Some people believe football is a matter of life and death.
I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.
— Bill Shankly
After the rampant enthusiasm the US expressed for the World Cup, I have been tasked with writing an introductory guide to the English Premier League for the benefit of any bright young Americans who want to take their relationship to the next level, now that the new season is underway. Club football will change your life. It’s like a religion that people actually care about.
This article will provide you with a brief overview of each club, their pros/cons, and any links to America (however tenuous they may be) to help you decide which team to support [1. The ‘proper’ thing to do is to support your local team, but for fairly obvious reasons this is not an option for US residents.].
But before we get onto that, it is worth explaining what the English Premier League (EPL) [2. You may also hear the league referred to as the Barclays Premier League. Barclays is the league sponsor (pronounced Bar-klees, not Bar-clays).]
Domestic club football is different to most American sports, as promotion and relegation are involved, as well as several separate cup competitions [3. The League Cup (k-o tournament), The FA Cup (k-o tournament), and either the Champions League or Europa League for teams who have qualified (league & k-o tournaments featuring club sides from all over Europe).]. Below the EPL is The Championship. At the end of each season the three teams at the bottom of the EPL get relegated to The Championship, and three teams get promoted up to take their place.
The main competition — the Premier League — consists of twenty teams. Each team plays each other twice, once at home and once away. Games are 90 minutes, and there are three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero for losing.The league is won by the team who has the most points after the thirty-eight games. If two sides are tied on points, they are separated by goal difference [4. Goals scored vs goals conceded. In the 2011/2012 season Manchester City won the title on goal difference after scoring a goal in the last minute of the last game of the season.]. The season begins in mid-August and ends in May. Games are traditionally played on a Saturday, however some fixtures are played on Sunday or weeknights to accommodate television broadcasts/other competitions [5. This includes international games, which interrupt the club season occasionally.].
For more information consult thefa.com, premierleague.com, or Wikipedia. Without further ado, here are the twenty teams in the EPL:
Arsenal, nicknamed ‘The Gunners’, play in red shirts with white sleeves. They are based in North London, and play at the Emirates Stadium.
MVPs [6. The term ‘MVP’ is never used in football, but I’m trying to use terms y’all understand. The equivalent term, in a game, is ‘Man of the Match’ (often abbreviated to MOTM).]: Arsene Wenger (manager), Mezut Ozil, Per Mertesacker, Lukas Podolski (German World Cup winners), Alexis Sanchez (Chile).
Pros: Arsenal are relatively successful, and won last season’s FA Cup. There’s a focus on young players, and Wenger’s sides always play beautiful football.
Cons: Piers Morgan supports them. As did Osama Bin Laden.
Tenuous link to America: Thierry Henry, arguably their greatest ever player, currently plays for New York Red Bulls.
Aston Villa play in claret shirts with sky blue sleeves. They are based in Birmingham, and play at the historic Villa Park which is old and rusty and a proper football ground.
MVPs: Christian Benteke, Brad Guzan.
Pros: Tom Hanks and Prince William are fans. They haven’t qualified for European football, so supporting them is less time consuming.
Cons: They’re not very good, David Cameron supports them. There’s little chance of success, and the football will be scrappy at best.
Tenuous link to America: Brad Guzan was in the ‘USMNT’ squad at the World Cup, the club is owned by Randy Lerner.
Burnely also play in claret shirts with sky blue sleeves. They are based in Burnley (nr. Manchester), and play at Turf Moor — a stadium as grim as it sounds.
Pros: Nothing to lose.
Cons: Will probably get relegated.
Tenuous link to America: They had a Canadian midfielder once.
Chelsea play in all blue, and are based in West London. Their stadium is Stamford Bridge.
MVPs: Coach Jose Mourinho, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Didier Drogba.
Pros: Chelsea are obscenely wealthy, and consequently very successful despite not playing very attractive football.
Cons: Chelsea are obscenely wealthy, and consequently very successful despite not playing very attractive football. Also, they’re captained by John Terry [7. His scandals include, but are not limited to, cheating on his wife with a teammates girlfriend, receiving a ban for on-pitch racial abuse, and when Chelsea won the Champions League he turned up in full kit despite not having played due to suspension. He was also involved in the harassment of US tourists on 12/9/01.] who is a reprehensible human being as thuggish as Chelsea’s many dimwitted fans.
