The choice of an English Premiership team is easy: Liverpool FC. They are basically the Boston Celtics of the EPL, except right now they are better than the C's. They've won a ton of championships, but none recently, in a working class, historically relevant city (complete with underlying racial tension, although in Liverpool's case it comes from centuries of slave trading). Also, they play at Anfield, which may be the closest thing to an outdoor Boston Garden you'll ever find. They have a rabid fan base (so they show up on television in the U.S. more than most teams) who go nuts at games. They also have multiple serious rivalries (Manchester United = Lakers; Everton = Sixers) so there are a couple of way over-the-top games to check out every season.
They are pretty good right now, too. Someone will try to get you to root for Chelsea, but they are basically the Yankees, if Steinbrenner was a Russian mafioso who bought a team with no history and overpaid for everyone to make them good just until he gets bored and sells the team to someone who can't afford the payroll. Also, rooting for Chelsea makes you look like a bandwagon jumper. And Michael Buble wears a Chelsea jersey on VH1, so you wouldn't be able to wear yours on "I Love the '80s volume 14." Liverpool won the European Championship two years ago (despite finishing fourth in England) and won the FA Cup last year. They play extraordinarily exciting games and have a knack for seemingly impossible comebacks.
--Ryan Bernardoni, Hartford
|The EPL Decision: Box Set|
From the fans to the Sports Guy, here's all you need to know to pick your own EPL team:|
Liverpool's captain, Steven Gerrard, the definition of a true leader, last year's MVP, and England's most complete midfielder of his generation). We also have cult heroes, like our 6-foot-7 inch robot-dancing freak, Peter Crouch. Add our tough-as-nails loca- born defender, Jamie Carragher. And, last but not least, the man they call "God" (how's that for a nickname?), Robbie Fowler, who once sniffed a goal line after scoring to silence the "smackhead" chants opposing fans had been directing at him throughout the game.
To understand Liverpool Football Club, you have to understand the city of Liverpool itself. At one time, it was home to one of the busiest shipping docks in the world, a place where people from all over gathered to build themselves a better life. Slowly, Liverpool's importance in the world economy began to slip, and harsh government policies which favoured upper-class businessmen at the expense of the vast Liverpudlian middle class led to the city falling by the wayside in economic development. However, the people of Liverpool always had tremendous local pride, and their support for their football club reflected this. No matter how much they were personally suffering, the people of Liverpool could always look to the team as a shining beacon of hope for their city's cause. Liverpool began to accumulate league and European titles in huge numbers, throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s. Even the Beatles supported the Reds! They are considered the most successful team in English history, with 18 league titles. The Boston Celtics of the NBA would be an apt comparison to the legendary LFC.
Liverpool last won a league title in 1990. Since then, the league has been dominated by the deep pockets of Manchester United, Chelsea, and Arsenal. Liverpool have had a resurgence of late, winning a record fifth European Cup in 2005 (1 million people showed up at the parade, more than the number of people in Rome who celebrated Italy's recent World Cup win). They have also captured a variety of domestic and less prestigious European competitions over the last five years, including a UEFA cup, 2 FA cups, and 2 league cups). They are definitely a team on the rise, one of the few teams to actually beat Chelsea in cup play. They are managed by a cagey Spaniard, Rafa Benitez, who twice won league titles in Spain managing Valencia over traditional powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid. He has quickly rebuilt Liverpool into a looming force in world football, knocking at the door of the evil Chelsea goliath with slingshot in hand.
Why should you support Liverpool? Because of the history, the fans, the players, and what the team represents. In 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters died in the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, an event immortalized by the twin flames on the official club shield. Liverpool fans vowed never to forget their fallen comrades, and to this day carry on their memories in banners, scarves, songs, and poems. It was an event that actually brought an end to Liverpool's reign of success, as the manager at the time, Kenny Daglish, was forced to retire a few seasons later on account of the accumulated stress that dealing with the families and friends of the victims, plus his own memories of the tragedy, had brought upon him.
