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The new fan’s 2014/15 guide to picking a new Premier League club

Aug 13, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

Manchester City v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

Must read preface: For several years on my own site and then on a Western New York soccer blog, I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. In no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game.

[MORE: Interactive team selector from NBC's Premier League All Access]

But the fact remains that people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. They had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery.

[RELATED: PL season previews]

I almost always advocate choosing a club that isn’t already a giant because that’s my background, but do what feels right. Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cowboys fan who enjoys feeding off the hate of others. By all means, continue onward!

So without further adieu, I submit to you my 2014/15 beginners guide to selecting a Premier League team.

source: Getty Images

1. Arsenal
Last championship: 2003-04
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Gunners
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Tottenham, Chelsea
Comparison: New York Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers
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Gooners… they are everywhere. From Piers Morgan to Prince Harry, Steve Earle to Jay-Z, there’s a bountiful group of celebrity fans and it seems impossible to go to a soccer gathering without meeting an Arsenal supporter. There’s some magic to the club, for sure. French manager Arsene Wenger fashions players who play the game with flair and the club has begun to spend again after paying off a great deal of debt. With Mesut Ozil last year and Alexis Sanchez (and more?) this year, the Gunners are looking for a title fight.

2. Aston Villa
Last championship: 1980-81
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Villians
Location: Birmingham
American players: GK Brad Guzan
Biggest rivals: West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City (championship)
Comparisons: Chicago Bears, Calgary Flames
PST’s Premier League season preview

Great slogan, cool color scheme and some solid players: there are far worse teams to select than Aston Villa. Conceptually, Villa as a strong English side is appealing on a few levels and there’s history to prove the Birmingham team deserves a winner, but manager Paul Lambert has struggled as much as his predecessors and almost had the ignominy of seeing his club relegated for the first time in its history. He’s on the hot seat, and the return to health and form of Christian Benteke is a massive concern.

3. Burnley
Last championship: 1959-60
Years in Premier League: 2/23 (Return: 2014/15)
Nickname: Clarets
Location: Lancashire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Blackburn Rovers (championship)
Comparisons: Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Chiefs
PST’s Premier League season preview

The Clarets have enjoyed local support regardless of what league they’ve fallen into — a headline on a bio I looked into was labeled ‘Decline and Near Oblivion’ — and fans know what they are up against in attempting to survive a season in the Premier League. Still this is a 130-plus year-old club with a rich, rich history. Rooting for Burnley to stay up is a hobby most PL buffs could get into… can you?

source: Getty Images4. Chelsea
Last championship: 2009/10
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Blues
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, QPR
Comparison: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Redskins
PST’s Premier League season preview

Team’s loaded. LOA-DED. They have four EPL titles and some Champions League glories as well, and look fit to build on that this season. Maniacal genius Jose Mourinho enters season No. 2 with his own cast of characters, a process that began in earnest with the pick-up of midfielder Nemanja Matic last January. Here’s what I said last year, “Honestly, if the Blues put the pedal to the floor this year, they have the talent and depth to put up some record-setting or tying marks in wins, goals, goals allowed… everything.” That was wrong, but it hasn’t changed for this year; The addition of Diego Costa makes them a viable contender for the PL title and Europe.

You could do worse than choosing a club in London, as it is an incredible city to visit. Aside from my distaste for John Terry, they are a decent choice. Chelsea is going to be good — if not great — for a long, long time.

5. Crystal Palace
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 7/23
Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon
Comparisons: New Jersey Devils, Memphis Grizzlies
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Palace is a truly intriguing option. They seem to be a real working-class London club, a statement backed up by the management of Tony Pulis. I love their modern crest, though they aren’t new jacks. Australian mid Mile Jedinak is a great man to have in the middle of the park, and the addition of Brede Hangeland will make them even harder to play against this season.

6. Everton
Last championship: 1986-87
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Toffees, The School of Science
Location: Liverpool
American players: GK Tim Howard
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
Comparison: Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos
PST’s Premier League season preview

It’s hard not to like Everton, especially under borderline genius Roberto Martinez. Provided Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman don’t drop off, and we see continued development for Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, Everton will compete again for a UEFA Champions League slot. With a classy kit/color scheme and a fun rivalry with Liverpool, they are a good choice for new fans. Plus…. American World Cup hero Tim Howard is their longtime starting netminder.