Tenuous link to America: Three Chelsea players were caught drunkenly harassing American tourists at Heathrow airport. On September 12th 2001.
Crystal Palace play in blue and red stripes, and are based in South London. They play at Selhurst Park, which is arguably the grottiest stadium in the league [8. Which, if you’re romantic, also makes it the best.].
MVPs: Mike Jedinak, Joe Ledley
Pros: Last season Palace were rooted to the bottom of the league, needing a miracle to survive. Tony Pulis was appointed as manager, and he performed a miracle. Celebrity fans include Eddie Izzard and Liam Neeson.
Cons: Tony Pulis left the club two days before the season began, which isn’t a great start to the season. They went 1-0 up against Arsenal, but ultimately lost 2-1.
Tenuous link to America: Palace are nicknamed ‘The Eagles’ and have a large eagle on their badge.
Everton play in blue shirts, are nicknamed ‘The Toffees’, and are based in Liverpool. They play at Goodison Park, which is a proper football ground.
MVPs: Tim Howard
Pros: Tim Howard plays for them. [9. They also have a great young manager in Roberto Martinez, play very attractive attacking football, and look likely to develop into a very good team in the coming seasons. And according to Wikipedia their fans include Matt Damon, Sylvester Stallone, Dame Judi Dench, and John McEnroe.]
Cons: Tim Howard will retire eventually.
Tenuous link to America: Tim Howard plays for them. (As did Landon Donovan, Joe Max-Moore, and Brian McBride.)
Hull City play in orange and black stripes, are nicknamed ‘the Tigers’, and are based in Hull. Their home, the KC Stadium, has no affiliation with the Sunshine Band.
MVPs: Tom Huddlestone, Nikica Jelavic, Curtis Davies.
Pros: Their badge is a tiger, which is pretty awesome. They also came close to unexpectedly winning the FA Cup last season, although a repeat performance is unlikely.
Cons: They’re owned by a lunatic who wants to change their name to ‘Hull Tigers’, they’re not very good. I have no recollection of them actually playing last season.
Tenuous link to America: Tigers can be found in captivity across N. America, including the USA.
Leicester City[10. It’s pronounced ‘Lester’.] play in blue shirts, are nicknamed ‘The Foxes’, and play at the King Power Stadium in Leicester.
MVPs: Jamie Vardy, David Nugent.
Pros: Although newly promoted, Leicester barely lost a game in The Championship and are likely to avoid relegation.They have a great stadium, and earned an impressive 2-2 draw against Everton last weeked. Their most famous fans include Englebert Humperdinck and the band Kasabian.
Cons: ‘Leicester’ is almost impossible to spell.
Tenuous link to America: The former USA goalkeeper Kasey Keller played for Leicester City between 1996-1999.
One of the most famous and successful clubs in football history, Liverpool play in all red, are nicknamed ‘The Reds’, and play at Anfield. They’re biggest rivals are Manchester United and Everton.
MVPs: Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Steve Gerrard, Phillipe Coutinho.
Pros: Came 2nd last season, play incredible football, have a lot of history, and sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona. They’ve made a lot of great signings over the summer, and will likely do well this season. They’re in the Champions League, and will get a lot of TV coverage.
Cons: Most of the players they’ve signed have come from Southampton, basically dismantling their squad in the process. They’ve lost Suarez, and may be a little toothless in attack. Also, their away shirt is horrendous.
Tenuous link to America: Liverpool are owned by the owners of the Boston Red Sox, and sometimes play friendly games at Fenway Park.
Manchester United play in red, are nicknamed ‘The Red Devils’, and are the single most famous and successful English club in the world. They play at Old Trafford.
MVPs: Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, David de Gea.
Pros: After a disastrous 2013/2014 season, Louis Van Gaal becomes the second manager to fill the shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson (who led the club from 1986-2013, winning 38 trophies). Van Gaal was Netherlands manager the World Cup, and has a track record for success, discipline, and eccentricity. Manchester United should be entertaining both on and off the pitch.
Cons: Nobody likes Manchester United, except Manchester United fans, the Irish, and girls who liked David Beckham or Christiano Ronaldo.
