. Unlike say 27-2.
posted by JPD at 6:30 AM on July 13, 2010

To be honest to me the best Red Sox comp is Chelsea pre-Abramovich. Even had a history of loathesome violent fans - so perfect
posted by JPD at 6:34 AM on July 13, 2010

I'm an American who supports Stoke City. If you are looking for non-bandwagon, this is it. On the other hand, they probably play the ugliest soccer in the EPL and have a reputation as thugs. I don't care. I love them anyway. They also get decent air time. Nothing like the big four, but you can definitely see them play pretty often.

That being said, I think Tottenham is the way for you to go. A team in ascendancy currently, and one that has a great rivalry with Arsenal. Harry Redknapp, the manager, is an interesting character as well.
posted by josher71 at 6:50 AM on July 13, 2010

Seconding the Something Awful posts. Here is the one about The Potters.
posted by josher71 at 6:55 AM on July 13, 2010

There was just a moment in (I think) the Mexico game where it seemed to be raining powder

Not for the first time in Maradona's career.
posted by biffa at 7:31 AM on July 13, 2010 [7 favorites]

Fulham. We've played some great football but are an underdog team with a natural rivalry with Chelsea (whose stadium is about a mile down the road.) We've had a lot of American connections over the years (Bocanegra, McBride and Dempsey is still with us for now), so much so that we have an US fan site.
posted by ob at 7:43 AM on July 13, 2010

Do not bandwagon. Arsenal is such an arsey, carpetbagging team to pick; you might as well pick Man U and be done with it. Pick someone who's come up (or down and then up) in the last ten years. Leeds or Spurs would at least give you some credibility.

Fulham is an okay choice. Stadiums are important here too and Craven Cottage will give you a good, traditional football experience. Stamford Bridge will not.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:48 AM on July 13, 2010

I followed Blackburn Rovers for a few years after the 2002 World Cup, but that was mostly because of Brad Friedel, (who put on an absolutely EPIC performance for the US team in the Cup that year) who is now playing for Aston Villa. I was really won over by Tottenham's play last season, though.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:45 AM on July 13, 2010

Fulham also goes well with misguided revolutionary politics, if that's your flavour. Power to the people!
posted by Chichibio at 8:49 AM on July 13, 2010

Aston Villa? You might like their counter-attacking style if you're more into edge of your seat excitement rather than tactical brilliance. The downside is you need to get used to finishing 6th every season. The team came very close to both the League Cup (runner's up against Man U) and the FA cup (out against Chelsea in semi-final) last season. We've got a couple of England players, and that number looks likely to increase as the so-called "Golden Generation" ages and players like Gabby Abgonlahor get their chance at the national level.

As a bonus, you and your wife will match in your strips.

I'm not sure what US coverage of the Premier League is like - but being a serious contender for fourth you should catch a fair number of the matches on TV. For the times you can't there is a great website with "Villa streams" that has every match live for a very low subscription fee. I'm not sure of its legality so I won't link to it here, but you have all the information you need to find it on Google.
posted by tsh at 8:56 AM on July 13, 2010

posted by A189Nut at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2010

I'm not sure what US coverage of the Premier League is like...

Each week, ESPN (or maybe ESPN2 has 1 or 2 big games), and then the rest are on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Soccer Plus. In Chicago, on Comcast, Fox Soccer Channel is part of a sports pacakge, so maybe $7 a month or so with all the regional Fox and Comcast sports channels, and Fox Soccer Plus (which acquired all of Setanta's US rights) is $15/month. Not that cheap, but pretty good considering that you get all 380 matches.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2010

Don't pick Man City, either, if you want to avoid bandwaggoning. If things don't change, Man City and Chelsea will be the dominant forces in English football for a long time. They have limitless money, while Liverpool and Man United are broke and can't buy players. Arsenal are pretty much the same, and Wenger seems to have lost his ability to pick up talented players cheaply. Spurs and Villa are sniffing around but have zero chance of winning the league.

