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Your 1st & 2nd Team: An Americans Right to Pick & Choose


Raise your hand if any of the following criteria apply to you:

  • have you been a football supporter for ten years or less?
  • have you “picked” a top European club to follow?
  • do you currently reside in one of the 50 States that make up this fine country?

If you answered Yes to any or all of these questions, you very well may be eligible to also have a “2nd team”. (You also may be a spoiled American football supporter, don’t worry, it’s O.K.)

In an American sports landscape dominated by everything but soccer (it’s getting better, I know), Americans who have taken the plunge & leapt head first into world football have formed a close knit, underground, almost snobbish movement in the last five years. With the acquisition of soccer friendly channels, satellite & cable companies have provided just as many matches on any given Saturday morning as the same Saturday morning across the pond. The American top-European club-supporting soccer fan is not a rare breed. But what it definitely is, is a lucky breed. Foreign to (99.9% of) us American soccer snobs are the years & years of heartache, defeat, relegation, promotion, “yo-yo-ing”, administration & something many probably haven’t even heard of, the old first division.

Most of us Yanks catch the football cold from 1 of about 10 or 11 top European clubs across the continent. Don’t worry my European friends, after we pick a top club who’ve just won a league & cup double, the majority of us do a pretty good job of respecting the club & culture that we’ve adopted. We spend days, weeks, months, even years immersing ourselves in history, tactics, formations, rules & laws, & a few of us even learn a song or two. Of course the lingo sets in soon after. We just can’t contain ourselves, beers become pints, bars become pubs, soccer becomes football, the field becomes the pitch, cleats become boots, jerseys become kits, & on & on. But the reason for this article, & the one true variable that distinguishes American &  European or British supporters from each other, is the bias that euro-centric football fans are born into. Now, before you send me hate mail, I do realize that not everyone has this so called bias. I’m sure there are Spurs fans born in Manchester, or City fans born in London. I do not speak in absolutes. What I am saying, for the most part, is that you’re either born Red or Blue in Merseyside. There are no other options (same goes for Manchester). I just can’t possibly imagine there are many Arsenal-friendly English lads residing right around the corner from White Heart Lane. In the States, well, you’d be surprised.

Plain & simple, (& a beautiful thing) we have to pick a team. Sure the small minority of us stick out a few years of mid table mediocrity, or season after season of just a decent League Cup or FA Cup run, but we have it pretty darn good in this country, we usually pick the best teams. There’s little to no aggro between fans, there’s rarely a problem with football-related violence & there’s plenty of footie to watch every week from all of Europe’s top clubs (without having to pay an arm & a leg for it). We have the incredible ability to swoop in on a top 4 team during a winning season & no one gives us flack for it. What more could a fickle football supporter ask for? Answer:

The lovable 2nd team.

Why you ask? Well, because we can, we love winning teams. Uncle Randy won’t slate us for rooting for two different teams in the same day. I have a mate who is a Liverpool fan, but almost always pulls for Manchester United as long as they aren’t playing Liverpool.

Why is this?

Simple, he has no built in bias for Manchester United. He wasn’t raised on a history of competition between the two cities. Unless an American visits Wikipedia on a regular basis, they’ll have no real idea of the years & years of ill feelings between the 2 sets of supporters, or more specifically, citizens of the respected cities. We know that twice a year the teams make up two of the most important games in English football & we know they don’t necessarily like each other. However, not many of us know why? Most of us know nothing of the competition between the two north-west cities during the industrial growth of the late 1800’s & early 1900’s & the subsequent competition for supremacy that followed. Of course the rivalry, like that of Celtic/Rangers & others, dates back to well before football. Some will say the root of ill feelings is bigger than football. That’ll be left to another debate. Of course the origin of the feud: The city of Liverpool & it’s shipping & exporting port v. Manchester’s knack for manufacturing. The rest is history.

To Americans, both teams share an incredibly rich & winning pedigree. To us, that pedigree equals a very appealing sports team to invest in. Why hate one or the other? Why wish bad omens to Torres or Rooney? They’re both world class athletes at the end of the day. Would an Englishman laugh at me if he knew I was friendly towards another club either from England or some other top club in Europe? Would he try to suppress my right of being a football fan?  I truly believe if more so-called football fans in Europe showed a little more respect to the sport of football itself, we could kiss the dark days of hooliganism & football related violence goodbye. The events of West Ham/Millwall of a few weeks ago would only be a nightmare in our worst dreams. I realize I’m a young, somewhat naive American, but at the end of the day, I just want to spread the passion & love I have for the beautiful game,…

Enjoy your football wherever you find it & whoever you support. Never apologize to anyone for your passion, just be able to defend it.

