Hey, sports fan. Are you picking a Premier League Team to root for? Congrats. You may be a little late to the party, but as an American fan glomming onto European football, you are still ahead of the curve.
And the Premier League is the best Euro football curve to sail onto, with a great tradition, the best players in the world, and full tv coverage from across the pond to your living room. Sure Ted Lasso is fake, but the fun you’ll enjoy rooting for a Premiere League squad is real.
YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM MY WANDERING EYE
As a college student, I did a semester abroad in England. When I came back to the U.S., I was in love with two things:
- A woman with whom I have kept a long and satisfying monogamous relationship. Yes, I'm talking about my wife.
- English football, and an East Midlands team that I have cheated on over and over and over again. Yes, I'm talking about Nottingham Forest.
Let me lodge my excuse here. I have lacked the "ability" to watch my team until recently. This is due to the fact that "Forest" languished in the lower leagues of English football for years, and has been largely unavailable to watch on U.S. tv packages. And even if I could, who wants to watch second-tier soccer?
But there's a silver lining to my wandering eye. Namely, your quest to pick a Premier League team to root for.
TO LOVE TEAMS (FOR A WHILE) IS TO KNOW THEM
With Forest's time in the dregs as my cover, I've sampled many of the top Premier League teams as a temporary fan. Not in the true “fanatic” sense, but in the sense of someone who watches all the games and maybe buys a discount jersey or an occasional pair of shorts with a logo on it.
From half the squads in London to the Manchesters both blue and red, I’ve taken turns rooting for all the big boys, and some of the little guys too. Luckily for you, all my fandom-philandering means I have experienced what it means to follow many of these teams as an American Premier League fan. And it’s why I’m uniquely qualified to help you pick a team that won’t suck to root for.
Where Bill Simmons failed, I will succeed.
I’m going to break it down for you: which teams you should maybe consider following, definitely consider following, and which you should avoid like the plague. Along the way, I’ll give you a uniform rating (in case you want to show your team colors at the PUB) and an at-home stadium rating for those who want to feel the VIBE through their flatscreen.
First, let’s talk about the teams I highly avoid you recommend. Like the plague. Cause the plague sucks, and so does rooting for these teams.
Nickname: Spurs, Lillywhites. Also "The Yids", is derogatory but unofficially co-opted by Spurs fans.
As you start seriously inquiring into rooting for a Premier League Team, you will eventually encounter the American Tottenham Hotspur fan.
This fairly likable, charismatic, and quite possibly arrogant person will have a genuine interest in football, or at least an interest in being a very interested fan. They may invite you to watch a game, and buy you pizza. Without sounding too cynical, I would consider this a cult recruitment tactic.
If you do watch a game with them (enjoy the free pizza) the American Spurs fan will vacillate from quite engaging to completely insufferable, with a high level of passion (or a highly-feigned level of passion) for the game.
Don’t let them suck you in! Remember, the mascot for this team is a cock perched upon a football.
Becoming a Spurs Fan
When our hypothetical, stereotypical American Spurs Fan began looking for a team to support (probably about 10-15 years ago, when Fox Soccer started consistently airing games in the U.S.) they didn’t want to support Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool, or Everton. This due to the fact that everybody else did.
That’s when our budding fan began their twisted mental calculus. They surmised:
- Spurs were (at that time) usually sniffing the Champions league spot, and were a decent bet to eventually win the league. (Just as there’s a decent bet an asteroid will hit earth at some point.)
- Spurs had pleasant uniform shirts that you could wear with bootcut jeans and a long-sleeved henley underneath.
- Nobody else (American) liked Spurs, so our fan could seem smarter than everyone else when Spurs ended up winning. (Spoiler alert: they would never end up winning.)
- They read the ESPN Page 2 article by Bill Simmons, in which Simmons talks himself into liking Spurs, in what may or may not be an attempt to become friends with Steve Nash. I love Bill Simmons, BTW. I just don’t love Spurs.
Basically, in an effort to outsmart everybody else and root for a team that was “on the rise” or “primed for success,” our American started rooting for Spurs.
Things Went Downhill Fast
American Spurs fan enjoyed themselves (and the Lily-white unis) for a little while. But after a couple of self-satisfied years, they realized good players don’t come to Spurs. Quite the opposite: players get really good while at Spurs, and then leave Spurs, pretty much all the time. See: Luca Modric, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane soon. So now our poor fan is stuck with Spurs (see the sunk cost fallacy) and will continue their self-loathing fandom for all of eternity.