7. Hull City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/23
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Kingston upon Hull
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Grimsby Town, Scunthorpe United
Comparisons: Toronto Raptors, Cincinnati Bengals
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Hull under Steve Bruce is an interesting club in that you really never know what you are going to get. The Tigers ran to the FA Cup final and gave Arsenal a scare before ultimately going down to defeat. They’ve already used their first European run to get into the playoff round by beating Trencin, and now have a winnable set-up against Belgian club Lokeren. They are true underdogs, not only in Europe but in England. If you can put up with owner drama — Assem Allam wants to change the team’s brand — you can probably enjoy rooting for a smaller club like Hull.

8. Leicester City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 9/23 (Return: 2014/15)
Nickname: Foxes
Location: Leicester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Comparison: Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Orioles
PST’s Premier League season preview

Leicester — or Lie-cester, as Ted Lasso would say — rolled through the Championship last season on 102 points, more than any team outside of Newcastle in the past decade. The Foxes are four-time FA Cup and three-time League Cup winners, and I personally dig the ‘Foxes’ nickname. Forty-six of their 108 seasons in football have been in England’s top flight, and it would be cool to see Leicester stick around for a while.

source: Getty Images9. Liverpool
Last championship: 1989-90
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Reds
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Everton, Manchester United
Comparison: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Flyers
PST’s Premier League season preview

Really, it’s fair to call Liverpool the most storied club in the EPL, both title-winning (they have 18) and horrific (their supporters have been involved in two of the biggest tragedies in football history). Like Manchester United, now is a time to jump on board the Liverpool train if you want to join a big club. Liverpool has its return to the UEFA Champions League this year and came oh, so close last season before slipping up in the season’s penultimate fixture. And now, with Luis Suarez gone, perhaps there’s less villainy to choosing the Reds.

10. Manchester City
Last championship: 2013/14
Years in Premier League: 18/23
Nickname: Citizens
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Comparison: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Angels
PST’s Premier League season preview

Manchester City is a cluster of fun. They have great money, talent and depth, and if you like Oasis you’re in even more luck (The Gallagher Brothers are massive fans). If you pick Man City now, you’re joining a good deal of perceived bandwagoneers — rightly or wrongly — but if baby blue is your hue, don’t let anyone convince you it’s any worse than choosing any other of the giant clubs in the world. Soccer’s money now. We have to deal with it. The reigning champs and winners of two of the last three, City will be a big club for a long time barring unforeseen advances in energy manipulation. Also consider that there will be a natural connection to NYC FC in MLS.

11. Manchester United
Last championship: 2010-11
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Red Devils
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City
Comparison: New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, New England Patriots
PST’s Premier League season preview

Now is an okay time to get on board with Manchester United and not just feel like you’ve jumped on a bandwagon. You’re a new soccer fan, and the team was a relative shambles last year. New manager Louis van Gaal has a great resume and the club is and will be loaded. United has England’s best talent (Wayne Rooney) and Holland’s captain in Robin van Persie. It will take just a couple great signings, center back and physical midfielder, for an immediate boost back into UEFA Champions League competition.

source: Getty Images12. Newcastle United
Last championship: 1926-27
Years in Premier League: 21/23
Nickname: Magpies
Location: North England
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Sunderland, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Chicago Cubs, Buffalo Bills
PST’s Premier League season preview

Call them a combination of the Chicago Cubs and the Buffalo Bills, as Newcastle is a rich club that has only been the bridesmaid for years upon years. One of the biographies on the team’s history — and a great read at that — is entitled “Fifty Years of Hurt” (Yup). My goodness have they had hard luck and heartbreak along the way. This club has taken an absolute beating yet continues to find ways to rebound, most recently with a decent performance during their return to the top flight in 2010/11. It’s a miserable team to support, let’s be honest, but head butting manager Alan Pardew has a slew of new talent this season, and is set to tease his fans with another Top 10 run.

