Editor’s note: Three weeks ago, Earl began this series as a chronicle of his quest to find the Premier League team that connects with his spirit as a fledgling soccer fan from afar.
Between the Euro 2012 qualifying weekend (where I found myself happy for Wayne Rooney to overcome his personal distractions) and a weekend trip to see my favorite American football team, the Buffalo Bills, I didn’t catch much Premier League action the last two weeks. This provides the reason for my delay in this installment.
I mention the Bills because I think it provides a bit of a glimpse into my state of mind as a sports fan. I am a Buffalo sports fan at heart. The Bills (NFL) and Sabres (NHL) have long been my favorite teams. In 2000, I also became a fan of the then-pathetic Philadelphia Phillies. The common thread between these three teams: small market philosophy. The Phillies are known today for a larger salary figure than back in 2000. In my mind, something that draws me to a team is it’s commitment to build from within, to respect a budget and the fiscal facts of doing business in a tough situation.
I received some comments from the first installment about my ruling out the Big 3. I ruled them out because I don’t go for that. I watched Manchester United and Liverpool yesterday, it was a great game. Berbatov played brilliantly. But that tells the story right there: Berbatov was bought at a stiff price. I simply can’t come to root for a team that’s gone out and bought a championship. Add Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, and even Liverpool (regardless of their recent decline) to that list. They play brilliant football, but rather it’s the way they build the team that turns me off.
That’s not to say that teams shouldn’t build through transfer. The teams I listed above seem to buy two or three teams worth of stars. I know that teams need depth to compete in multiple leagues, as evidenced by Manchester United losing Valencia to a nasty break during Champions League play. That being said, most of these teams run out a group of “all-stars” each match, and to me that seems like a shortcut to success. Could Manchester United win with Tom Cleverley or Danny Welbeck? We’ll never know because they are never given a chance to assert themselves with the Red Devils.
Additionally, I want to add a few other teams to the “no” list:
Wigan Athletic – There are many weeks I’ll be rooting for Wigan, but I can’t get behind a team that is destined for the Championship. They played well against Manchester City this weekend, but it will be tough for them to escape the bottom.
Blackpool – Very similar to Wigan, except I think their style is very attractive compared to the Latics. They are definitely making a go of it on a shoestring budget, but I see a run down the table as the season wears on. I hope I’m wrong.
West Ham United – The only thing that makes me like this team is their goalkeeper Robert Green. Call me strange, but I find myself empathetic to his plight. He cracked under pressure in the World Cup, and it will likely dog him the remainder of his career. Besides his unfortunate tale, this team is a carcass amongst rottweilers. Most of the players seem to be dogging it half the time. In watching their games, I find myself feeling even more sorry for poor Robert, and perhaps wish he was able to take a game or thirty off for Yom Kippur.
Add to that Everton from my first episode (who again showed against Newcastle United that they couldn’t hit the broader side of a barn from 10 feet), and that makes 9 that I’ve scratched off at this point.
I don’t plan on making this a long, drawn-out series, and that’s partly why I’ve gone back and decided to simply rule out as time goes on. I’d prefer to know who I’ll pledge my football allegiance by Thanksgiving. I do know that, the more I watch, the more the field is narrowing. And again, I do appreciate your suggestions and comments. That being said, I’m fairly certain that I’ll find the one in the remaining eleven teams.