I agree with everyone saying Fulham or Spurs. Fulham are the plucky overachievers [who get patronised a fair bit]; Spurs are easy to watch, play attacking football, but sometimes go for watchability over winning games. Blackpool is an option, if you're feeling brave (they were promoted last season, against everyone's expectations. They will probably finish bottom this season.

I can even see a case for choosing Liverpool: once great club, haven't won the league for 18 years or so, though they've done reasonably well, probably heading to a further decline. Could be quite an emotional rollercoaster.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2010

I love this thread! I'm a brit living in the US for nearly a decade, used to be a solid Chelsea supporter from the days of Dennis Wise but couldn't stump for them now. I came to football lateish in my twenties via Football Italia on Channel 4 and then had to pick a team. I watched for a few players I liked and a manager I could deal with (I have an irrational hatred of Martin O'Neil) and then went with Chelsea.

I think if I would watch football now regularly it would be Italian or Spanish leagues. Any American upthread who supports a non-big 4 team gets props from me. Villa? Stoke City? Love it. Part of loving a team is being with them through the real ups and downs, not just picking a team that wins every time. I think that is an intrinsically English thing...
posted by poissonrouge at 9:07 AM on July 13, 2010

As a Gunner, I will naturally say Arsenal. They represent stylish, athletic football played by handsome young virtuosos who live in an austere fashion under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger (the inscrutable Alsatian: part scientist, part wizard).

However, they have been underperforming a bit of late (mostly due to injury problems), and you will face the same accusations of bandwagoneering that you might with Man. U, Chelsea or (shudder) Liverpool. Stay away from Spurs, they're horrible and will drop back down to their natural level soon enough.

Other sides you might be interested in:

Fulham- as mentioned above, consistently punch above their weight, made a great run to the Europa League finals (formerly UEFA Cup) last season. Craven Cottage is the best looking ground in the league.

Everton- dedicated supporters, entertaining (if workmanlike) football, are not Liverpool. David Moyes is often suggested as the next Sir Alex Ferguson, and is possibly the most terrifying football manager who isn't Roy Keane.

Newcastle- making their triumphant return from the Championship, they also have incredibly dedicated supporters. Suffered from several years of mismanagement. It might be fun to follow them as they try to work their way back up through the table.

West Ham- always exciting to watch them fight off relegation. Seen as the true Cockney representatives in the Premier, were once sponsored by Dr. Martens and had their own Oi! band. No one knows what their new porn merchant owners will do.

Wolverhampton Wanderers- former league powerhouse, have only just returned to the top division under Mick McCarthy, but have done quite well.

Blackburn, Bolton and Stoke are all a bunch of thugs. Avoid any side managed by Sam Allardyce.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:10 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's another way of "letting the team pick you" besides watching a whole bunch of games. Read about team histories. Most of clubs have enough drama in their past to give you a flavor of their personality. Most of them have entire Wikipedia articles just about their history (e.g. Tottenham, Sunderland, Everton) and some even have so much history they need two Wikipedia pages (Blackpool 1, 2, Aston Villa 1, 2). There's lots more here (not just English Premier League teams). Oh, and since I'm linking to Wikipedia pages, the 2010-11 Premier League season page gives a pretty good satellite-overview feel for this upcoming season.
posted by Kattullus at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2010

Teams I'd recommend
Liverpool...simply the greatest club. Incredible fans. Incredible history. (I am biased) Noone can accuse you of bandwaggoning if you start to support Liverpool now, at the end of a terrible year. But believe me this next year will be better :)
Fulham/Everton: Teams that have and have had a vein of American players.
Newcastle: Fanatical supporters and after the low of relegation are returning to the big league. Their first game is Manchester United. If they win that you'll be hooked for life.