As sure as an asteroid will strike Earth one day, Spurs will promise everything, and deliver nothing, pretty much forever.
And what exactly is a Hotspur?
Uniform Rating: 7/10
Cool but lacking spark. They are the navy peacoat of the Premier League— solid and nice, but kind of dull in the end.
At-home viewing experience: 6/10
Spurs have a nice new stadium, which is gorgeous, they say. But it isn’t as good of a tv watching experience as their vibey awesome old stadium, White Hart Lane, which I believe has been blown up, in a literal sense.
I also suspect (again, from watching Tottenham on tv) that the only people that go to Spurs games are white males between the ages of 30-59, wearing black M81 coats. It’s a real “Gangs of London on AMC” vibe. Without the awesome action scenes.
American Spurs fans are:
Too clever for their own good.
Among a team full of superdorks, Toby Alderweireld was the coolest guy in the Premier League for a number of years.
West Ham United
Nickname: Hammers, Irons, The Academy.
Maybe you are thinking about rooting for West Ham United, a team that is known as London’s “working class” Premier League Club. A team with an (almost) brand new stadium that is easy to get tickets to.
A team with cool (though strangely ubiquitous) colors, and a unique logo/mascot.
A team with an unparalleled history of beating the shit out of their enemies. No, I don’t mean other teams, I mean Millwall fans.
You may meet an Englishman living in America who roots for West Ham. They will tell you that real Englishmen root for West Ham, or something like that. Just remember, you are not a real Englishman.
You may have heard that Katy Perry, Barack Obama, and Russel Brand root for West Ham United. These are all fascinating people who have, between themselves:
- Led the free world
- Performed tons of top hits
- Done tons of drugs and made unwashed hair a thing
Two out of these three achievements are very very cool. But here’s where I drop the proverbial Hammer, no pun intended. West Ham is like the third thing. West Ham is not very cool. West Ham does not lead the free world or perform top hits. West Ham is doing drugs and not washing your hair.
Choose West Ham, and wither.
Sure, I get it, who wouldn't want to pick a team with an awesome nickname like "The Irons." But I want you to trust me on this. If, as a foreign fan, you pick West Ham as your team, your joy will last about 3-4 games. You will feel like a genius for a little while for not choosing some team like Arsenal, Liverpool, or Chelsea. Then, as if delivered by an owl in the dead of night, a dark existential Harry Potter dread cloud in the shape of a dog will begin following you around.
🤕 You will begin losing your appetite and picking gum off the street to chew on.
☠️ You will likely develop an appetite for blood and maybe kill and eat a human being.
🌋 Then you will creep under a mountain, where you will live for 500 years before a Hobbit wearing a jersey with a Carlsburg logo rescues you, spirits you to safety, and convinces you to root for Liverpool. Like being a born-again Christian, this rooting for Liverpool will feel nice, however hollow. You will then spend the rest of your Saturdays drinking Boddingtons at a Liverpool bar with your Liverpool friends, which is its own thing entirely. But at least you escaped that West Ham life.
But what about Green Street Hooligans?
That's an entirely different topic for another time.
These colors are unique at first glance, but then you realize that 8 other teams in English football wear “Claret and Blue.” It’s weird. Can you imagine if 4 NFL teams had the same colors as the Cleveland Browns?
And every time you watch the game on tv, you’ll hear the announcers say “claret and blue” about 50 times. I find this so bizarre and I still need an explanation.
At home viewing experience 6/10
This is kind of a sad story. West Ham had a grungy, dank-yet-lovable stadium (at least it looked that way on tv.) But it fit their club vibe perfectly, like a grimy fortress.
Then they moved into the aforementioned Olympic Stadium, which was built for track and field, and which their own fans really really hate. So there is some definite stadium self-loathing there. (Imagine that.) It appears to be a beautiful facility. But the tv watching experience feels anemic and completely negates all that sorta-cool “blowing bubbles” mystique that you thought was way dope in Green Street Hooligans.
American West Ham fans are:
Going to forget they ever chose a team in 3 years.
I spent this entire section convincing you not to root for West Ham, but part of me wants to throw my life away like a heroin addict and start repping them myself.
To quote Walt Whitman, "I contain multitudes."