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My Search For A Team…

Posted on by Earl Reed

It’s been a long…but fun, year.

About 51 weeks and several hours ago, my football obsession began. As Robert Green spilled a Clint Dempsey shot over the goal line last June, my interest was stirred. At the time, I didn’t know Robert Green from Robert Pirès.  That being said, as the season has progressed, I’ve come to appreciate this current age we’re experiencing…the Information Age, as many have labeled it. Through it, I can learn about every team, every player, every league. And it’s awesome.

I imagine there were plenty of Americans in the middle-to-end of the last century that were just as passionate as myself when the football bug bit them. I also imagine that those hearts were mostly left unrequited, with lower-quality domestic leagues and a dearth of televised matches from the hotbeds of the sport. It’s no wonder that the popular teams in this country have been the best teams, since coverage was so sparse (and for many, remains that way). For instance, I recall in its infancy watching a match or two of the Premier League (at the behest of my roommate) on the Empire Sports Network in the western NY area, where I attended college. From my very sketchy memory, the singular match they showed per week typically involved Manchester United, Arsenal, or Liverpool.  The few who could latch onto the sport didn’t have much support choice, at least from what they experienced through the media.

Enter September, 2010. Some of you may recall that back then, I began a series detailing my “search” for a team. I received a lot of feedback from the article. The positives were from fellow Cup Converts who were interested to hear my experience. The negatives ranged from “This is a rehash of what so-and-so did on Such&Such Network a few years ago,” to “This is fruitless, you can’t use logic or a method to find your team.”

What I’ve found, after months of watching, is an agreement that I can’t just pick a team based on a logical process. There are so many ebbs and flows to the Premier League season. A team like Blackpool can look safe in November and be relegated in May. A star player like Darren Bent can leave Sunderland for Aston Villa in a heartbeat, leaving one team with a huge void and another with a great chance to surge to a top-half finish. For me, it’s become less about the team, and more about the game. And honestly, I’m more than content with that status, because it’s allowed me to embark on something new.

One thing I have always enjoyed is writing. I’ve blogged about various things in the past. The toughest part for me was finding the topic I enjoyed enough to consistently put into words. Football has become that object of my affection. For my fellow Americans, they seem to struggle to find the beauty in the beautiful game. I know, I used to be that way. I even think, back in September, I was struggling with that aspect. But through the writing came the analysis, and through the analysis came the underpinnings to what drives the sport. I have a lot to learn, but my hope is that my articles can help my countrymen (and women) to discover the little things that captivate the rest of the world.

One thing I’ve realized about soccer is that it may be the sport with the most variety, especially when it comes to the play. With most sports, there’s usually a primary formula to win. In soccer, the subtleties affect the way the game progresses, and in many cases tell the story. While the same few teams in Europe are typically the strongest, each of them tend to play differently than the other. I’m continuing to learn how to put that into words, and the dialog we’ve generated in the process has been personally exhilarating.

In the process of the 2010-11 Premier League season, I’ve even found a spot in my heart for Manchester United. The other day, I was on their website looking at shirts and thinking, “You know…”, but then realized that it’s just not my gig. I think as a correspondent I’ve kept my personal feelings from influencing the hard facts I’ve reported, but sometimes I have a tough time resisting in the comments section (especially with United fans). United fans, I will try to be more respectful with those interactions with you.

I wouldn’t be here in this position if not for the evolution of media. I’d likely still be an American who rejected soccer, if not for outlets like ESPNSoccernet, Fox Soccer Channel (and Plus and .tv), the Guardian, 5Live, GolTV, and others too numerous to mention. Oh, and most of all, EPLTalk. The Gaffer gave me a platform to speak, as he has so many others. But it’s been more than that. Between the podcasts (especially Richard, Laurence, and Kartik), the fellow writers on both this site as well as MLSTalk, and YOU, the reader, I’ve been blessed with a community of people who share my passion for this sport. I’m grateful, very grateful.

So to close, my search is over. I may not have a team of rooting interest in the EPL, but my love of the league and the sport, manifested through this site and other venues, is enough. When August rolls around, we’ll get back to analyzing matches. Until then, I have a team to support here in the States, the Philadelphia Union, my local team. To me, that’s the European way. Support your local side, come title or relegation. For me, that’s the Union, and I proudly say DOOP.

Again, thanks for reading and sharing your feedback, and I look forward to next season!