Teams to steer clear of.
Manchester United. They are the red devils for a reason. Do not take the ride to Hell!
Chelsea or Manchester City: You will be accused of bandwagonning (by me). These teams are built on the money of jet-setting billionaires. Sooner or later they will move on to other playthings.
posted by GamesRmeLife at 9:37 AM on July 13, 2010

I've been a Spurs supporter since the 80s and could try to persuade you to join me but, no offense, it makes absolutely no sense to me why you'd want to "decide" which team you support through a thread like this and reading that ESPN article before watching a ball being kicked in the premiership. My outlandish suggestion - watch some matches, see who gets coverage on tv in your area, read some articles, learn something about the teams' history, fall for the play of a certain player, talk about football with your family and find out your second cousin twice removed once had a trial for Balckburn Rovers, whatever - and then see who you're drawn to!

And honestly, please disregard the bandwagon nonsense, especially from people who came to the game relatively recently. The new football fans who are oh so passionate about Burnley or whoever from 3000 miles away come off the same way as my teenage friends who always had to follow the indiest bands and spoke about credibility rather than the music. As I said in the other thread, where I come from (Ireland) almost everyone follows premiership football and almost everyone follows one of the glamour or once-were-glamorous teams. If you fall in love with Jody Craddock and Wolves then great! But if it's Man U who capture your heart it's absolutely not a big deal, enjoy it and disregard the begrudgers.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:38 AM on July 13, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'm a born-again soccer fanatic. Played the sport 20 years ago, but eschewed all sports viewing for over a decade between then and now. When my kids started playing soccer 5 years ago I thought it might be fun to go to a few Columbus Crew games because the 9-game packs were cheap.

The modern game has grown so much that I was instantly captivated. And by instantly I mean once I wised up enough to see what was going on -- around game 9. Now not only do I have season tickets for an MLS franchise but just this year I broke my decade-long exile from cable TV so I could watch more soccer. I also watched more NHL and NFL & college football games this year than I did in the preceding 20 years.

I don't think you should assume EPL is the way to go, but it's not a bad way to go in that its games are more accessible on TV than any other foreign league. I followed EPL games this year but I think I'm going to try Italy next year. They have all kinds of strange tactics rolling around in that league.

May I ramble? Thank you.
Most EPL games are on early Saturday mornings in the US. European Champions League game are on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.

Fox Soccer Channel carries the English Premier League, MLS, WPS, Italy's Liga Calcio, and the European Champion's League, and the CONCACAF (North and Central America) Champion's League. They also have a bit from Argentina and Australia's A-League.

Fox Soccer Plus (Formerly Setanta) costs extra ~$10-$15 and plays more EPL plus the Europa Cup and a bit of England's Coca-Cola Championship. I don't know what all else they have as it just became available on my provider.

ESPN carries MLS, a bit of NCAA, and they get some of the less desirable EPL games early on Saturday mornings. Last year no one wanted to see Burnley or Portsmouth so ESPN got the games they played against the bigger teams, Man U, etc. They had just a couple Spanish games early in the year but that faded quickly. ESPN gets the USNational team too. ESPN3.com has some more EPL and Coca-Cola Championship games online but you need to use an ISP they have a special deal with like ATT.

GolTV has some MLS and I think some of the Spain games, but the big thing they own is Bundesliga. I can't get Gol without spending a lot more with another cable provider. ESPN Deportes has Bundesliga too, but with Spanish announcers. This costs extra too.

Azteca America (usually a low-powered over-the-air standard-def UHF station) and Telemundo carry Mexican Primera games.

Moving on. Apropos of nothing, I'd like to mention that English commenters are nearly universally terrible. Do not expect to learn anything about the game from listening to them.

Europe's UEFA Champions League is a must-watch event. The top teams from all over Europe compete in home-and-home 2-game series until a Champion is crowned in a 1-game final. This is where you see the legendary teams from each country and the top players in the world. I love it, and I approach it with an attitude of liberated fandom. I don't care who wins, I just want to see the best game possible. It's only for Crew games that I'm really partisan.

