English Premier League Primer: How to Choose Your New Favorite Club - Rolling Stone
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English Premier League Primer: How to Choose Your New Favorite Club

If the World Cup turned you on to the beautiful game, do we have a club for you

Premier LeaguePremier League

Machester City and the Premier League Trophy on May 11, 2014.

Mark Leech/Getty Images

Remember how amazing your life was during the World Cup? It gave you structure and purpose, and then, well, it went away and things have kinda gone off the rails since. No shame in it; we suppose it’s inevitable. But fear not: the English Premier League is about to begin, and it runs all the way through May.

So, for those of you new the sport – bitten by the World Cup bug, or maybe dragged to one of the exhibition matches this summer – or if you’re just looking for a somewhat passable reason to start drinking at 7:30 in the morning: Welcome. Other than an understanding of the off-side rule and the process of relegation and promotion, all you need is a team. If you haven’t chosen yours yet, fear not…for every personality there is a side.

You’re an underdog

Your team is Sunderland. Sunderland somehow crawled out of its own grave last season, with the safe money around New Year’s being on the team getting relegated. A miraculous run – beating Chelsea and Manchester United, holding Manchester City to a draw, thumping Cardiff City 4-0 – saw the side rise from the relegation sewer to 14th place. Also, U.S. striker Jozy Altidore plies his trade at Sunderland, and while last season was one for Altidore to forget, if he can continue the form he’s had for the U.S. national team (pre-injury, of course), things will be looking up in not-so-sunny Sunderland.

Good to know: In a shock move, young midfielder Jack Colback left Sunderland for rivals Newcastle United at the end of the season. How heated is the rivalry? One Sunderland-Newcastle match last season ended with a wee riot that featured a Newcastle supporter getting arrested for punching police horse in the throat. You might also want to Google “Sunderland manager fascist” for a bit of context on last season’s rocky start.

You’re a masochist

Your team is West Ham. Oh, West Ham. The glitziest of the fringes-of-London clubs has had a tough time catching a break. Recent headlines from the West Ham camp include a summer promotional tour to New Zealand, where the team got slapped around by just about everybody. To splash some napalm in the wound, striker Andy Carroll picked up an injury that’ll see him miss the next few months (he missed much of last season to injury, as well). The new striker they signed, well, he got injured, too. The team’s most promising player, Ravel Morrison, was just in court after threatening to throw acid on his ex-girlfriend’s face, burn her house down and have her killed. Manager Sam Allardyce has been in the news off and on lately, often for rumors that he’s going to be fired before the season starts.

English Premier League

Good to know: The team’s anthem is “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Also, this dude is a supporter. And the brilliant 1985 documentary Hooligan features a group of West Ham supporters, and, to a lesser extent, their hair.

You’re a bottle service kind of guy

Your team is Manchester City. Manchester City has been transformed from a mediocre team into an international powerhouse in the six years since it was bought by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, who has dumped an estimated $1.6 billion into the club. The result is a side sprinkled with luxury players who play often-devastating football in a glittery new stadium. They’re like the Harlem Globetrotters, but with teeth – and, now, trophies.

Good to know: Don’t be put off by City’s lamentable showing at this past weekend’s Community Shield. They really are a terribly intimidating team.

You’re a romantic

Your team is Liverpool. Drenched in history (pick up David Peace’s Red or Dead if you dare), the Reds were the team from the 1970s through the early ’90s. They just wrapped up a mostly successful summer tour of the states after finishing second in the Premier League last season (behind Manchester City). Liverpool is also where Luis Suarez, the World Cup Cannibal, played his club football…until he became the World Cup Cannibal and Liverpool offloaded him for a boatload of money. They’ve wasted no time spraying that cash around, loading up on a mix of established talent and young, promising players. Indeed, one of the big stories in the Premier League is going to be how well Liverpool can do without Suarez’s goals and with a lot of new players to integrate into the side (plus a heavier-than-usual schedule, thanks to inclusion in the Champions League).

English Premier League

Good to know: Might as well set this as your ringtone now.

You’re a Restoration Hardware fan

Your team is Manchester United. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the alcoholic troll writing this article is a Manchester United supporter, and, no, it’s not like supporting the Yankees (honest). United is one of the top teams in the world, rebounding from a deplorably shit season. The new man at the helm is Louis van Gaal, who led the Netherlands to third place in the World Cup. United won all five of its preseason matches in America (including a 3-1 victory over rivals Liverpool) and are playing like Arnold Schwarzenegger to last season’s Danny DeVito.

Good to know: United-Swansea is the first match of the 2014-2015 season, kicking off on Saturday at lunchtime in the U.K. Set your alarm and then watch this before kickoff. But the real question – on the first day of the season, and every day after that – is whether van Gaal can bring back the glory the team knew under Sir Alex Ferguson as recently as, oh, 2013.

You’re a gambler

Your team is Southampton. Here’s the thing: Southampton’s a great club that’s produced some amazing players. But everything’s gone to hell for them over the summer: their manager has decamped for Tottenham Hotspur, and most of the side’s best players – who powered Southampton to an impressive eighth place finish last season – have been bought by bigger teams. So: new season, new manager, a clutch of new faces brought in to plug gaping holes left by departing players. What could go wrong?

English Premier League

Good to know: Southampton’s youth system is legendary, and its graduates include Gareth Bale, who Real Madrid bought last year for a reported world-record $134 million.

You’re an American

Your team is Everton. For starters, Everton’s got American Hero Tim Howard in goal. Throw in a savvy manager who led the team to a comfortable fifth place finish in his first year at the club, and some raw young talent…and you’ve got a team any Bud-swilling non-hipster can get behind. Here’s the catch: the team just broke the bank signing Romelu Lukaku, who you may remember as the guy who came on late for Belgium to sink the U.S. in the World Cup. Forgive him, for he will deliver for you this season.

Good to know: Everton has long played in the shadow of its next-door neighbor Liverpool and also both Manchester clubs, which are just down the road a ways. But there’s a vitality around the club now, and this formerly stoic side have a bit of a threat about them.

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