This entry was posted in General, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to My Search For A Team…

  1. Chris L. says:

    Villa!!!!

  2. The Gaffer says:

    Phew! You scared me for a minute. I thought you were going to Swansea City, and I was going to try to talk you out of it because there are many years of broken hearts and tears in store knowing the track record of the Swans.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

    • Earl Reed says:

      The great thing is that I can root for Swansea. I rooted for Blackpool this season. I rooted for Chelsea this season. I even rooted for ManUtd in the UCL final. Liverpool, Villa, Everton, I can’t think of a team I didn’t look upon favorably at one point or another this season. Perhaps it will hit me all of the sudden and I’ll be buying a kit online for one of the teams. At this point, I wonder if I’d be more likely to become a fan of a Championship team in hopes of promotion.

  3. Steve says:

    As long as you’re enjoying the game who cares if you have a team. This is my first year in the sport but I quickly grew to love Wolves. You’ll find your team, or at least enjoy yourself trying to.

  4. Kyle W. says:

    I really love most teams. Man U’s my favorite, but I also love Tottenham. Then I like Fulham, Stoke, Man City, Newcastle, West Brom, Wolves – the list goes on and on. In fact, there are only a few teams I don’t like. While I do have “a team”, I have rooted against Man U at times, if I like the other team and they need a result more. So, I think there’s nothing wrong with supporting the game as opposed to a team.

    • Alan Knuyt says:

      You don’t have a team if you have ever rooted against them. If you have a team, your entire weekend is ruined because of a bad result. If they lose a final, you feel like you have just been hit by a truck. If your team wins, nothing can get you down.

  5. Scott says:

    I too developed a love of the game over the last two years. My team is Chelsea, they just grew on me.

  6. Taylor says:

    Just enjoy the game – no one will look down on you if you don’t support particular team. I have been lucky to be able to watch soccer since 1986 and watch different leagues since late 80s and have grown to love different teams in different leagues.

  7. Mike says:

    You gotta go beyond the trophies, and find the fan group that you truly identify yourself with. For me it was Liverpool, after hearing Xabi Alonso’s name in FIFA in 2008. When I researched the club, the city, and the unique relationship between the two, I knew the club was the best spot. Regardless if we have not won a trophy in a few years, Reds fans are the most knowledgeable and loyal fans in the entire world. While there are some instances of braggadocio due to our exhaustive list of trophies, our bravado has been subdued by the tragedies suffered by the club. These elements have engendered a tremendous solidarity throughout the world.

    Im sure you’ll find your team eventually- or at the very least a team that you prefer over others. Good luck.

  8. VillaPark says:

    Radical approach here. Try playing fantasy football for the first year and just enjoying the season. If you get into it, you’ll want to watch a ton of games to see your players perform and will eventually get to find the team you like. It might be a team that doesn’t like to dive or fake injuries, it might be the crowd support, it might be the way they fight to comeback after being down a lot.

    Otherwise, you might be forcing it. Some will say if you pick a top four team you are just jumping on the bandwagon. You might also PICK a team and then realize they just don’t play the way you think a team should.

    You could also go with a newly promoted team and take your chances, but again, just randomly picking a team might not be best.

    Give it time might be the best strategy. That’s why I like the FF route. Good luck!

    • John R says:

      I did this my first year really seriously following the EPL, though the results were unexpected. At the time i worked with a guy who loved the EPL, and he and his brother were looking for someone who liked soccer to join their fantasy league. I did, and within a week, i was watching every game i could to keep up with players and find a hidden gem. So, i really learned to love the sport, the players and all that. but i didnt find my team that way. each time i looked up stats on players or look up fixtures, i would always inexplicably look at the championship tables to see how newcastle was doing. i dont know why, but something drew me towards them. now, i seemingly cant go an hour without looking at the blogs and forums to see transfer gossip (cmon Gervinho!) about newcastle. love the team, didnt miss one second of a game this season, even drove an hour away from the place i was staying at for vacation to get free wifi so i could watch the tyne/wear derby in october. i know im probably in the minority, but fantasy helped me in so many ways with soccer, but it didnt help me find a team. the team found me.

  9. Gaz Hunt says:

    I started supporting Liverpool at a very young age when still living in England. They have continued to be my club since then. But I’m now also a Philly-area man and my local is Philadelphia Union. It gets murky for me.