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  1. David

    September 5, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    That is one of the lamest things I have ever heard a LFC and Man U supporter. How does that even work. Why don’t you just root for all the big four clubs and that way you will always be a winner every weekend.

  2. Robert George

    September 4, 2009 at 9:14 am

    My american wife has to support Everton. If she supported Man Utd or Liverpool I would not of married her or she would be on divorce court tv. Im an Everton fan and my 2nd team is Tranmere Rovers. I spent 29.9 years in England and a few more in the USA.

  3. Simon

    September 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Whats the point of following Man Utd as your 2nd team? It will be more fulfilling following a smaller team like Stoke City, Bolton, Blackburn and watching them progress as they play in the best league in the world. Watching the small teams stand up to the big bullys of the league, sometimes beating them!

    Man Utd are guaranteed to win trophys every year, so theres no expectancy. But if little Stoke City beat Chelsea or Man Utd which is against the odds, then it is a lot more fulfilling!

  4. forweg

    September 4, 2009 at 3:02 am

    Started following Reading since the first game of the 06/07 season against Middlesbrough. But now I’m screwed, and since Reading got relegated I stopped following all football last year. But now I’m back into it and rooting for either Hull or Burnley in the EPL (still haven’t decided). But I’ll certainly pull for Reading whole-heartedly if they ever make it back and still check their Championship results.

    Funny thing about the Big Four and this website, though, is that most of the commenters seem to mock the idea of non-Big Four sides even being shown on television. Did you see the insulting comments about Burnley vs. Sunderland being shown on ESPN?

  5. jleau

    September 4, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Euro’s can’t crack on Americans for supporting 1 of the big 4. It’s who we get to see the most and the easiest way to make an attachment. I bet you don’t see any Brits rooting for the Detroit Lions or the KC Royals.

    I have to say the one thing the English get right is passion for a club. You can’t root for two clubs. Any Liverpool fan that roots for United isn’t committed to the cause. I’m an Arsenal supporter and I never would never root for Spurs. George Bailey would never work for Mr. Potter.

    I think Lyle made a good point

    “I say man up and follow a smaller club that is worthy or relegation year in and year out. There’s something cowardly about being American and following Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea (maybe less so with these guys depending on when you started following them).”

    I’m a life long Washington State Cougar fan (Go Cougs!!!!!) and I’ve always felt that being a USC fan was cheating a bit (especially if you’re not an alum). You can’t really appreciate the winning unless you felt the sting losing.”

    If I had known better I’d probably be a Newcastle fan, that ain’t an easy job. But once you choose you can’t switch.

  6. T-MaN

    September 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Here is my story

    Back in 2001 when i was 15, my goalie trainer is the reason i became a Newcastle United fan. He was from Newcastle and obviously a Newcastle supporter and he knew that I had Irish heritage and he told me about Shay Given. So i started following Newcastle and in the 2002 World Cup i finally got to watch the awesomeness that is Shay Given and I become a toon for life.

    Jump ahead to 2006 and my hometown finally gets a MLS team.

    So now i am a Newcastle United supporter and Houston Dynamo (I never cared about the MLS till i could watch in person).

    I extremely dislike Sunderland, i can’t see someone supporting Newcastle and Sunderland, it is just isnt possible.

    Now that i have felt the pain of relegation with my team, i know understand why i see all the those people in tears and disbelieve when their team got relegated. I could take for hours with all the crap that has been going on at nufc over the pass few years

    I don’t really have a 2nd team in europe, basically i support anyone playing against Sunderland, the big four, or any of the other euro powerhouses.

    I do like to watch american players on other teams, that is who i am watching this season since nufc is in the championship, though i have watched three of there games so far.

    I do make fun of all my friends that support a big four team or the top two from spain, until they give me a reasonable reason for supporting them. Just b/c they are good isnt acceptable to me

  7. coachie ballgames

    September 3, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Great article. I’ve followed English Football since the mid 1990’s. I grew up in NYC and we got sporadic highlights on MSG. There was no internet. I only recall seeing the strong teams of the day play. “First Touch” magazine was really the only way to even peep the standings and scores. The biggest soccer bar near where I lived was Nevada Smith’s, a big Man United bar. I became a big Man United fan, and was spoiled soon after with the exploits of 1999.