I do have teams I follow in other leagues because I have a connection to them. Usually it's because I've been lucky enough to see them play live at their home stadium when I travelled as a young man. In Mexico I follow UANL Tigres in Monterrey. In France it's Paris St. Germain. In Germany it's Wolfsburg. In the UK it's Fulham in the EPL and Preston in the Championship. (My Dad's from Preston.)

But let me suggest you follow Bolton Wanderers from Lancashire. I like interesting coaches who can do more with less money and talent. Owen Coyle moved from Burnley to Bolton Wanderers, where he played most of his career. He's signed American Stuart Holden and wants to retain a young Englishman named Jack Wilshire. Coyle used to play on the reserve team at Burnley as coach because they didn't have enough players. He scored a few cracking goals for them, old man that he is. When Burnley supporters called him a Judas for jumping to Bolton in the middle of the season he rebutted that they should call him Moses because he'd lead them to the promised land. Bolton might be an interesting team to follow. They could end up middle of the pack and should have a couple games broadcast on ESPN and several on FSC. Jersey's a fairly plain blue and white and I think Reebok is the shirt sponsor, but it could be a betting site.

Martin O'Neill is another fantastic coach at Birmingham's Aston Villa. They have an American owner (Randy Lerner) and an American goalkeeper, God Brad Friedel. Roy Hodgson and Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger are all interesting coaches, but they're now at big-four clubs. (Hodgson just left Fulham.)

MLS is a decent, scrappy league. The Rev's Shalrie Joseph is a great player. Champion's League is awesome. I heart it. I like David Moyes @ Everton and his history of signing Americans, but few are aware the the Liverpool/Everton divide started on religious grounds. That makes me itch.

Actually, I just had a thought as I was previewing this. I recommend that you watch the UEFA European Champion's League and root for the English teams as they play through their brackets. That's Chelsea, Man U, Arsenal and Tottenham. Throw in Barcelona. Watch some EPL games as they come and buy a shirt when you feel inspired.
posted by putzface_dickman at 9:41 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Let me make the case against Italy and Spain and for adding the Bundesliga to follow. If you are not interested in glory hounding/bandwagonning, you're going to have a tough time in Spain. The top two are more entrenched there than the top four have been in England. The league outside of the top two (Barceolona and Real Madrid) is pretty poor for the most part (I don't say this as a partisan -- the Guardian's La Liga correspondent, Sid Lowe, who LOVES the Spanish league admits the same). The title race is always between those two (except for Valenica under Rafa Benitez, but that club has now sold their best players and is in financial ruins). The standard of play for the non-top-2 or 3 clubs is pretty low.

The Italian league is in slow but steady decline. Tactically it is alright but it is known as a defensive league and Jose Mourinho's imprint on the league will probably increase this, even though he has moved to Madrid. We saw some of the influence of his Champions League winning Inter Milan at the World Cup in increasingly defensive 4-2-3-1 formations with two holding midfielders. Inter have won the past four scudettos (championships) and none of the other big players (AC Milan, Juventus) seem to really be gearing up for rebuilding. Instead, you're seeing a lot of aging players and mid-to-low-level name signings. In fact, Italy is about to lose one of their Champions League places to Germany. Fox Soccer shows Italian and Spanish games and GOLTv shows the Spanish league, but be advised that it is harder to follow non "top" teams and that Madrid is notorious for negotiating their own TV contracts and witholding broadcast rights, meaning sometimes games are televised as advertised.