    So much so that the question of club support has become a little harder to answer recently. I may always provide Liverpool that honor out of, if nothing else, two decades of habit but Philadelphia are become more and more embedded for me.

    That is what Americans new to the game should do. Watch the European football for entertainment (you won’t find anything near the excitement of English football right now) but your club has to be a local one, hasn’t it? For me, this is what a football supporter does. Even I, with long-standing ties to the English game, can’t help but support the local club.

    DOOP!

  10. trickybrkn says:

    DOOOP, top of the table….

    As a Philly Boy, the closest in terms of fan support I found, in London anyway. was West Ham. Not a team for everyone, you won’t be expecting champions league nor PL titles. In fact now we’re just hoping to be back… But passionate fans, even when you lose, great atmosphere at the ground, and a legacy with perhaps a tinge of the dark side…

    If you ever get to London, check them out.

  11. JAK says:

    As I mentioned in another comment somewhere else, I try to follow Arsenal and Wolves as close as I can. However, I found myself this past season rooting for quite a few different teams. I enjoy reading various websites about the transfers, player news, and other topics related to the league. Being that the sport isn’t one that I grew up watching/following, it has been tough really getting into a team, like you. The overall joy that comes from watching the matches on Saturday and Sunday mornings coupled with following the league online, make it more than enjoyable enough for me. I’ll still follow Arsenal and Wolves a little closer than others, and I will continue to seek out their matches on TV when I can. When it’s a sport you didn’t grow up around, I think the best bet is to be an overall observer, maybe follow one or two teams so you can hold up your end of a debate if needed, but just enjoy the league and sport as whole otherwise.

    • MG says:

      “When it’s a sport you didn’t grow up around, I think the best bet is to be an overall observer, maybe follow one or two teams so you can hold up your end of a debate if needed, but just enjoy the league and sport as whole otherwise.”

      Hey JAK, fellow American and Arsenal supporter here. I’m living proof that your above sentiment isn’t always the case. I didn’t grow up watching soccer or sports in general, but it’s never too late to support a club, no matter where you are from. Then again, as you say, you can just be observer. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

  12. Bernard says:

    Great article. Also i agree with other commenters that fandom should not be forced. Unfortunatly as much I enjoyed this article I’m forced to hate your guts for being a Philadelphia Union supporter. Moreover would like to break the horrible news that the NY Red Bulls will be at the top of the table by years end.

  13. BradMc says:

    I discovered the joy of footy about 5 years ago when I saw a news story about Tim Howard when he was at ManU, and then discovered I could watch them on Fox Soccer Channel. After Howard left for Everton, I tried to find another side to follow, but really found that it’s a little more reasonable to just follow players and situations when you don’t have a local team in the mix. When Donovan landed the short stint at Everton along side Howard, I was pretty fanatical about the Toffees for a while, but even that waned.

    Like somebody else mentioned, playing fantasy football really helped me to a quick familiarity with the EPL. I suppose it’s not really considered good form to be player-centric, but I’ve really found it’s most fun to just follow interesting players like Lampard, Rosicky, and Berbatov – and the American mainstays in the EPL.

    I also had an easy time finding a home side in the MLS with Columbus Crew here in Ohio, for better or worse. Had a couple top-notch years with Schelotto, but looks like they’re in for some hard times :-) Oh well.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • MG says:

      “I discovered the joy of footy about 5 years ago when I saw a news story about Tim Howard when he was at ManU, and then discovered I could watch them on Fox Soccer Channel. After Howard left for Everton, I tried to find another side to follow..”

      Yeah, see, this is the kind of point of view I can’t understand. It seems to be the majority here, though.. That quote implies that you didn’t really become a Man United fan, you became a Tim Howard fan. It seems my point of view of being an American EPL fan is familiarizing yourself with the club you gravitate towards. Clearly, we as Americans don’t live in England, so no club can be our ‘local’ club. But the least we can do is read up on the club we take a liking to and become intimate with them.

      And that’s the keyword: intimate. To me, being a soccer/football fan is about intimacy. As a fan, you should have an intimacy with a certain club, YOUR club, whoever they may be. It appears to me, though, that the majority of people on here are fans of the game before they are fans of a particular team. It’s the other way around for me and I don’t think I’m wrong in assuming that that’s the way it is for most soccer fans all over the world, let alone England.

  14. dan says:

    I just hope you support and MLS team.