Liverpool fans are famous for their "scouser wit," their appreciation for good football, and their knowledge of the game. The players don't cheat, they don't complain, they don't make fools of themselves off the field, they just go out and try to make their fans happy. The manager is the most intelligent and well-liked man in the league, a true gentleman in a world of prima donnas. The club has a rich and storied history, and a destiny to reclaim their place at the top of the league table. Hop on the bandwagon, its going to be one hell of a ride.
--Karamdeep Nijjar, Kitchener, Ontario
Want to help you out picking an English Premier League team to support. You should definitely support Liverpool! They've upended Michael Davies' Chelsea the last two years in two big competitions (FA Cup and Champions League and also won both of the competitions) plus they have one of the bets traditions of any club in England as well as one of the league's greatest characters -- forward Robbie Fowler. Fowler, nicknamed "God" with a capital "G", once scored a goal and then prompted to sniff the goal-line like he was sniffing cocaine in order to taunt the rival fans from Everton (Liverpool's city rival) who had always taunted him about having drug problems. You can watch the clip on YouTube.
--Tom, Royal Oak, Mich.
In regards to your possible need to pick an English football team, let me advise you to do as I did seven years ago when I picked up rooting on the sport, choose Liverpool FC.
Why, you ask? They have shades of the Boston franchises in them. Examples:
1) Blue Collar -- Liverpool is basically a blue-collar city with a good sense of humor about themselves. The people really connect to their team much like Red Sox fans and, even more, Bruins fans do.
2) Past glory -- Liverpool in the '70s and '80s were THE dominant team in football, much like the Celtics of old. While the present club is still winning big trophies, it's been missing the biggest prize, the EPL championship, for almost 20 years. Some angst rides with Liverpool, much like the pre-2004 Sox
3) Big but not Biggest -- Monster teams like Manchester United and Chelsea spend MASSIVE money to build teams. While Liverpool spends big bucks as well, they are never going to get the biggest players unless they grow them themselves in the system. While Man U and Chelsea are the Yankees, Liverpool are the BoSox.
4) The Beatles Factor -- Cannot dispense the fact that John, Paul, Ringo and George came from their neighborhood.
5) Funny accents -- "Scouser" accents are as fun as a Southie's ... but Scousers are a lot nicer ...
6) Belichick/Benitez -- The Spanish coach of Liverpool, Rafa Benitez, is widely now being accepted as one of the greatest coaches going, ala Bill in Foxboro.
7) Peter Crouch -- The gangly 6-7 striker is an x-ray of Robert Parish but with the new robot dance to bust out with.
8) Team Song -- Forget Tessie, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is the greatest team sing-along going.
9) Old Parks -- Fenway, meet Ansfield.
10) Tom Brady/Steve Gerrard -- Seperated at birth for their skill and leadership at young ages.
Well, there you go (though I could go on). Liverpool also gets good coverage on the Fox Soccer Channel so you can follow them pretty easily. Choose wisely, English football fans hate bandwagon jumpers ...
--Dana Constance, Alameda, Calif.
I think your team may be Liverpool. They have a strong Irish base, as many Irish immigrated to the town in the 19th century. They feature probably the best Englishman playing soccer right now in Steven Gerrard. Plus, before every game their supporters hold red and white scarves over their heads and sing the Roger and Hammerstein's ballad "You'll Never Walk Alone." It's a pretty cool sight. You can go to YouTube and type in Liverpool FC and a clip of them singing the song will pop up.
-- Patrick Cody, New Albany, Ind.
Mr. Simmons, I vote you choose Liverpool FC as your Premiership team. I had to make the same decision a year or so ago, and that is who I chose -- partly because Liverpool games were always on Fox Sports World when I felt like watching soccer, but also because they 1) always feel like the underdogs, whether they are or not; 2) they have a lot of guys who just seem to be having fun; 3) their run to the Champions League title last year was a great story -- they played horrible in the Premiership, but made the Champions League tourney based on the previous season's record. They were completely counted out, but ended up upsetting everyone to take the cup, complete with a final game that went to penalty kicks, with a goalie who pulled out some rubber-legs trick to psyche out the opposing PKers. Hilarious, and genius. Choose The Reds! Choose Liverpool!
