Bored By The EPL's Big Four

premier-league-logo1.pngI’m a free transfer in search of a new club! :)

As I follow the EPL this season, I will not be following Manchester United. I have decided to pick a club outside the Big Four as ‘my club’ for this season. It will be a tough change (I’ll probably still root for them when they are not playing against my newly adopted club) as I’ve been a United fan for about 10 years and have enjoyed that but I think its time to change.

I think Kevin Keegan (inappropriate to say as it might have been) was spot on when he said the Premier League is boring at the top and that it’s essentially a league within a league. However, I disagree with his assessment that its down to a simple matter of cash. I think that beyond simple cash outlay, clubs are struggling to compete beacause of an over-reliance on the transfer market and not enough investment in scouting and development systems. Middlesbrough comes to mind as a potential exception but even they splashed out 10 – 12 million on Alfonso Alves last season. They say the English talent pool is not as strong as it used to be but when clubs even in the Championship or League One are preferring to look abroad rather than develop talent, what chance does the English player have? A similar situation is threatening to occur in MLS with increased reliance on imported Latin and European players while North American players are cut loose.

Gone are the days of a club like Burnley (First Division Champs in 1960) who won the title in the final season before the maximum wage rule (then £20/week) was abolished. Contracts binding players to clubs for life were also scrapped. Both of those moves were great for the players but also started the trend of ever upward spiraling salaries. It in fact did not take long for salaries to escalate as the first £100-a-week player was Johnny Haynes who was bumped to that level by Fulham in 1961. Clubs of that era also contended with gate sharing and no Bosman rule transfers or TV income. The Bosman ruling caused salaries to take that next spiral upwards.

So how does a smaller club break into the Top 4? One way would be to focus on their league fixtures at the expense of any potential cup runs. Forget about the FA Cup and League Cup (depsite the potential for added ticket revenue) for a season and focus on winning your league fixtures. Rest your best XI for the league matches and blood your young academy/reserve players in the Cup games. The cash to be made from qualifying for the Champions League will more than make up any lost income that those domestic cup fixtures might have brought. And who knows, the kids might just shock a few people and win a round or two for you !

Anyhow, I’m sidetracking and need to get back to the focus of this post. I’m soliciting ideas for a new club to follow from you. If you’re a fan of a non-BigFour club, post a comment and tell me why you support the club that you do. What’s your connection with the club beyond wins and losses? How did you come to support your club and why have you stuck by them?

Related Posts:
English Football Before The Big Four

25 thoughts on “Bored By The EPL's Big Four”

  1. since your loyalty is lacking…why not just support whatever club happens to be in 5th place at the time. that way you get to ensure you have a popular team, but not too big to where you feel like a bandwagoner. you can never be disappointed and you will always be right. start the season supporting chelsea, then enjoy a run with aston villa, and by may you can be signing youll never walk alone. sounds like a good plan to me

  2. I’m going with Aston Villa from now on. Martin O’Neil was a great manager for Celtic and he has done a fine job in B’ham.

    Plus my 6v6 summer team has Aston Villa rip-off jerseys. As good a reason as any.

  3. I can already see you’ve got a preferance for the Boro, so follow your heart.

    We can offer you local talent, the occasional foreign superstar, and a manager who doesn’t talk too much crap.

    On the playing side, there’ll be a promising cup run every other year that ultimately ends in embarassing failure, plus the occasional thrashing of a big-4 fixture which will give your mind something to drift towards when you’re watching the weekly tedium of home defeats to relegation candidats.

    Finally, you’ll never be in a bind to get a matchday ticket if you ever find yourself in the region.

  4. I’ll be rooting for Aston Villa as my second team, been a Man Utd fan for about 10 years also since my roommate in college got me interested in them.

  5. Changing teams??? Good Grief. Just not done. I just don’t get how anyone can do that. I’ve supported one team since 1966 and have never for an instant considered changing. We just happened to be fifth last year though so maybe we’ll pick up a few more fans this season. COYB!!!

  6. Im with Nigel and Todd on this. Me being a red and still enduring the painful wait for premiership success, maybe I should do the opposite and support United. Then again maybe I should sell my mother for a bag of nuts. Ten years a United fan eh? You sure its not nine? if I remember rightly Uniteds wagon had a heap of people jump on around 1999… how much did u pay for your ticket?

  7. Being from Kentucky, I don’t have a hometown team in the EPL. But the first jersey I ever got was a Newcastle away kit, and I loved Newcastle Brown Ale as a youngster and as a young adult. So many entertaining strikers over the years – along with his candor Keegan has got an exciting style of play. Big Sam was negative, all long ball, and no fun to watch. Here’s to the big 5!