    I seriously doubt you live in England or have lived there so you really have no reason to support a club.

    • Phenoum says:

      so wrong in so many ways – but suit yourself

      • Murph says:

        Not so much wrong, but I kinda see your point. I think those of us who have been following Euro Football for a decade or more must grow football in our own back yards — and by following different teams in different leagues (better leagues), MLS and USL will benefit by having smarter supporters — who can be ambassadors of the beautiful game in America. Most American’s have never even traveled outside the USA, so they just don’t get it. Those of us who buy team web packages and travel to see games in the UK, are testament to why it’s perfectly ok to support foreign teams. But as much of an Arsenal/Barcelona fan I am, my good friends in North London and Catalonia see me as a bit of an anomaly. You see Phenoum, Dan is just not getting it yet, but he may come around. It’s a Global League Mate. See you in Brazil Dan?

  15. Dave C says:

    Gotta compliment you again on writing some great stuff, despite being such a relative new-comer to the game. Or perhaps you write great stuff precisely because you’re a new-comer, and so aren’t mentally burdened with the expectation of how football writing “should” be (i.e. superflous tabloid gossip about hookers, drinking/gambling problems etc, tacked on to a shallow list of footballing cliches). Either way, you write good analysis by any standard.

    As for “finding” a team, I would suggest you don’t bother. I’ve always been fairly “neutral” with regards to the EPL. My hometown team is Hull City – for my whole life, they’ve been in the lower leagues, with the exception of their recent stint at the top table. So most of the time, I have always been a true neutral towards the EPL. I feel like I’m missing out on the excitement that can only come from rooting for someone, but at the same time, I don’t feel like I could really force myself to root for some arbitrary team.

    For a while in my teens, I tried to convince myself that I was an AC Milan fan (despite having no rational personal attachment to Milan whatsoever), so I know the feeling of trying to “find” your team. The novelty of Milan wore off for me – when they slumped from their glamour days, I simply lost interest rather than feeling any particular strong disappointment, which I guess is the proof that I was never a real fan.

    • MG says:

      Your AC Milan story, Dave, implies (or at least suggests) that an American shouldn’t choose an Premier League club to support because chances are they wouldn’t be real fans, once the ‘novelty’ wears off or if the team slumps (even Earl implies this with the Darren Bent leaving Villa example).. I disagree with this sentiment (whether you truly meant it or not). My hometown team is NY Red Bulls but I have a deep love for Arsenal, regardless of the fact that they are a London club and I have no true connections to London being a New Yorker. I know I’m not the only one on EPLTalk that has chosen a team to follow because they truly, truly have fallen in love with the team and the history of the team. It may have been a matter of chance (watching the Official History DVD solidified my love and watching the club match after match did as well), but it is still a true love and when they fall (like they especially did this season), it affects me bad, and when they rise and win and win well, it affects me good. I think Earl and anyone else interested in the game has the capacity to follow one club and support them AS IF they were a local club. A club doesn’t necessarily have to be local to support them with as much fervor as you would if they were a block or train ride away from your apartment. Dan’s above comment showcases what I consider an entirely wrong point of view.

      You COULD have been an AC Milan fan, and there are plenty of people outside of Milan that have found that affinity. You just never did.

      • Dave C says:

        MG, you’re spot on – I wasn’t trying to say that you can’t be a genuine fan of a team that you’re not really “linked” to in some way (although I do remain a little skeptical), just that in my personal experience it never really happened to me.

        FWIW, I do often still choose Milan whenever I play FIFA, and in some way I feel happier when they win Serie A than when Juve do (or heaven forbid, Inter!). But on the flipside, I didn’t really lose any sleep when relegation due to the Calciopoli scandal was a possibility.

  16. MG says:

    I highly suggest you choose a team to follow, Earl. Picking ONE team and following/supporting ONE team is the whole point of being a fan. I can understand rooting for another team, whether an underdog or not, but it’s rewarding/heartbreaking/surprising/etc to really care about ONE team and one team only. I realize, reading these comments and the comments in the earlier post by Guy Robert, that I massively disagree with a lot of sentiments on the whole idea of being a football fan, especially as an American. I am an Arsenal fan because that’s the club I fell in love with. If someone labels me a ‘bandwagoner’, I would take supreme offense because it implies that I don’t know anything about the club and their history, or that I don’t watch every game I possible can. Someone that does that isn’t a ‘bandwagoner’, big four club or not. I just think as harmless as it is to watch the league neutrally, I view it as entirely meaningless and against the whole idea of being a sports fan. It’s simply too casual an outlook on the sport for me, personally.