13. Queens Park Rangers
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 7/23 (Return: 2014/15)
Nickname: Hoops, The R’s
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brentford, Chelsea, Fulham
Comparison: New York Mets, Brooklyn Nets
PST’s Premier League season preview

Harry Redknapp guided the club into the Championship and then back into the Premier League in two years time, though his big budget and playoff success were bigger components than consistency. The opinionated boss should have no trouble adapting his veteran club to the Premier League, but could face problems if he struggles to do so. In talking to a QPR blogger for a piece I’m working on, he maintained that Loftus Road is the “most vocal ground in the country” on its best days, and that the club’s jersey is the best going. Judge for yourselves, but a London club, as stated before, does provide great travel opportunities.

14. Southampton
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 16/23
Nickname: Saints
Location: Southampton
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Comparison: Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Athletics
PST’s Premier League season preview

A club that has seen major glory, including an FA Cup win, but also been through the depths of despair following a relegation and administration allllllll the waaaaaay down to League One… now into a third-straight season in the Premier League. But wait!! The Saints have sold a bevy of their young talent and move forward with a bunch of question marks. Many are tabbing them as relegation favorites, but experienced players like Fraser Forster and Shane Long have joined an influx of new PL talent for manager Ronald Koeman. Hold on, this will be an interesting year to ride the St. Mary’s Express.

source: AP15. Stoke City
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 7/23 (Return 2008-09)
Nickname: Potters
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
American players: DF Geoff Cameron, MF Brek Shea
Biggest rivals: Port Vale
Comparison: Green Bay Packers (without the titles), Portland Trailblazers
PST’s Premier League season preview

Loads of respect for the fans of Stoke, a club that has smartly moved up the Premier League pecking order. Moving from Tony Pulis to Mark Hughes carried a few bumps in the road, but the Potters were really moving by the end of last season. Bringing in defender Phil Bardsley and Barcelona attacker Bojan Krkic help both ends of the pitch, while they carry under-the-radar players Marko Arnautovic and, yes, the USMNT’s Geoff Cameron. As a new fan, you can adopt Stoke City and feel pretty decent about not hopping the major club bandwagon but also not worrying about falling out of the league.

16. Sunderland
Last championship: 1935-36
Years in Premier League: 14/23
Nickname: Mackems, Black Cats
Location: Sunderland, Tyne-upon-Wear
American players: FW Jozy Altidore
Biggest rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs
PST’s Premier League season preview

There’s decent tradition in Sunderland to go with a good manager in Gus Poyet, but it’s incredible that they even survived their moribund last season. American forward Jozy Altidore can still play a big role in their season, and their new relationship with DC United is also cause for raised American eyebrows. Another fun fact: their nickname isn’t an actual word (Mackem is short for Make Them, abbreviated).

17. Swansea City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/23
Nickname: The Swans, The Jacks
Location: Wales
American players: MF Kristian Scott (reserves)
Biggest rivals: Cardiff City
Comparison: Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Suns
PST’s Premier League season preview

A big time rugby area, Swansea is also indicative of the a travelers dream: friends have told me it’s a gorgeous place to visit. They’ve played a good deal of free-wheeling football and I certainly wouldn’t mind supporting the Swans under Garry Monk, a longtime club man who kept the team alive last season. Sure, they dealt with a bevy of training ground drama, but Swansea has the feel of a club that could stay up for a while.

18. Tottenham Hotspur
Last championship: 1960-61
Years in Premier League: 23/23
Nickname: Spurs
Location: London
American players: GK Brad Friedel, DF DeAndre Yedlin (next season)
Biggest rivals: Arsenal
Comparison: Washington Capitals, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Cowboys
PST’s Premier League season preview

Spurs are a good team to pick. They have an awesome name, a cool-albeit-goofy logo and they play in London, so visiting them is an A-plus idea. Tottenham hates Arsenal, so it’s a good bet for vitriol as well. Spurs also have a ton of extremely likable and/or exciting players: Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela among them. There’s also terrific French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and his American backup, Brad Friedel. There’s really a terrific tradition in North London and perhaps they’ve moved from being “so close” to being truly elite again.