Tenuous link to America: Manchester United are sponsored by Chevrolet, and owned by the Glasers who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Manchester City are the cross-city rival of Manchester United. They play in sky blue, and their home stadium is the Etihad [11. Formerly ‘The City of Manchester Stadium’ before sponsorship.].
MVPs: Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko, Jesus Navas, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure.
Pros: Almost guaranteed success, lots of goals, good football, and regular big name signings.
Cons: The most hollow, soulless team in the EPL. Owned by a billionaire Arab sheik who circumvents financial fair play rules and ruins football for everyone. City can buy practically any player they want, and frequently do. None of their recent success has been earned, and their 2-0 victory over Newcastle was predictable. True football fans despise Man City. Their most famous fans are Liam and Noel Gallagher from Oasis.
Tenuous link to America: They own New York City FC, an MLS expansion club.
Newcastle United play in iconic black and white stripes, are nicknamed ‘The Magpies’, and play at St. James’ Park.
MVPs: Tim Krul, Daryl Janmaat, Chiek Tiote, Moussa Sissoko.
Pros: Last season their manager, Alan Pardew, head-butted someone. Supporting them gives you an excellent excuse to drink gallons of Newcastle Brown Ale.
Cons: They are maddeningly inconsistent, and going through a rough patch in terms of quality despite having some fine players. They frequently sell their best players. The local accent (Geordie) is basically incomprehensible as well, which makes conversing with other fans very difficult.
Tenuous link to America: The city of Newcastle is twinned with Atlanta, GA.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
QPR play in blue and white hoops, and are based in London. They play their home games at Loftus Road.
MVPs: Robert Green, Rio Ferdinand, Adel Taraabt, Charlie Austin [12. When I was at university, Austin played for my hometown team (Swindon Town) and was family friends with a girl I had a major crush on in first year. I was excited at the time, but now his name evokes a melancholy nostalgia.], Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Pros: QPR are managed by Harry Redknapp, who is a proper old fashioned Cockney football manager. One of their best players, Joey Barton, often takes to Twitter to quote philosophers. Phil Collins, Andrew Ridgeley, Pete Doherty, and Bill Bailey are among their celebrity fans.
Cons: They are a thoroughly unlikable team. They have a wealthy owner who has tied to buy success, but has failed because no-one wants to play for QPR. The last time they were in the EPL they got relegated, and it will probably happen again. They lost 1-0 to Hull City in their first game, with Charlie Austin failing to equalize with a late penalty.
Tenuous link to America: Shaun Wright-Phillips’ brother Bradley plays for the NY Red Bulls in the MLS.
Southampton are a team located on the South Coast of England, and are nicknamed ‘The Saints’. They play in red and white stripes, and their stadium is St. Mary’s.
MVPs: Morgan Schneiderlin, Gaston Ramirez.
Pros: Southampton are kind of plucky and lovable [13. I am slightly biased, having attended university near by. Many of my friends are Southampton fans, who once took me to St. Mary’s.]. Since promotion from The Championship two seasons ago, The Saints have gained a reputation for attractive attacking football. They probably won’t win silverware, but you will be entertained.
Cons: Since last season Southampton’s squad has been raided and dismantled by ‘bigger’ clubs. They have lost their manager to Tottenham, one player to Manchester United, and three players have gone to Liverpool, who were their first opponents of the season. Liverpool won 2-1, but their were positive and encouraging signs from the Saints’ performance.
Tenuous link to America: Southampton is where the Titanic began her ill-fated (and only) voyage in 1912.
Stoke City also play in red and white stripes. Their home is the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent.
MVPs: Asmir Begovic, Bojan Krkic, Ryan Shawcross, Jonathan Walters.
Pros: They’re not the worst team in the world, and there is some promising talent in the squad. The stadium is pretty nice.
Cons: One of the least exciting teams in the EPL. They began their season by losing 1-0 at home to Aston Villa.
Tenuous link to America: Brek Shea, Maurice Edu, and Geoff Cameron have all represented the US National Team.
Sunderland also play in red and white stripes, and are the arch-rivals of Newcastle United. Their nickname is ‘The Black Cats’ and they play at the optimistically named Stadium of Light.
MVPs: Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Larsson, Jack Rodwell.