--Miles ZS, Lafayette, Ind.
Just read your chat session and wanted to chime in on which soccer team you should follow. When I was in college, I studied abroad in London and was a huge Chelsea fan because I lived there and quietly supported Arsenal because of Thierry Henry. My views have changed considerably since then.
Liverpool is where it's at.
Firstly, their superstar is one of the best in the world, Steven Gerrard (Stevie GERrard is the correct way of saying his name). Gerrard grew up in Liverpool and refused to leave his hometown team and just carried them (literally CARRIED them) to the European Champions League trophy ... unbelievable, there is no American comparison.
They have the greatest fans in all of sports. That's hard for me to admit but I have to. All Premiership teams have great fans but Liverpool also has the greatest song. "You'll Never Walk Alone" is actually moving when every person in Anfield is singing it. Plus the Liverpool accent (referred to as scouser in England) is second to none. It's a whole different language.
--Greg M., Medfield, Mass,
I'm making the case for Liverpool as my English Premier League team of choice. I'm from Oklahoma and I have never visited England, but I became a Liverpool fan after Michael Owen's goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup and spent way too much time playing the EA FIFA series and the underappreciated Winning Eleven series on the PS2 with Michael Owen on my side.
2005 Champions League Final where they came back from 3-0 in a matter of six minutes. This happened the same season Michael Owen jumped ship for Real Madrid because he was tired of not winning major titles.
2006 FA Cup, where they came back from 2-0.
Good history of titles (five Champions League, 18 League titles)
They are a big-money team, but not as Yankees-like as Chelsea or Manchester United. Thus, they always have a chance to win, but you don't feel like you are rooting on Darth Vader when you cheer for them.
"You'll Never Walk Alone" has to be the coolest sports team slogan ever -- complete with song. There are even versions of it by Elvis and Ray Charles (and, of course, Gerry and the Pacemakers).
Their sponsor is an excellent Danish Beer, which makes for a cool, classy replica jersey.
Robbie Fowler. The 31-year-old smiley forward is back on his old team. Fourth-highest goal scorer in EPL history. He's pulling an Alonzo Mourning.
Peter Crouch. He's so goofy and lanky (6-7) that you can't help but root for him. And, he does the robot (the RoboCrouch) after every goal. His nicknames include Two Metre Peter, Crouchinho and Sticks. Univisions Spanish speaking commentators call him "Mr. Roboto."
Stephen Gerrard -- One of the five best players in the world right now. He underperformed in the World Cup, but check out his 2006 FA Cup goals. He also decided to go to Chelsea after the Champions League, had nightmares that night, and got up the next day and decided against Chelsea and declared himself a Liverpool player for life. Epic stuff.
--Kip Brown, D.C.
Here are two reasons for adopting Liverpool as your English soccer team: 1) they have a 6-7 lanky striker named Crouch who looks like the guy from "Trainspotting"; 2) their fans are big gamblers; in January, a Liverpool fan won $44k when one of their midfielders, Xabi Alonso, scored from his own half of the field, the odds of this happening during any point of the season for Alsonso were set at 2500 to 1 (the guy said he placed the bet after watching Alsonso try several attempts last year)
--Brian, Aston, Pa.
I've been watching Premier League on FSC for a couple years but hadn't settled on anybody until just recently. I know I didn't like Man U. (the Yankees of the EPL), but that was about it. I also knew that Chelsea (Davies' favorite, I believe) and Arsenal were high-powered, big-checkbook teams. After watching the World Cup, I checked out the Premiership Web sites, seeing which players were where, and learning about the teams. I decided to root for Liverpool. Here's why.
They're from Liverpool, home of the most important band of all time. Yes, I am nearly 50.