19. West Bromwich Albion

Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 9/23
Nickname: Baggies, West Brom
Location: West Midlands
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton
Comparison: Milwaukee Brewers, Indiana Pacers
PST’s Premier League season preview

I’ll let Wikipedia show you why I have respect for the fans of this club:

“Albion have always enjoyed loyal and passionate support… Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting “Boing Boing”. This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion’s fans were voted the best in the Premier League by their peers, while in the BBC’s 2002 “national intelligence test” Test the Nation, they were found to be ‘more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138′.”

source: Getty Images20. West Ham United
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 19/23
Nickname: Hammers, the Irons
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Millwall, Leyton Orient
Comparison: Philadelphia 76ers, Oakland Raiders
PST’s Premier League season preview

The Irons are forever blowing bubbles, but in recent years have had to worry about blowing their season. West Ham is a proud club that has played some boring soccer under boss Sam Allardyce. To be fair, their last few seasons have featured injuries to big purchase Andy Carroll, and this year they’ve added Enner Valencia to what should be an okay attack should Kevin Nolan stay in form, healthy and unsuspended.

  1. mikeevergreen - Aug 13, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    Arsenal and Tottenham hate each other so much, I’m surprised they don’t have occasional shooting wars at their games. They BOTH hate Chelsea and Manchester Disjointed almost as much.

  2. dfstell - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    I love most of your writing on this site, but I really hate these guides to picking a team…..especially when they come with comparisons to US pro sports teams in other sports.

    It’s really not hard to pick a team. Just start watching. Watch some games, watch some studio shows, eventually you’ll be drawn to a team because you like one of their players or their coach or their style of play or a chat their fans do………….something happens and then you’re a fan of that team.

    I’m a somewhat newer soccer fan who became a fan in the last 10 years. I didn’t really try to pick an EPL club, I just started watching and enjoyed Manchester United: they won, they always had drama going on off the field, they were always on TV, etc. Done deal. I’m a United fan.

    I also wanted to have a MLS team to support, but in that case, I tried to “pick” a club. I decided that DC United would be a good choice because I saw their history on Wikipedia, I remembered hearing their name on Sportscenter in the 90s, they were closer to my home than any other MLS team, etc. I tried to follow DC United and just never made any connection with the club or anything about it. But…..just by watching MLS games, I decided I enjoyed LA Galaxy because Landon Donovan was there as was Beckham. They always had transfer gossip stories and were pretty successful on the field. Lots of games on TV too. So, in that case, I really tried to PICK a team in a rational way…..and it just didn’t work…..but along the way I found another team that I liked a lot better and am now a fan of them even though Beckham is long gone.

    • Nicholas Mendola - Aug 13, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      I appreciate your sentiments, and I agree in certain ways. But for me the whole idea of a guide was for people to realize they had options outside of picking the giant clubs. There was a time in my life when I really enjoyed Arsenal and would’ve laid claim to them, but I couldn’t do that.

      I like to relate it to the North American sports I grew up loving. If I was introducing someone to hockey and they lived in a neutral spot, I wouldn’t advocate the Flyers or the Rangers. It’s fun to have those teams as admirable enemies. And when your team is on the rise, it becomes extra special when the Caps, Kings or Sabres awaken from their doldrums.

      I just know that people latch onto a league when they have a horse in the race, so to speak. For those of us who ride it out until we love a team — and there’s no rule against switching early, I gather — that’s great. But the Premier League, like the World Cup, can be the so-called ‘gateway’ of soccer. All aboard!

      • dfstell - Aug 13, 2014 at 5:44 PM

        Fair enough. I didn’t mean to come off harsh. I just find it interesting that there are so many guides to picking an EPL team.

        Honest question: Why is there a gentle push to support the non-traditional teams? It’s constantly mentioned in these sorts of guides: “You don’t have to just support Chelsea, Manchester United, etc.” I know it adds variety to the fanbase, but I’m sure you know as a web writer than a Manchester United transfer rumor report generates clicks whereas a Fulham transfer rumor is hardly worth typing up because nobody will click the article.

        There’s no similar push to get Americans to support the Cleveland Indians.