The Bundesliga, though, is an exciting league with many young players that is on the up-and-up (just see Germany's performance at the World Cup). Granted, Bayern Munich dominates the league but both Stuttgart and Wolfsburg have won the championship in the past four years and the top teams are by no means static. I think two years ago there were 6 teams who were in the running for first place in the final weeks of the season. The style of play is more similar to the English league, fast paced, physical, and there are plenty of goals. Bayern Munich made it to the final of the Champions League last year (but were defeated by Inter Milan), beating Manchester United to get there. The games are shown on GOLTv and you can watch most of the games online by subscribing to the club's website.
posted by proj at 9:51 AM on July 13, 2010

And honestly, please disregard the bandwagon nonsense, especially from people who came to the game relatively recently. The new football fans who are oh so passionate about Burnley or whoever from 3000 miles away come off the same way as my teenage friends who always had to follow the indiest bands and spoke about credibility rather than the music. As I said in the other thread, where I come from (Ireland) almost everyone follows premiership football and almost everyone follows one of the glamour or once-were-glamorous teams. If you fall in love with Jody Craddock and Wolves then great! But if it's Man U who capture your heart it's absolutely not a big deal, enjoy it and disregard the begrudgers.

Also, this is a great point. Americans are obsessed with wanting to seem authentic and not-bandwagon-jumpers, but what's the fun in deciding to support a team that plays really ugly football, will never (thanks to the financial structure of the Premier League) have the opportunity to be anything more than yo-yos between the Championship and the Premiership (I'm looking at you, West Brom) and will most likely bring you heartache and irritation week after week. I'm not saying you should immediately support Manchester United, but urging someone to support Wigan or Bolton is ridiculous. Most people who support those teams were born there (there's a reason that Wigan has more rugby fans than football fans) and have no idea why you'd decide to start supporting an agonizingly mediocre team.
posted by proj at 9:58 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you want to avoid Liverpool for bandwagonny reasons, but, seriously, watch a few youtube videos of Liverpool supporters singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" and tell me you wouldn't want to be part of that.
posted by dersins at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2010


Wait, I thought the thing with West Brom was that they played beautiful football but still couldn't seem to be a success in the EPL. Is that wrong?

And I support Stoke because when watching them everyone talked so much shit that I decided that they needed at least one fan in the U.S.
posted by josher71 at 10:05 AM on July 13, 2010

Josher71: Good point about WBA. They do play nice football, but they are still doomed to yo-yo and the fact that whenever any of their players get enough recognition, a more-established side will buy them.

I don't discredit you for supporting Stoke! Everyone has their reasons who their support; I'm only saying that starting at a disadvantage with a not-great-side sometimes sours the game for people and it mixes the fun of the game up with lofty ideas about how it's dishonorable to support a successful side.
posted by proj at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2010

I'd argue that there are definite advanatges, for the totally-new supporter, of following one of the glamour/"bandwagon" clubs:

* Local meetups of supporters
* More coverage in the media to learn from, more accessible books of their histories, etc etc
* European action - more matches to watch and a gateway to discovering teams from the continent
* Better range of swag to purchase and wear ;)
* Better chance they'll visit the US for friendlies/PR matches
* More TV coverage of their games (guessing this one)
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Liverpool = Red Sox thing is more to do with the history giving the team/fans an air of entitlement/self-regard/self-pity that that is not justified by their performances averaged over the past twenty years or so.
posted by caek at 10:32 AM on July 13, 2010

Last year I joined the fantasy EPL and I learned an incredible amount about the different teams and players. It doesn't require a huge time sink--other than maybe your original draft (last year I didn't have a clue so I basically picked based on what names sounded interesting to me).

I'm looking forward to being able to make much more informed decisions this year!

Have fun!
posted by Zoyashka at 10:37 AM on July 13, 2010

- "Style of play" varies from match to match. Toss that one out of the mix.

- Serie A is not "on the decline". In fact it's more interesting than ever. Sampdoria, Palermo and Napoli all finishing that high on the table? It's fantastic. And I'm a Milan fan.

- MLS? One word: no. I'm an American. I don't support it. I don't personally know anyone here who does. There is nothing compelling or interesting going on there. I don't feel like I'm "missing out" on anything by ignoring that league.

- Bandwagon thing is another thing to toss out. It's almost reverse snobbery to say someone only likes a team because they're always a top team. And like the Yankees and Real Madrid, you still have to play the games. And the Yankees did not win anything for nine years.