  8. Outside of Chelsea I’ll be rooting for Aston Villa as well. It would really be something to see one of England’s more traditionally successful clubs come back to the top. Birmingham deserves a winner.

  9. I do a lot of work with my employer’s London office, so I picked Spurs before last season so I could talk shit with the guys in the U.K. as most there are Gooners or Chelski supporters.

    Best part of last season was having the Spurs shop mail a “5-1” coffee mug to the London office for one of my favorite Gooners.

    Pick whatever club allows you to exchange the most good natured ribbing with fun people. Having said that, I’m Spurs for life now and would never switch like some bandwagon jumping (or in your case dodging) turncoat.


  10. I’ve been following Everton for a couple of years, initially because Andy Johnson happens to be my brother’s name and that seemed to be as good a reason as any to pick a team.

    I’ve grown more and more appreciative of Moyes’ style of picking up somewhat under-the-radar players (like Lescott and Jagielka) who blossom into solid starters. Plus, Everton has a rich history and were the last team to break into the top 4. What’s not to like?

  11. You should be ashamed for even considering this. I’ve lived in America nearly my whole life and have supported Aston Villa for 21 years. I would never ever ever consider “changing” teams. How dare you. United fan eh? Sounds like a United fan to me. Aston Villa doesn’t need unloyal tossers like yourselves supporting us.

  12. It’s always good to have two teams. I’m not a “true” Premier League team supporter because I live in Australia which makes it pretty toughn to get to the games.

    Although I support Tottenham and always have, My ‘second’ team is always someone who actually has a realistic chance of winning the premiership. This used to be Man U but I’m sick of them winning and I went to a Chelsea game last year so I’ve started supporting them now.

    But back to the point, I think Tottenham is a good team to support. Good squad, usually do prety well and as someone said before if they are good enough to win the premiership one day (which is possible) it won’t look like you’re a bandwagon supporter.

  13. First of all, Lonnie, I salute you for your decision to stop following Man U as closely. While rooting for a lower-tier team makes for less-exciting transfer rumors and less hardware you feel like you’re part of a fanbase and not some giant bandwagon with mostly ignorant fans who can’t name half the team.

    I’ve only started following soccer early this spring, and chose Aston Villa as my team. Martin O’Neill is a great manager, and Randy Lerner is an good American owner who’s done a great job with the Browns in the NFL. Furthermore, Martin the Magnificent makes a point of targeting young English talents, and Villa is well-represented on the English national squads and has a strong minor league system. They’ve got a rich history (4th most trophies of any team in the EPL) and a bright future.

  14. I’m a Southampton fan through and through, really gotta get out of the states and see them someday. Came to the EPL via seeing Matt Le Tissier dominating a game back in maybe 1998… only things I really knew were from watching the World Cups and I had a vague idea of who the ‘big clubs’ were — but I quickly absorbed the fact that the Saints were perpetual underdogs with an extraordinarily gifted, ungainly bloke. Been true throughout the current mess, could barely stand to pick a side to root for in the EPL since (though I remain partial to ‘Pool amongst the big 4, and Blackburn is fine) but I think I’m coming round to Sunderland. All my Trinidadian friends here at UF think it’s a riot that I knew everything about Kenwyne Jones before they did.

    So, Mr. ManU exile, how bout following one Roy Keane up ‘nor to the Stadium of Light?

  15. Just a couple of quick points:

    1) I did not jump on the United bandwagon as of 99. I started following United, as I’ve stated elsewhere on this site, because when EPL games started showing regularly on TV here in Canada in 97/98, Manchester United was most often featured. One of my favourite games is actually a loss. It was the 4-3 thriller against Newcastle from the 2001-02 season.

    2) Those that are slagging me for not showing ‘loyalty’ — I understand part of where you’re coming from and the fact that you feel that I am not really a fan if my loyalties can just switch. To be honest, I don’t know if I can stop cold turkey. I have followed the club for years and did not come to the decision to undertake this venture lightly. I felt it would be a good to hear some of the reasons why people developed loyalties to their chosen clubs. My following of United developed for reasons of convenience and I have to wonder if fans in North America are perhaps too far away from the action to be more than just tourists.

    In thinking about what it means to be a fan, it seems to me that the big clubs in Europe have become increasingly consumer-driven, at the expense of being local and community driven, and the current way of how fan identities are derived is in flux. The Pitch Invasion site had an excellent post on this topic:

  16. I can relate to the switching teams thing: I’m a Brit in the US for 15 years now. I’d never change my soccer team (I was born there and went to so many games as a kid and young adult). But my allegences with NFL teams change with my circumstances.