    In the 1990’s many people outside America became fans of the Chicago Bulls. I don’t doubt that NBA coverage in other countries back then was limited to the Bulls, the Knicks and other dominant teams of that era. It would seem strange to expect that an NBA fan from say, Spain, growing up in the 1990’s should be expected to be a Milwaukee Bucks fan if he wasn’t really exposed to them.

    Moreover, one becomes attracted to the foreign sport before one becomes attracted to a foreign team playing that sport. Thus, one’s eyes will be drawn to the teams that play that sport well.

    That said, the experience of the foreign fan will always be inferior because of the lack of local connection.

  8. Thomas

    September 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Everton…Also Fulham because of their habit of signing American players.

    I enjoy watching the Big Four play, but I won’t support them.

    I think its even worse when you have people from the UK support a team that isn’t local. Like someone from London pulling for Man U.

  9. PK

    September 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    See, my style was going American through and through. When I first picked up the EPL two seasons back, Fulham had Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride. They also were fighting for their lives. The idea of relegation was rather attractive – you have no idea how much I’d prefer that in the American NFL; you want the first draft pick? How about you GET OUT MY DAMN LEAGUE – so rooting for a team down on its luck to escape The Drop sounded like fun. Plus, hey, Americans! I’m one of those!

    Then they pulled the Great Escape. And now I root for Fulham full time.

    My girlfriend has the same mentality – she spent some time in England and got Manchester United ingrained into her by her host family, and she still roots for them, but she’s started watching the EPL again with me, and she saw Man U / Burnley. Now she’s a Burnley fan. Go figure.

  10. Paul

    September 3, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I have been supporting Aston Villa for the past 4 years here from Detroit, MI. People who do not warrant a good reason for following the big four annoy me.

  11. Eric

    September 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I don’t pick second clubs . . . ever, in any sport.

    I grew up in CA playing soccer but never followed any clubs. I grew up following the 49ers NFL and Giants MLB locally. NBA was the Phoenix Suns, my grandfather took me to my first 3 games there. I now live in AZ so it works out well. I couldn’t bring myself to root for the Warriors because they played in Oakland, right next to the A’s/Raiders stadium. I can’t even play fantasy sports because I can’t fathom the idea of rooting for a player on a rival team to do well for my “fantasy” team.

    I had a developing interest in soccer, and particularly the EPL, burst full force in late 90’s/ early 2000’s. Chelsea was an easy pick for me. (Friends of the family, an FA Cup win, and a great part of London being primary influence ) Being a front runner then would have meant picking Arsenal (or worse, MANU). I haven’t been to a game, but took the Stamford Bridge stadium tour in 2006.

    To anyone who accuses me of picking a front runner, I can remind them that my beloved SF Giants have 0 championships in SF, and none since 1954, and my PHX Suns have 0 championships ever . . . and I’ll root for them unitl I die!

    • eplnfl

      September 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

      Eric, I think you sum up the experience for most American’s we have an attachment to our local clubs. Thats why when MLS started up and then added the Fire it never was a question for me, I would be a Fire fan.

      Many of us over here have attachment to our school teams. I went to college at a school that did not play NCAA football, so it was a question who I would support in NCAA football, I tend to favor the local teams Northwestern, and Wisconsin, and anyone who is playing ND that week.

      When I became interested in the EPL it was attractive to favor a Man U., after being a Cub fan all my life, but after a while I decided just to follow the teams with an American conncection.

  12. Alex P.

    September 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Here is who I follow, in rank of importance, and why:

    1. Portland Timbers (USL) – It’s where I’m from and my home city trumps anything else. They may be in a 2nd tier league now, but will be in MLS in 2011. Rose City Till I Die!

    2. Chelsea – I used to hate soccer with a passion, but during the ’06 WC, I finally opened up and watched. I rooted not only for the US, but also Netherlands and Germany (heritage). I followed Ballack from the German team to Chelsea, and started rooting for them without any prior knowledge of rivalries.

    3. FC Cologne – This is my “2nd” team, and unfortunatley they currently are the bottom feeder of the 1. Bundesliga. I lived in Cologne for 3 months and attended a math there. I will always have the Geisbock in my heart.