The motto on their crest is "You'll Never Walk Alone," which comes from the musical Carousel, but channeled through Gerry and the Pacemakers, circa 1962. That the fans sing this and have embraced its cheese is frankly outstanding.
If you listen to Pink Floyd's "Fearless" (on the Meddle album), you can hear a football crowd singing at the end. That's Liverpool fans singing the aforementioned "You'll Never Walk Alone."
The team nickname is the Reds, which if you grew up a Cincy fan (like me) or a Boston fan (like you), carries a certain resonance.
How can you not like a team that has a 6-7 striker (Crouch)?
I'm am sure there are more reasons, but I am already convinced. Reds for Life.
By the way, one of the entertaining shows on FSC during the Premiership season is when they show one of the matches with commentary provided by the average fan. They take one fan of each team, sit them in the booth, and let them go. After you pick up the rhythm of the accents (about a half), it is pretty funny. I recommend it. Last year it was on Wednesday or Thursday evening. Check local listings.
--Joe Pierson, Indy
Pick Liverpool FC for the following reasons:
• Most League titles in history with 18, but none since 1990. When they next win, the party will be unbelievable.
• 5 European cups (now called Champions League), the top trophy in club world soccer. Oh, and they won the last one in 2004 by overcoming a 3-0 deficit at halftime to win on penalties in the biggest comeback in Champions League history (I'm sure you can relate). I defy you to watch that game and not get caught up in the drama. Electrifying.
• A Spanish manager Rafa Benitez who has wrought "The Rafalution" to the club, but has to keep them in contention with a fraction of the money that Chelsea and Manchester United have.
• Manchester United have the most recognition in the world but are owned by Malcolm Glazer (think Yankees) while Chelsea are owned by a shady Russian billionaire who has raised spending to a new art form (think Steinbrenner, but instead of a $200 million payroll, it's an $800 million payroll. This is no exaggeration. Check the comparative numbers of what they've spent vs. everyone else).
• Wouldn't you want to join a team on the cusp of a return to glory, based purely on tactics and smart management as opposed to wads of cash? They are also the most exciting team to watch, as evidenced by the comeback in the FA Cup final a few months ago down 2-0, to score the tying third goal in injury time from about 35 yards by captain Steve Gerrard.
• Don't you want a team whose prodigal son striker Robbie Fowler scored so many goals that his nickname was/is "God"? Seriously, can you get a better nickname than God?
• Their anthem "You'll never walk alone" is probably the most famous football anthem of all time.
My work here is done.
--Manohar Venkataraman, NYC
If you're looking for team to follow in the English Premiership, I will make the case for my favorite club -- Liverpool. I've been a fan since 1989, when my dad woke me up early on a Saturday morning to watch the FA Cup Final between Liverpool and Everton, one of their biggest rivals. I loved Liverpool's red uniforms, and the match was thrilling, with Liverpool winning in extra time. I was amazed watching Ian Rush and John Barnes do things with a soccer ball that I could not imagine, and I was completely hooked. Following Liverpool ever since has provided the appropriate range -- some good, some bad -- of emotions for a supporter. They have not won the Premiership in recent years, but they have had success in the FA Cup competition and in Europe, winning the Champions League a season ago.
Rooting for Cheslea [sorry Michael Davies] and Manchester United are like rooting for the Yankees -- they buy everything and have won a lot of league championships, but it's still soulless. If you root for the house in blackjack, then you'd make a great Chelsea or Man U supporter. If Liverpool do win the League, I'll find it that much sweeter since they don't win it every year.
For as much as we talk about fan bases "suffering," Liverpool supporters have experienced real suffering. In 1989, 96 of their supporters were crushed to death in a crowded terrace during the FA Cup semifinal. I could never take any Philly "suffering" seriously after seeing the pictures of that horrible day. It adds a element to the support of a sports team that we don't often see in the U.S.
--Mike K., Philly
This will show you why you should be a Liverpool fan. The best fans in the world plus they are qualified for the Champions League and they have a chance to win every year. Alsom their captain Steven Gerrard is a Pantheon player.