      • Nicholas Mendola - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:13 PM

        Well for me, there is (not the Indians, per se). Sports, soccer especially, is more fun for me when I can sit down and watch with a friend. I have a ton of friends who worship Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and at least a handful for Chelsea. But sitting down to watch my preferred club with a friend who supports West Ham or Aston Villa helps highlights the non-traditionally powerful match-ups.

        Plus I think some people want to be part of the future glory days and prefer to look forward than back. Not that that should stop anyone from supporting a massive club.

    • djp141 - Aug 13, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      Eh, it’s a fun read. I don’t think anyone takes the team comparisons that seriously. Last year Crystal Palace was compared to the NY Islanders, this year it’s the New Jersey Devils. That’s seven Stanley Cups, for a team that’s spent most of its existence outside the top flight.

  3. player169 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:18 PM

    I feel connected to MLS. My money goes to the club I support. EPL is a fun league, but I find it hard to attach myself to a team. I like watching games with American field players. Stoke’s rise has been fun to watch, but if Cameron fell out of the starting lineup, I doubt I would watch. If Yedlin starts playing 1st team at some point, I’ll watch Spurs again…but again…drop the American and I’m done caring. Liverpool would be STL Cardinals in my book. Storied franchise from a smaller large city….

  4. jhmiddleton81 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:38 PM

    I might sound like a fool commenting like this but I have been caught up in world cup fever and am looking for a top team to start supporting in England (I already like Celtic FC). For some reason I just don’t like Manchester City and Chelsea (maybe because I don’t like teams from when they start at the top I kinda like watching them get better) but I was thinking of picking between (Everton, Liverpool, Man U, Arsenal, and Tottenham). I am a Leafs, Raptors, Jets, Blue Jays fan so history means a little to me but not that much. I really like watching highly skilled soccer, with fast and big and strong players) I might sound like kind of a loser, but I just wanna know the style of these teams and which team would fit me best. I am a big Lukaku, Bale, Ozil and Sturridge fan (can’t root for Real ever) I mean any suggestions would help

    • jhmiddleton81 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:41 PM

      I’m leaning towards Tottenham or Everton the most

    • Nicholas Mendola - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      Liverpool or Everton, who are diametrically opposed, seem like a good fit for you.

      • jhmiddleton81 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:02 PM

        I like the big strong guys who also have speed like a Lukaku, Adebayor and a Sturridge so that would make sense for me. I am a big guy myself so I appreciate the big strong physical players a lot

  5. Matthew - Aug 14, 2014 at 3:22 AM

    Reblogged this on Carolina Mountain Blue.

  6. nokoolaidcowboy - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Hey Nicholas (and anyone else in the know), I’m torn between Stoke City and Tottenham. I’ve been a life long Dallas Cowboys fan before Jerry Jones came along (he’s turned me into a self hating Cowboys fan seriously considering dropping my affiliation) but I’m not basing Tottenham on this.

    I’d like to see Americans on a team I choose but I don’t want to be a bandwagoneer (?). I love tradition and am loyal, can’t wait to watch Albion because of their fans! I want to find lightening in a bottle and say I chose them long before….

    How do the Potters and Spurs match up?

  7. scab47 - Aug 14, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    The comparisons to other American sports teams is unfortunate but perhaps necessary until there is more familiarity with world soccer. What bothers me more is the idea that people should only watch and support EPL sides. It’s not like good soccer is only played in England. Until there is more publicity for teams in Spain, Germany, Italy, France, etc., these guides will have to be seen as little more than tools to get people to watch streaming matches of EPL NBC.

    • djp141 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:03 AM

      To be fair, the EPL is a lot more accessible for Americans than the leagues you mentioned. At least in terms of television exposure. Not everyone has bEIN or GOLTV.

  8. shawndc04 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:11 AM

    Tottenham all the way. I went to White Hart Lane years ago when in school, and there was nothing like that experience.

  9. kiadi2014 - Aug 14, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    It’s Everton for me! Great history, fantastic players and coach and a good history with MLS players. Wouldn’t agree with the Denver Broncos comparison though. Everton are sleeping giants just waiting for the right investment.

  10. scoochpooch - Aug 14, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    Nicholas,

    I think Man United last won in 2012-2013 under Sir Alex.
    I assume Man City rivals are Man United as well.

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