  13. redskin

    September 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    ovalball you say many u.s. sports are broken in to divisions,but if your team is last in it’s division, they stay where they are. dont forget that in england we have four divisions, if your team end the season in the bottom three you will drop down a division. if a team drops out of the epl it can cost that team around 75 million dollars. it might be the reason we have so many hard games in the epl.
    you say maybe you are not a true epl fan, i think maybe you are a true fan of english football. well done mate

    • ovalball

      September 3, 2009 at 7:18 pm

      I LOVE relegation. Even if you’re not in the hunt for a top position you have to produce and play your hardest to the bitter end. The excitement and tension at the end of the season, particularly for teams with losing records, is fantastic. Something we seldom see here in the States.

  14. ovalball

    September 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    My earlier comment was, “Well done,” and I still think so. You certainly got some commentary going.

    I think Americans are much more likely to root for two teams at the same time. Many of our sports are broken into divisions, so it is quite common to pull for two teams who probably won’t see each other, other than in a championship. Then you may have a problem. Of course the EPL only has one division, but, still the tendency is there for us.

    Another factor is the size of our country and the mobility of our society. Millions of us no longer live anywhere near where we were raised. You move, you pick up a new favorite, but don’t abandon the old. I am a lifelong Eagles fan, but moved to North Carolina ten years ago and started rooting for the Panthers. When they met in the NFL Championship in 2004 the one thought I had was, “I win!” What a great game to watch. Every play–“Yeah, baby!!”

    I understand the intense rivalries between EPL teams/cities, but that’s the end of it. They don’t eat me up. I can like both Chelsea and Fulham (I live on Chelsea Circle a few blocks from Craven St.) When they play I want Fulham to kick Chelsea’s butt, just because.

    Maybe this makes me not a “true” EPL fan. So be it. I enjoy watching as many matches as I can and frequently watch two at the same time, one on my computer and one on my TV. Now that’s a beautiful game!

  15. AJ

    September 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    1st Team: Leeds

    2nd Team: Villa

    Closet Fan of Rangers

  16. redskin

    September 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    most football fans in england grow up supporting local teams.wether famous or rubbish they are your team. for people in other countries, it must be easy to pick a team from the epl. you just pick one of the so called big four. if you are new to our game and have not made your mind up just yet, please don’t follow the hurd. look at all the websites of the clubs. try to look at the history of the clubs, see how the clubs came into being. they are full of interesting things to read. i know derby county are not epl at the moment,but why not try to find out why they had a stadium called the baseball ground? . the history of most of our clubs is well worth looking into. many of the clubs being well over 100 years old there is a lot to find out. i am a spurs fan it is not easy sometimes but i am a glutton for punishment. coys, come on you spurs

    • Lyle

      September 3, 2009 at 4:28 pm

      This is why I’m a Fulham fan. Oldest professional team in London, Craven Cottage, in a nice part of London, and family oriented club with no hooligan history.

  17. man99utd

    September 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    I’m a cowarldy Man Utd supporter. I wouldn’t think of supporting anyone else. Certainly not Liverpool or Man City. Although, anytime Everton can best Liverpool, I’m chuffed. Having said that I enjoy watching quality football as a neutral any chance I get. I agree with Gaz about the trophy passing. Oh wait, isn’t he a Liverpool supporter. I better rethink that…..

  18. CA_backpacker

    September 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Great piece, and judging from the number of comments, you obviously hit a chord with many of us. I am American also, and I also have “two clubs” I support. Liverpool, always and forever, and that has been for more than a decade…and then I like to pick an interesting club recently promoted, or one predicted to have to really fight to stay up, and really follow and root for that squad. That “second team” changes, maybe every few years depending on a variety of factors.

    What I think the core point to your piece is that many of us Americans, not having grown up with the history, don’t “get” the usual rivalries. That doesn’t mean we completely ignore them (as Liverpool fan, I almost never root for Man U or Everton for example…but when either of those two teams play Chelski, I do root for them because I really hate Chelski for a variety of reasons that probably makes no sense to a Brit. Heck, I even have an “I support ABC (anyone but Chelsea)” Tee-shirt!). Just that we do sometimes look on thins with a more remote perspective. No worries, it would be the same if a Brit (in a very unlikely scenario) started following American Football and picked a team to follow…

  19. Shakira Graham

    September 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Derby County till I die! They picked me 4 years ago and I have never looked back.

