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Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Making the case for Man City

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The team my family has always followed, I follow and I think would be a good match for you is: Manchester City

This team is the "Mets" of England. Manchester United you have no doubt heard of. Arrogant, pretentious, rich, successful; in short, the Yankees. They are City's crosstown rivals. Each year the two teams play two "Derby" (pronounced "darby") matches and the intensity is on a par with Red Sox-Yankees.

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:

Picking an EPL team, Part I
Picking an EPL team, Part II
Arsenal fan e-mails
Chelsea fan e-mails
Liverpool fan e-mails
Newcastle fan e-mails
Tottenham fan e-mails

A couple more reasons to root for City:

• You will love their manager, Stuart Pearce. As a player he was called "Psycho" and was known for his passion on the field. As a manager he is just as passionate. Always pacing the sidelines, giving instructions, egging the team on, dancing around when they score. But in interviews he is soft-spoken, respectful, honest.

• They have a group of homegrown up-and-coming players who are just coming to the fore. Keep and eye out for Ireland and Croft.

• Manchester United has a marketing deal with the Yankees. So many United fans can be found walking around with Yankees hats at games. It's getting the point where the Yankee hat is starting to be associated with United. There is a smaller, but growing movement to get City fans to wear Sox hats.

• City is a mid-level team that always has the potential to finish in the top four (and thus play in the Champions League) Every year they are also potentials for finishing in the bottom three as thus would get relegated at the end of the season. Imagine if the Royals got sent to a Triple-A league if they finished at the bottom in exchange for the best Triple-A team. That gives you an idea what the promotion/relegation tension is all about.

• They have a beautiful new stadium that is very convenient when flying into Manchester. There are direct flights from the East Coast of the USA (and perhaps the West).
--Mike Parker, Somerville, N.J.

Q: What soccer team should you cheer for?

A: Manchester City

While a huge sports fan, I didn't know the first thing about soccer. Then in 2005, my junior year of college at Penn State, I studied abroad in Manchester, England, and landed an internship with Manchester City. City, as they are affectionately called, is the ugly step-sister to the city's other, slightly more recognizable team, Manchester United. While United has the history, drama, and celebrity following, City just yearns for a little respect. Americans can't root for teams like United, Arsenal, or Chelsea, because the British just won't respect you, or actually respect you less than they already do since they know as Americans we couldn't tell you if a soccer ball is blown up or stuffed.

Brits know that the only team Americans know is Man United because of David Beckham, and he hasn't played there for a few years. Arsenal and Chelsea, the other powerhouses of the league, attract American fans simply because they win. Go with City as your new team. They are young, exciting, have a likeable manager in former player Stuart Pearce, and the nicest stadium in the Premiership. Plus, U.S. team captain Claudio Reyna plays here and City has nothing but exceedingly loyal fans (including the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, who own a luxury box at the stadium), and not the bandwagon that follows United. Even better, though, City is on the verge of making it big. After being relegated a few years ago, they are now back in the Premiership and on the verge of becoming a top team. In a few seasons when they qualify for the Champions League or perhaps win the Premiership, Americans will take note. Plus, how can you not cheer for a team who's "fight" song is the oldies tune Blue Moon?!
-- Maggie, Pittsburgh

You should follow Manchester City:.

1. They are the anti-Manchester United, which is considered the Yankees of the EPL.

2. The former captain of the U.S. National Team, Claudio Reyna, plays for Manchester City. They call him "Captain America." And, he is a terrific player to boot.

3. It's just too easy to follow a team like Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool. If Manchester City scores a goal, wins a game, it feels that much better. Think of how Royals fans feel.
--Mike, Fort Lauderdale

Glad to hear that you're coming around on soccer. I began my love affair with football, post-college, after living in Ireland and England for awhile -- and it happened for me because football dominated the daily Brit sports pages and because the supporters (that's what they call their fans) have such an infectious passion and energy.