I saw from your chat transcript that you're looking for an English Premier League team to support. Allow me to suggest Liverpool FC for the following reasons:
1. They're a lot like the Celtics -- a traditional power from a smallish city- -- except that their down cycles haven't tended to drag on for decades.
2. The other really strong teams have major downsides: Man Utd. (the Yankees of the EPL); Chelsea (a total crap club that's currently enjoying success thanks to its shady Russian oligarch owner -- imagine if a billionaire bought the Texas Rangers and then proceeded to run up a $400 million payroll); Arsenal (they play a nice game, but they're a bunch of North London nancy boys).
--Mike, Raleigh, N.C.
I give to you Liverpool; specifically Steven Gerrard. When it comes to clutch, Big Papi is the Steven Gerrard of baseball.
Now that you can appreciate great goals, feast on this.
Keep in mind the last goal is in the 90+ minute to put Liverpool through to the knockout rounds of the Champions League cup.
And those don't even include his 90+ minute goal for Liverpool to win the FA Cup this year. This goal is just sick. Did I mention it's the 90+ minute?:
Oh yeah, he also scored the second goal in that game.
--Andy, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Liverpool -- this is your team, my friend. One of the more populous, though destitute, cities in England. Tough, blue collar, lots of street cred. Also conversely renowned for its cosmopolitan culture. Much like Boston and New Orleans. Residents are nicknamed "scousers." Home to Clive Barker and Wayne Rooney. And these musicians: the Beatles, Echo and the Bunneymen, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Flock of Seagulls (think Pulp Fiction), Dead or Alive, OMD. And lastly, the winningest team in the long history of English soccer, though that gets lost in the propaganda/bias bestowed upon the more popular teams. I think we have a winner.
--Reid, New Orleans
So you need a soccer team? Let me help: as a Bostonian, you're a natural Liverpool fan. Liverpool is the Boston of England: the accent is awful, everyone drinks too much, the locals have a sketchy reputation, and everyone thinks they're Irish (ok, that was redundant). Want more? Bob Kraft has been floating around as an investor, and their arch-rivals (Manchester United) have a business partership with the Yankees. What more do you need?
Hey, so if you're actually planning on GOING to games, there really isn't a single stadium or fan base, as great as Liverpool. I just rewatched my "Road to Istanbul" DVD last night; there's just no comparison to Liverpool fans in all of England. It's not close. Also for Liverpool, they're the team of the Irish. I know you're English by descent (me too) but there are a ton of Irish in Boston. In America we feel some sort of kinship with the Irish, so that only helps liverpool's cause. FINALLY -- they're the only team in England where the players are actually born and raised in Liverpool and have played for Liverpool since they were 8. In England soccer works that way -- you play for a youth side that is affiliated with a club team from a very early age and work your way through the system. Steven Gerard has played for the same team that he's supported his entire life, same with Jamie Carragher and so on (Gerard is the next England captain, Carragher probably the second-best England defender). It's so disgusting to watch a team like Arsenal or Chelsea who don't even have a single English person on the team. Where's the loyalty to come from? Steven gerard ROUTINELY goes out to bars after games because he's an average scouser (he was much criticized for this earlier in his career). Finally, if you can watch this DVD without crying, well ... I don't think that's possible.
Walking out to "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Anfield.
The Kop. History of the Green Monster meets the sounds of the old Garden.
A 6-7 giraffe that does the robot when he scores. Endless entertainment.
Steven Gerrard. Watch this year's FA Cup Final.
You can't support Chelsea -- they don't have a soul. Already dropped ManYoo, the Yankees of the EPL. Aresnal? Nah. Newcastle United, Tottenham or West Ham are all credible picks&no complaints if you go with them.
Blue-collar town and blue-collar fans, Anfield and the Kop, loads of history (both tragic and euphoric) and even more class.
There's only one Liverpool.
-- Brian, Baku, Azerbaijan
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.