  20. eplnfl

    September 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I never found the need to adopt a team. I have a great interest in the EPL, thats why I’m here, but for me following the American’s in the league has been enough. So, with so many Yanks now in the league almost every match has some sort of American story line to it. If you can’t find a Yank, then a former MLS player or one of the many regional players will do. So, I find an excuse to watch almost every match and drag myslef out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

    Having a MLS team in my home town also fills the need for me of having an attachment to one team. Then there is the USMNT which becomes a bonus team for me. I will tell you that I do not mind an American having a favorite team in an overseas league but being interested in a national team other than the Red, White, and Blue, upsets me. I find myself even upset when FSC goes with England highlights over that of the US.

    So for me it’s USA, The Fire, and which team has an American playing in England.

  21. Lennon

    September 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I am American, and I am still in many ways a football neophyte; I’ve only really followed an EPL team in earnest since the 07-08 season. But I support a non-Big Four team, and frankly I disagree with the practice of being a supporter of two teams not just in football, but in all sports.

    Because of the local ties and regional rivalries found in the Premier League but not as much in American sports, it’s a lot more jarring to hear someone describe themselves as a “fan” of two teams; for better or for worse, most fans support one club to the death. However, I think one aspect in which American sports fans have an advantage on EPL fans is objectivity. What I mean is, while the fanbases of American sports teams invariably contain their fair share of nutjobs who can’t possibly see their rivals in a positive light, I think American fans are often better at fairly analyzing talent in teams other than their own. It is not nearly as taboo for an American to admire quality in teams other than their own. I don’t think I’m being unfair in saying that it’s far more common for a Red Sox fan to admit the skill of a Yankees player than it would be for a Man United fan to have a discussion on the brilliance of a Man City player. This doesn’t mean that the Red Sox fan is now ALSO a Yankees fan… it just means they’re a sports fan who has an eye for the game.

    I extend this mindset to my views on football. I am a Spurs supporter, but I watch as many Premier Leage games as possible, and rare is it that I find myself not rooting for a particular team involved. This leads to certain trends; for reasons not completely clear to me, I find myself rooting for clubs like Liverpool, Aston Villa, Fulham, or Stoke City than, say, Man U, Everton, Sunderland, or Blackburn. From digesting the Premier League in high volume I’ve found clubs and players I admire from a distance outside of my love for Spurs. Hell, even through my hatred for Ars*nal, I know which players of theirs I think are exceptionally talented (Arshavin, Clichy) and which I think might be a little overrated (Van Persie, Walcott). Does this mean I am a “fan” of those clubs or players? No… it means I’m not an idiot. Does this dilute or demean my support for Spurs? Absolutely not.

    So, in conclusion, I think your article is on the right track in the sense that it promotes seeing value in teams other than your own… but claiming legitimate support for two clubs is simply inexcusable. No apology or explanation is necessary for admiring other clubs, but just leave it at admiration.

  22. Bruce Gottesman

    September 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    When the Miami Fusion were contracted from MLS in 2001, I ceased to be an MLS fan, and I wanted to find a side to root for. I was most familiar with English football from the old 80’s highlight shows and truncated broadcasts, so that narrowed it to England. I thought that rooting for one of the Big Four would be way too easy, even though Arsenal had a few players I liked (like Bergkamp). But there was this team in the Northeast that was fighting for Champions League places, their best player was from the area, the manager was a legend, and the Fusion’s head coach, Roy Hudson, was from there and had played there. So I started rooting for Newcastle. Then I found out that I had chosen the English equivalent of the Chicago Cubs – passionate fans and a club that hadn’t won a title in years and years. I have to agree with you about what it means to be an American following an English club – I have zero personal experience with the Sunderland rivalry.
    Now of course things are a bit different for my team. I’ve actually had to suffer through relegation, so I guess that puts me in that 0.1%. Haven’t decided on a “second team” to root for in the Prem, and not sure I will. I have caught three of the five Newcastle Championship matches through Directv or ESPN360. If the form keeps up, I won’t have to find a second team, because Newcastle are top of the Championship table. Only 41 matches to go…

  23. Gaz

    September 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Like NH and a few others, I’m not sure that supporting two rival teams is possible. Even if you don’t know that the two cities of Liverpool and Manchester have a history of hating each other due to economic and political reasons, surely you know that Manchester is the team that is closest to passing you in trophies! Isn’t that enough to consider them a rival?!?