I hope that one of your three finalists is Manchester City. Man City, or simply "City," has a history of tempting and torturing its supporters with its wild ups-and-downs. With just a little Internet research, you would learn the stories about how they were relegated in consecutive years, only to work their way back up to the Premier League. They are the Clippers to Man United's Lakers. Their coach, Stuart Pearce, is nicknamed "Psycho" (he was maniacal as a player). They're Oasis' favorite team. Finally, and most importantly, one of their goal-scorers is named Paul Dickov. (And the "ov" is pronounced "off.")

By the way, you'll soon come to love the concept of "relegation" and "promotion." If they brought it to pro sports here it would make things so much more interesting (especially late in the season for the crappy teams). Put it this way: the Detroit Lions would be somwhere in the CFL -- and the Chicago Blackhawks would be playing against PeeWees in Aurora, Illinois.

You'll love the English Premier League (in fact, probably too much). And, your history and background notwithstanding, I assure you that you've never experienced the ambience of a professional sporting event quite like a football match in England. It's Lambeau Field, Wrigley Field, Cameron Indoor, and the Boston Garden all rolled into one (except cooler -- and with more sing-a-long chants). I've seen games at Chelsea, Arsenal, Man U, and Liverpool. Also saw England at Wembley ..

You won't believe your eyes and ears. Welcome aboard.
--Ted, Minnesota

I'm deeply disappointed that you didn't chose Manchester United as your EPL team (or even in the top three). You've made a mistake that you'll regret for the rest of your life, on par with turning down easy sex with a hot chick at a wedding just because she knows someone who knows your girlfriend and it might get back to her (that kind of thing stays with you forever). Since you are going to choose another team, however, at least have the common decency to pick a team like Fulham or Everton or Tottenham (which would be my first pick other than Man Utd.). If you pick Chelsea I swear to God you'll probably die of some terrible disease. Probably worms. Just trying to warn you.
--Mike in Akron

You said that if someone pitched you a English Premier League team, that you would consider being a fan. I have the perfect team for you: Manchester City. The fact that they are the crosstown rival of the world loved/hated Manchester United is enough by itself. (It's EXACTLY like supporting the Clippers instead of the Lakers.) Added, they have Claudio Reyna on the team, Mr. Captain America himself. Their uniforms are a powder blue, which is easy on the eye. And best of all, most of England hates them! They are filled with a bunch of thugs that are 3 to 5 years past their prime. Their goalie is hated by all of England, and their manager, Stuart Pearce, has the nickname "Psycho." Added, they are a perennial middle-of-the-table finisher. So no one can tell you that you're hopping on the bandwagon. Did I mention powder blue uniforms?
--Coos, Bakersfield, Calif.

If you are really looking for an English soccer team to support, Manchester City in England is your club. They are basically English soccer's version of the pre-2004 Red Sox -- always in the shadow of their more famous and far wealthier evil neighbor (Manchester United instead of the Yankees), incredibly loyal fans despite years of broken hearts (no real success in nearly 40 years), supported by celebrities who have seen better days (Oasis instead of Ben Affleck).
--Bryan, New York

I am going to make my pitch for Manchester City Football Club.

1. Rivalry -- Manchester City is arch rivals with Manchester United. Man United is the Yankees. They spend the most; have their own TV network, etc. You hate the Yankees, I hate the Yankees, I hate Manchester United, and you should hate Manchester United. In fact they show Man U games on the YES Network.

2. Fans -- I spent a semester in college in Manchester. All the Manchester City fans are the local hardworking types. They say the Man City fans are in Manchester and Man U fans live in Dubai and Hong Kong. In the late '90s Man City was relegated a couple of times (they were playing on the level of Double-A baseball) All the Second Division teams average 8,000-10,000 fans, Man City averaged 30,000 plus fans. Their fans are incredibly loyal, good or bad.

I could go on and on about my love for City and why you should take them under your wing too, but I will give you one final point. If you're a City fan and they finish in 15th place but they beat Man U, then you had a sucessful year. Beating Man U is all that matters. There is no better feeling then beating your rival when you're the consistant smaller underdog.
--Adam Garfield, Philadelphia

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.