    Before I moved to the US, I was a fan of the Browns (who were quite good at the time and I lived in Cleveland in the UK).

    When I moved to NJ, I started following the Jets (who have much in common with the Boro…occasional periods of promise that end in inevitable disappointment).

    Since leaving the NJ area I’ve not followed the sport as much, put generally pick it up around play-off time. For some reason I quite like the Chargers these days, in the absense of the Jets from any January action.

    My point is: Not every US fan is going to be a raving-passionate supporter of a single team. There just isn’t the emotional connection there for many people. Having a US fan switch sides isn’t the same kind of desertion that it would be for a British fan.

  17. Very good post Phil.

    My American Soccer Show co-host on CSRN, Dave Denholm has pointed out that he cannot get into individual teams in Europe because he lacks the emotional connection to them. He saves his emotion for the US National Team and the Galaxy while enjoying the Brazilian, French, German leagues, etc as a neutral.

    Americans tend to pull for underdogs which is why I am the way I am. I went to UF many moons ago but have been shaped by life experiences since to not really care for my alma matar.

    So I hardly ever root for the big bloated sports budget, Gators any longer and find myself pulling for Mississippi State in SEC Football. I am a U of Miami Hurricanes season ticket holder for Basketball and root for them in the ACC, but like Baylor in the Big XII, etc.

    I don’t like front runners quite frankly. I’m surprised so many Americans have adopted “Big Four” teams rather than the likes of Boro, Villa, and City. It in many ways to me demonstrates a lack of understand of the American psyche and that in many ways European Football remains an elite sport in this country.

    I was in London for the US-England game, and being American the ticket seller at Paddington station when he saw my USA shirt assumed I must root for Man U because “everyone in the US is for United or Chelsea.” When I told him I was a City supporter he opened up and we had a splendid conversation. He told me he went to NYC and as a QPR fan he was laughed at, by anyone who supported the sport because they were all for one of two clubs, ironically the top two clubs in the PL the last four seasons!

    My ticket taker was a Fulham fan but had the same impression of Americans that day. He told me he saw an MLS match on TV (and he was curious about MLS and wanted to talk about the league which I did with him until my train arrived) and was shocked by the number of people wearing AIG Man U jerseys in the stands.

    He told me that United, Chelsea and the PL in general were becoming less and less popular in the England thanks to the Big four hegemony. And actually I had already heard that from like 50 people at Wembley. At Wembley itself people were more interested in chatting with me about the exploits of Tony Caig, Rohan Ricketts or Terry Cooke in MLS than the Champions League final.

    This has been a long rant, but you probably all get my point or stopped reading by now.

  18. Without being “born into it” so to speak it’s hard to bring forth the emotional attachment that I have for the MLB Cubs or NFL Bears. It is a bit of a surprise to me that at middle age when a new team comes along to my home town, the MLS Fire, I do get an emotional attachment. Put Chicago on the jersey and I’m sucked in so to speak. BTW I will be attending the Fire v. TFC game this weekend.

    Once I became interested in the EPL the big teams were easier to follow and of the big teams I tend to like, not love, Man U. over the rest of the big 4. After that I like following the teams with the American players, like Everton and Fulham. I get especially interested if their are local players from my hometown, such as Brian McBride when he was at Fulham. My Epl interests can easily change, so I guess that answers the question for me, unless you are born into it, it’s easy to change teams and whom you support, since it lacks the emotion and birth right!

  19. I have family roots with a lower division team, so my attempts to adopt a Premier League team have never lasted, I liked Tottenham but then they played boring football, same for a few other sides. The emotional committment only lasts for my lower division side, my MLS team, the US team, and the England team. It is only entertainment- why not switch teams.

    I still enjoy the EPL as a neutral because I am still partial in most of the games I watch. I always root against the Big 4, for whoever is in 5th or 6th (with the hope that someone new finally breaks into the big 4), the promoted teams (come on Hull), whoever has a cool stadium (come on Fullham) or lots of Americans (come on Fullham). That criteria gets me a team and a game to watch most weekends. I also always root against Chelsea, and against or for certain personalities etc…

    As I said before, its only entertainment…. unless England or the U.S. plays- then it is life or death!

  20. I’m from Brasil and support Middlesbrough. Since Juninho joined in 1995 Boro are very popular all over Brasil. I even moved to England to York for a job to be close to my team. Thats is Love!

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