    I’d go a little further though and say that you shouldn’t be supporting two teams in the same league. I really think to understand footy to you have to understand totally BEING your team.

    As far as Americans supporting a “top 4” team – I don’t really think that should be a big deal. I support Liverpool – I grew up in the UK and, yes, started supporting them when they were brilliant (even though I was less than a few miles from Villa Park). As a 12 year old I didn’t care about being a “front-runner” (though that’s exactly what I was). The important thing is if you do pick a “top 4” then stick with them no matter what (even if they are playing like crap this season and will most likely lose their place as the most winningest team soon).

  24. Ford Prefect

    September 3, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I’ll start by saying I’m an American fan of Manchester United, but in my defense I started supporting them in the first season of the Premier League–Never discount the passion that many of us “old fans” had to put in to follow a club back in the day–Extremely limited tv coverage lead to having to follow alot of the 90’s on the computer–My memories of the ’99 CL final are “watching” a text matchcast of it–I agree that to be a fan of both United and Liverpool is like saying I’m a fan of the Yankees and the Red Sox–I can appreciate Fernando Torres’ ability for the goal scoring freak that he is, but I generally don’t want to see Liverpool win in any match-any more than I want to see Arsenal, Chelsea, Villa, Tottenham, or any other squad that rivals United for the title win

  25. NewtonHeath

    September 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

    Kudos for writing an interesting piece and staking your opinion I’ll give you that. I however disagree with the notion that you can support two rivals. I have no problem with people supporting 1 team in 1 league and another team in another league, as it gives them more footy to watch and cheer for. but supporting rivals is quite flawed. have them go to a united liverpool match and then see what they say. give them the analogy of liking both texas and oklahoma for college football… what do you do for the red river shootout? is there someone out there who likes both the yankees and the red sox? surely not. I’m just perplexed by that choice more than anything. I mean cmon that rivalry is BITTER HATRED.

    Anyways, I digress. I want to also make a point that a lot of Americans follow the top 4 because of success yes, but also because they don’t really have a choice. Let me explain. While nowadays, the access to EPL footy is becoming more mainstream and more teams are shown, it didn’t used to be this way. Back with fox sports world in the mid 90’s they pretty much only showed manchester united, arsenal, liverpool, and a few other random games. Those are the only teams you saw and you fell in love with them.

    I’d reckon that nowadays more fans will latch onto some of the ‘challenging the top 4’ teams like man city, tottenham, everton or villa maybe. This is due to increased exposure through internet and other tv channels. There will always be people supporting the big 4 though because a) those are successful teams and yes people like to follow teams that have a shot at winning something and b) because that’s what everyone newer to the sport sees. They see people en masse supporting the big four clubs. At our local footy bar/pub, there’s a bunch of fans from each of the top 4 sides. At the same time, there’s still 1 or 2 newcastle fans, 1 or 2 pompey fans, 1 or 2 west ham fans etc. It will just take a while before they get more of a following.


  26. Jetplane

    September 3, 2009 at 11:06 am

    I follow a top 4 club, but in my defense I didn’t know there was a big four when I started following them. I saw an SPL (Hearts and ???) game on Setanta and an EPL game (Tottenham and Bolton) on Fox Soccer Channel once. I heard of Chelsea first while watching the film Eastern Promises, and later I bought a jacket with their crest on it because I liked the way it looked. At my university people started to come up to me and talk to me about soccer, usually shaking their head at my choice in a team. I started to follow Chelsea more closely and was embarassed that I picked a team owned by a corrupt Russian billionaire, but I was too attached to most of the players at that point.

    • Duke

      September 3, 2009 at 11:00 pm

      I, too, am a Yankee Chelsea fan, and I’m not going to listen to any snobbish BS from anyone about it.

      Quite simply, Chelsea was one of the teams that was always on, and they were pretty good, helping to give me an appreciation for a sport to which I had never paid much attention. Before long I found myself getting wrapped up in their games — not quite to the extent that I get wrapped up in NFL games, but close!