- You should really go to Italy, France, Spain, London and go to some matches. That's what really hooked me. I'm planning to go in September to see Bologna, Roma and then Arsenal and then down to Paris to see PSG.

- My suggestions are Premiership, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1. And let a team win you over instead of trying to find a favorite from scratch.

Don't think you have to feel like a douche because you may find yoiu like Manchester United (I hate them, personally). But a player like Ryan Giggs is someone that can make you an instant fan of the team. With Milan, I became a fan because I just liked Maldini so much and I was glad I got to go see him play before he retired.
posted by L'OM at 10:52 AM on July 13, 2010

Oh, I can't believe I never thought of this... get into Football Manager. At first it will be entirely bewildering and confusing but you'll pick up on things quickly and learn tons about the various teams. There was a recent MeFi post about the wonders of Football Manager.

If you go through a few seasons in the Premier League in Football Manager you'll start having completely illogical feelings about the various teams... just like a real supporter :)
posted by Kattullus at 11:08 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Football Manager is a fantastic time sink.

As an American and fan of English football, I love to point the finger at bandwagon jumpers. I usually tell people not to support the Manchester clubs, Liverpool, or anybody from the south (other than Pompey), then again I like to be a snot.

(For the record, my club is Sheffield Wednesday, we're in League 1, nobody can accuse me of glory hunting. My "other team" is Everton, and pretty much has been since Weds went down.)

I agree with those who recommend just watching matches and letting the team pick you. I have a friend who has settled on Arsenal because they play the style of football he likes. I have to say, he's way more rational than I was picking Weds, but then again I was 10 and knew nothing.

You should also watch the other leagues, but I can't really feign interest in Serie A. I like La Liga, but Bundesliga is my other league besides the Premiership. (Living in Germany for a spell helps.) Support St. Pauli, they're up in the top league now!
posted by kendrak at 11:44 AM on July 13, 2010

I did something similar a few years ago, picking an MLB team. Met some Americans in a bar, explained why I support Tottenham and asked them to help pick me a baseball team to follow. They opted for the Cubs and have thus caused me more heartache in a decade than 30 years of following Spurs.

So in my limited experience Tottenham = Cubs if that helps
posted by handybitesize at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2010

The games are shown on GOLTv and you can watch most of the games online by subscribing to the club's website.
posted by proj

Could you clarify this? I don't have television service so any online source of Bundasliga would be wonderful.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:43 PM on July 13, 2010

Well, you can go the internet streams route if you're patient and don't mind searching for games (searching for football live stream will get you there) and clubs like Bayern Munich have the option of joining the website (fcbayern.de) which will stream video of the games for a fee. I don't know about the quality, though.
posted by proj at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2010

Last year I joined the fantasy EPL and I learned an incredible amount about the different teams and players.

I'm about to do my draft if I can remember my username and password. Is there an existing MeFi league, or is anyone interested in starting one?
posted by Dr. Zira at 6:36 PM on July 13, 2010

Can't remember who started it last year, but if they don't step up in the next couple of weeks I'm happy to get one going. Currently agonizing over how to fit Fabregas, FFL and Drogba into my team :(
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:45 PM on July 13, 2010

rib, search inside for what you know to be true: You want to be a Gooner, don't you?
I also have to root for Stoke City mainly because of Danny Higginbotham's pic in the EPL Fantasy League.

Currently agonizing over how to fit Fabregas, FFL and Drogba into my team
Argh, it's killing me as well.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:22 PM on July 13, 2010

I cannot believe nobody has suggested Millwall, even though they are not premier league.
posted by bystander at 12:10 AM on July 14, 2010

One thing I'll add, once you do pick a team, stick with it. There's nothing worse than someone who used to support Liverpool deciding that they support Man City or Chelsea because those teams are doing well. [Exception: if you support a lower-league team, then it's OK to also support a Premier League team, as long as they aren't direct rivals - e.g. Oldham/Man Utd; Southend/any London team]

But yeah, on reading the thread I think the advice to let a team pick you is good: could be any reason: an interesting story, they put up a battling performance against the odds, they've got a young skillful player you like...