    Watch as many matches as you can, read up on as many clubs as you can on Wikipedia, read up on their history, where they’ve been, where they are and where they going and it should become easy to choose a club to love and support.

    • Phenoum says:

      TOTALLY agree.
      I started watching EPL back before I had cable – my coach would record the 3 games he got on saturdays onto VHS and I’d pick them up sunday morning :)

      Over the first few months I came across a few Arsenal games and realized that they were exciting, skilled, and always enjoyed watching them. That was back in 1998. I followed them and enjoyed the game for many years, but more recently I’ve started following daily Arsenal blogs and weekly podcasts – and it’s totally changed the way I follow my club. I also can watch each and every game they play (my p2p dot eu). There’s more passion, more of a connection to the game when you stand to lose something (ie your club loses a game). I suppose this would be like the difference between a Poker w/o any buy-in vs poker with a $25 buy in – both are fun and both are poker, but you just play differently when you’ve got some “skin” in the game. I’d HIGHLY suggest choosing a club and following them. Read their best blogs, listen to the podcasts, and enjoy the mannerisms and learning the histories of that club.

      Personally I also enjoy seeing Fulham/Bolton win (unless it’s against us) and wish Blackpool would have stayed up. I appreciate the style they play. Of course anyone playing against ManUre / Chelski / Man City gets my support for a day ;)

      Picking a club and learning the “ropes” through online media for that club means you’re more emotionally attached and is a whole new experience. I highly recommend it!!

      • Earl Reed says:

        I do hope it eventually happens. The Lord only knows at this point!

        • Guy says:

          Welcome to the dark side, Earl. ;-)

          MG–I don’t disagree with a thing you have to say. I would prefer to have a team. As I said, it is the natural thing to do. It just hasn’t happened for me, yet. Anyway, I haven’t actually let go of Fulham like I did Chelsea. Maybe I need to dig deeper. In the meantime…..

          Go Swans!! ;-) (There IS a family connection.)

      • Murph says:

        ATDHENET.TV (most Euro and MLS games) provides free links as does The Gunning Hawk (Just Arsenal). GH updates as feeds are taken down… so if you want to turn onto AJAX, Stuttgart, Bari (ha ha) or FC Copenhagen — you have free content on the Web. But beware of malware / Adware. Keep security up to date — AVG free is a good freeware firewall. But run “AntiMalware” after each game…If you have an older machine lying around, strip it down and make it your football “internets” PC and your primary machine will be fine, that’s what I do. ESPN3 will also surprise you with it’s free football content.

        Up Arsenal 2012… after all, the Mayans are obviously Gooners!!!

  17. Monk_ATX says:

    My friend just recently got me into “the beautiful game” and I’m addicted. Like, fire up re-runs of old EPL and La Liga games from any year on a spoon and inject it into my eyeballs addicted. I even began to play the sport for the first time at 28 years old.

    I think when you remove yourself from being a fan of one team in a league, you allow yourself to open up to the game, the spirit, the players, the atmosphere, the history, and remove the fanatical side blockers that stop you from appreciating certain teams and players because they are enemies if your chosen squad. Remember how exciting sports were when you first discovered them with virgin eyes? How every team had at least one player that made you jump out of your seat or a game that left a lasting impression.

    I think you can keep that feeling by not lining up with just one team, so I dig what you are saying here.

    Brand new fan of the sport myself and have bookmarked this site as my go to for everything EPL. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Patrick says:

    Lived in Norwich for a year during college and fell in love with the Canaries that year. Ten years later and my TV room is still decked out in green and yellow. I’m beyond excited that I’ll be watching them in the EPL this season.

    The only team I hate is Ipswich Town.

  19. Vious says:

    Glory hunters live on

    This “choosing” of a team is so laughable and shows how little people ACTUALLY care about a team

    Hilarious articles

  20. pete says:

    I live near Preston and my team has just been dumped down to the third tier of English football, I won’t see them in the prem in my life time. Still I’ll watch the prem every week because i love the football. You don’t need to have a team in the prem, I don’t and most of England won’t. Just watch, learn and most importantly, love the game

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