Good news, soccer fans: Even though it’s the offseason for MLS, it’s the heart of the season for another league you might have heard of, the English Premiere League. Home to perennial powers like Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea and also teams like Arsenal, the EPL was many an American’s introduction to soccer. When I started working at MNUFC, it quickly became clear that most everyone had an EPL team they supported when they weren’t on the clock, and one of the main pleasures of following a team across the pond was the smack talk that came along with your team beating someone else’s.
This isn’t, of course, limited to soccer, but regional fandom leads most people to give their fandom to one of only a few teams. Most people in the Twin Cities are Vikings fans or Packers fans and there are only a smattering of Brewers or Cubs fans to compete with the Twins fans. And although some American fans of English soccer have been fans of their teams for a long time, most of them made some kind of conscious decision about what team to throw their lot in with.
In that spirit, I decided it was finally time to pick an EPL team as my own. First though, I thought I should do a little research around the office.
Brad Baker, Senior Director of Video Production — Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
“I think you should pick Tottenham because I think they’re a club that does it the right way. They have enough money to go out and fill holes, but they are very good at scouting and finding young talent, bringing them up from their academy — especially English talent — and the majority of their team is, in MLS terms, homegrown players, or people who have been in or around the organization for a long time. So fans get to know them. They feel like these players live and die for the club and I think Tottenham is on the upswing right now. [They’re] getting ready to open a new stadium. They’ll have more money, more revenue to spend in the right areas. And they’ve been in and around the championship in the last couple of years. So, I think it’s a team on the upswing. And also, their logo is the best logo of all the logos. ”
Jessica Lopez, Public Relations Manager — Arsenal
“My dad was an Arsenal fan, so I was like, I’m going to pick any team but Arsenal. So I tried Tottenham, I tried Everton. I just kept watching all these games, and I kept trying to go for different teams, and then I started to become more and more attracted to the Arsenal style. It’s a very fluid, pretty style. There was something about that, and something about the group of players they had. Santi Cazorla is my all-time favorite, one of my top three guys. Individuals like that definitely draw me closer to the team. So a guy like Santi [Cazorla], [Laurent] Koscielny, these random dudes. And then, funny guys that you can’t help but love, even though they kind of stink. So I think it’s a combination of the playing style and just the group of guys that they’ve always had. Also, I think the love of hating Spurs is a pretty big positive as well. So you can add that.”
TJ Gulenchyn, Marketing Coordinator — Manchester United
“Manchester United has a reputation as the easy team for people to root for. Just because they’re big, they’ve won a lot of titles, and it seems like a bandwagon team for the most part. And I kind of got drawn into that around the 2007 Champions League, I think it was, when I watched them go and beat Chelsea in penalties, and it was one of the most intense and exciting games that I had seen in my relatively short soccer-watching career. And then I got to learn a bit more of the history and some of the trials and tribulations that they had gone through, like they had the Munich air disaster where a bunch of the members of the team passed away in a plane crash on their way back from European Champions League, and they had to rebuild that squad over decades to bring it back to its former glory. And it’s some of the most fun, attacking soccer out of a team that you can consistently see. That’s why I really like Manchester United.”
Scott Rainy, Graphic Designer — Burnley
“I picked Burnley because I did not want to support another club that someone supported within the office at the time. I started following the team very heavily as they started their run back in the Premier League in 2015-16. Sean Dyche made a great impression using only 25 players the previous season as well as being in the smallest stadium to host an EPL team. That stood out to me. Also, the ridiculous Bertie the Bee mascot is famed for rugby tackling a pitch invader — which is pretty cool I think — then proceeds to do ‘The Worm’ on the pitch after raising his hands in triumph. This year, obviously, it’s been incredible to be a Burnley fan as they have been positioned within the top eight on the table many weeks in a row. Watch out, Champions League!”
Eric Durkee, Director of Public Relations — Everton
“I had the honor and privilege — unlike many who get to decide what team they want to be fans of — of witnessing my first Premier League game in person as an eight-year-old boy. Everton against Liverpool, Merseyside Derby. Everton won. I also like the color blue, so that was very helpful. So I basically chose the winner of that game to be my team. But I think Everton — unlike the Man Cities, the Man Uniteds, the Arsenals, the Spurs — they’ve sort of been a traditional power in the league. They have not always been the equivalent of the Yankees or the Lakers, who kind of go out and buy talent. They’ve always done it in sort of a more blue-collar mentality. They’re one of six teams that have never been relegated, so there’s a lot of pride and tradition there. I also love the nickname: the Toffees. So that was helpful in my journey of becoming a fan.”
Taking all this in and thinking about my own tendencies as a fan — grew up a Red Sox fan in Massachusetts, adopted the Timberwolves circa 2001 or so — I knew I didn’t want to pick a straight frontrunner. So Man City was out, and also probably Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham right now. Although perpetual disappointment has its appeal, I also thought I shouldn’t consign myself yet again to forever being an also-ran or a never-made-it, so I scotched Arsenal. As someone already heavily invested in Minnesota United, there’s an obvious climatological connection to a northern team like Newcastle.
But after talking to everyone, I decided to go with one very surface level reason (i.e. a good mascot, a good color, a good badge) and one deeper reason, plus the desire to support a team no one else was talking about.
Leicester City has experienced an amazing rags-to-riches story recently, going from the third tier to Premier League champs in just seven years. In 2015-16, they won the Premier League after being at the bottom of the table just 12 months previously. I love a story like this, and it’s what I hope for from just about any team I root for. But also, they are not without their controversies and difficulties, having sacked coach Claudio Ranieri after he led them to the title. As of this writing, they’re eighth in the table — respectable, but not gaudy, just the way I like it.
Also, they’re called The Foxes and I like foxes. That's about all I know, but I've decided that's enough. Foxes Never Quit. Let's go.