But believe me this next year will be better :)

Yep. Yep, you're a Liverpool fan, alright :)

Can't remember who started it last year, but if they don't step up in the next couple of weeks I'm happy to get one going. Currently agonizing over how to fit Fabregas, FFL and Drogba into my team :(

Well, Barcelona players won't be eligible, so it's just a question of Fat Frank and Drogba....;-)
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:23 AM on July 14, 2010

Blackpool just got promoted if you want to keep an eye out for the underdogs. They're from a small, economically depressed town, and I feel success means more for them than it might for Chelsea or Arsenal.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

That picture of Danny Higginbotham is pretty priceless. I never said they were the smartest in the league...see here, and here, also here.
posted by josher71 at 8:01 AM on July 14, 2010

I just saw that you wrote this:

At the moment, I'm leaning towards Fulham, but that's largely because of jersey colors and Dempsey

Which, obviously makes me happy. You see, if you don't want to be a bandwagonner, then you need to pick a team which is plays good football but doesn't take winning for granted. Thus I reiterate my Fulham suggestion. It's a historic club too, the oldest in London (and if you do chose to support them you should feel free to remind supporters of other London clubs about this.)
posted by ob at 11:47 AM on July 14, 2010

Oh, and another thing... do you have family ties to a region of England with a Premier League team? That's another way of choosing.
posted by Kattullus at 6:27 PM on July 14, 2010

There was a recent MeFi post about the wonders of Football Manager.

I was going to suggest Pro Vercelli, too, Kattullus. Seriously, if your soccer juices are flowing, you owe it to yourself to read this series.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:57 PM on July 14, 2010

i like the advice to let a team choose you. watch some games and see which teams and players interest you.

you might not want to like any of the big 4 teams, but if you do, you do. i'm a Man U fan and i couldn't give less of a shit about the stigma of supporting them. i like them and that's what matters to me. sometimes my soccer-watching friends hassle me because Man U seems like 'the popular choice' but i don't care - i wear my Scholes jersey with pride.
posted by gursky at 4:37 PM on July 17, 2010

The story so far:

- I'm watching various Youtube videos to get a feel for various teams.

- Picked up Football Manager and FM Portable. Been fiddling with the latter more than the former, but its given me a much better idea as to the roles of players on the field.

- Caught a few games on ESP2. MLS is just not doing it for me - I think it has something to do with the passion of the crowds.

- Speaking of crowds, I was wearing a Man U jersey that I bought on vacation a few years back in a local bar this weekend when a large group of people in Liverpool jerseys came in. Duh-dun-duunnnnn! One of them tried to give me crap about Man U, but I just played dumb tourist.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:46 AM on July 19, 2010

2010/2011 EPL Fantasy League thread in MeTa over here.
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:48 PM on August 3, 2010

Further Update: Still Up In The Air

I've been watching EPL games on ESPN2 and Fox Soccer and even made a trip to Phoenix Landing for their Saturday morning games. That was an interesting experience, as it was informative to see how the various fans all congregated together. The Arsenal fans were the moist boisterous, but that was largely due to Walcott's hattrick and the stomping of Blackpool.

I've been trying to watch Fulham, but the differences between the actual team and the virtual one I managed on Football Manager has been a bit distracting. Also, Dempsey only seems to play in the middle of the week, which kinda sucks.

I think I'm doing fairly well in the fantasy leagues. I'm 16th in the Mefi League (despite not riding the Drogba Gravy Train) and have been slowly refining my team away from my initial tactics of picking players who were 1) Good to me in Football Manager 2) Have goofy pictures and 3) Have names that sound straight out of a Kirby-era Weird Science comic.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:57 AM on August 30, 2010

If you are a Red Sox fan, you may have heard that we have some new brethren in the New England Sports Ventures corporate family.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:33 AM on October 6, 2010

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