Pros: After narrowly avoiding relegation last year, things can only get better. Manager Gus Poyet looks to be improving the side, and the squad features a surprising number of promising young English players. They scored in the 85th minute to earn a 2-2 draw with West Brom at the weekend.
Cons: Supporting Sunderland means having to boycott that sweet, sweet Newcastle Brown Ale.
Tenuous link to America: Jozy Altidore represented the US in Brazil.
Swansea City play in all white, are nicknamed ‘The Swans’, and play at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales [14. Three Welsh clubs (Swansea, Cardiff, and Wrexham) joined the English Football League, because at the time they joined there were no Welsh leagues.].
MVPs: Wilfried Bony, Michu, Lukasz Fabianski, Nathan Dyer.
Pros: The stadium is nice, and the football attractive. The club have recently won silverware, in the form of the League Cup. Swansea is supposed to be quite a nice place, and they beat Manchester United 2-1 in the first game of the season.
Cons: Narrowly avoided relegation last year, may lose Bony and Michu before the season starts, and may well go down this season.
Tenuous link to America: The Swansea-born poet Dylan Thomas died whilst in New York.
[15. In the 1920s my great-grandfather met his future wife at White Hart Lane. Some sixty years later my father met my mother in similar circumstances. I am duty-bound to support Tottenham, whether I like it or not.]
Tottenham Hotspur play in white shirts and navy shorts. The are the North London rivals of Arsenal, and play at White Hart Lane [16. The only place in Britain that has ever flown the Nazi flag, at game between England and Germany in 1935. Ironically, Tottenham are famous for having a large following of Jewish fans.]. They are usually referred to as ‘Spurs’. The name ‘Hotspur’ is unique in football, and is in tribute to the descendants of Sir Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland who owned much of the land around Tottenham. He was more commonly know as Harry Hotspur and died at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 (both in real life, and at the end of Henry IV, Pt.1).
MVPs: Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen, Paulinho.
Pros: A well known and historically successful club, Tottenham have recently appointed Mauricio Pochettino as manager who has a reputation for fast attacking football. Spurs are always tantalizingly close to success, without ever really achieving it. However, they sometimes win the League Cup, or qualify for the Champions League. It’s not really enjoyable supporting Spurs, but it is perversely exciting. Famous fans include Kenneth Branagh, Charles Bronson [17. Britain’s most dangerous prisoner, not the Death Wish actor.], and Jude Law. Despite receiving the first red card of the new season, Spurs beat West Ham 1-0 in their first game.
Cons: Spurs will consistently raise your expectations, only to dash them completely. There is an aura of inevitable impending failure. On numerous occasions Spurs have been 3-0 up, and still lost. This, along with a reputation for conceding late goals, makes it quite hard to ever enjoy watching them play. Any Spurs player that plays well automatically gets sold to either Manchester United or Real Madrid.
Tenuous link to America: USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann is a former player, as are Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller. Spurs currently have the 41 year old Brad Friedel as backup ‘keeper, and the Teddy Roosevelt lookalike from the World Cup is the President of the Chicago branch of the fan club.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
It’s pronounced ‘brom-idge’. They play in blue and white stripes, are nicknamed ‘The Baggies’, and are based in Birmingham. They play at The Hawthorns.
MVPs: Ben Foster, Victor Anichebe, Christian Gamboa.
Pros: West Brom are exciting, because you’ll never know whether they’ll get relegated until the last day of the season. They spend all season flirting with relegation, but rarely submit.
Cons: Will definitely get relegated within the next three seasons, and seem to be getting progressively worse each year.
Tenuous link to America: Former striker Paul Peschisolido is the cousin of former NHL player Mike Ricci (who, whilst a Canadian, did play for USA teams).
WEST HAM UNITED
If you’re familiar with football hooliganism, you’ll know West Ham United. The play in claret and blue shirts, are nicknamed ‘The Hammers’, and are based in East London. The currently play at Upton Park, but will soon be moving to the Olympic Stadium.
MVPs: Matt Jarvis, Kevin Nolan, Enner Valencia.
Pros: Even if the team lose, you’ll come off victorious in the subsequent pub brawl. And you’ll be in the illustrious company of respected British thespians Danny Dyer, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Keira Knightley.
Cons: You will be involved in pub brawls.
Tenuous link to America: President Barack Obama is reportedly a Hammers fan.