      So, I feel my fandom was acquired in a quite natural way. I didn’t pick them because of their success (or failure!), I’m not jumping on any bandwagon — I could probably rant for 1,000 words or more about bandwagon-jumping NFL fans — I just learned to like the sport and the team simultaneously.

      Honestly, I kind of wish I wasn’t a Chelsea fan, because most people are going to dismiss me as one of the big-four-loving American fans. Their ownership leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, as well. But the fact remains that I’ve become a Chelsea fan, for better or worse.

      Besides, I look better in blue. 😉

      • Christopher

        September 4, 2009 at 9:53 am

        Yep, you’ll get dismissed by people that think you just became a Chelsea fan because they’re one of “The Big Four” *cue shuddering, Twilight Zoney music* without considering the possibility that maybe you came by that fandom honestly.
        In my case I wasn’t even AWARE that Chelsea were in that so-called “Big Four” when I first started watching them, I certainly wasn’t aware at the time how big they were when I decided to become a fan. I just became a fan because I liked what I saw when I watched them play, it was only afterwards that I discovered the real history of the club.
        So go ahead, be a fan… what do they know anyway?

  27. john

    September 3, 2009 at 11:03 am

    I answered yes to all those questions. I disagree with the first comment about “There’s something cowardly about being American and following Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea (maybe less so with these guys depending on when you started following them).”

    I follow Arsenal. I have for the last two years. I made my choice not because of their status but because of their attractive playing football. I do admit that I did not want to pick a team in danger of relegation. For someone who is American and just getting into EPL, I do not want the risk of having my team be relegated. What happens when your a fan of one team and your team DOES get relegated? I mean I’d assume you follow them in the Championship but what about the EPL? Do you still watch? Is there even a reason to watch if there’s no team to root for? I’m curious what other football fans that have followed the sport for longer them me feel about that.

    Anyways in the end I picked Arsenal because of their style of play and the fact that they were the first team I watched play. It was the same way I became a Mets fan, Kentucky Wildcat fan and Miami Dolphin fan. They havent won anything in a couple of years so I really don’t see whats cowardly about that pick.

    • Lyle

      September 3, 2009 at 2:04 pm

      You follow your team down to the Championship and just watch the EPL like everyone else does, and enjoy it for what it is. Not too difficult.

  28. JAKL

    September 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I think this is a good article and pretty much sums up the American perspective when it comes to rooting for EPL teams. The other parallel is how 30-40 year old guys came to find their NFL team growing up. I cannot tell you how many Cowboys and Steelers fans I’ve met in that age bracket who’ve never even stepped foot in Texas or Pennsylvania, let alone their respective cities. But in the 70’s and 80’s the only teams you were guaranteed to see on TV week in and week out unless near a city with a team was the Cowboys and Steelers. I can’t stand Cowboys fans and they are everywhere. But that was mainly because that’s all a lot of kids got to see on TV before the advent of cable deals that put more games on TV than you knew what to do with.

    So it’s no different really than having a big 4 club find you as that’s what you see on TV the most. For me it was the 2006 WC and I was just starting to get into watching games even though I’ve always enjoyed the sport. I loved watching Rooney and Ronaldo play during the WC and when I found out they both played for the same team, it made it easy for me to pick a side which happened to be Man Utd. I’ve supported them ever since.

    I ended up picking up a second team, Man City, because it seemed like every time I turned on FSC, Man City was being shown. I enjoyed watching them play because they were always the overshadowed little brother type and they played hard. I also didn’t have the ingrained rivalry not being born and raised in Manchester. But I can see it being the same as Yankees vs Mets or Giants vs Jets.

    Man Utd is still my primary club but I’ll still root and follow Man City and I’m glad they got the resources to challenge the top 4. I’ve also found that I enjoy pulling for other teams such as Fulham and Hull because of the American connection. Same is true because of West Ham and Villa as well. And I can also see rooting for Tottenham because of Harry and because the team reminds me of the Red Sox before they started winning things.

    So yeah I have one primary team, Man Utd. But I also have a second team as well as others I just like watching play for one reason or another. The great thing about being an American football fan, is that we can enjoy the game for what it is, a beautiful game.

    One final analogy, as an NFL fan, I like the Patriots. I’ll watch any game they are playing in but I won’t necessarily watch other NFL games unless there is nothing else on and I have nothing better to do. I have mini-heart attacks with each play. But I don’t really feel like watching a Detroit Lions vs Buffalo Bills game. With the EPL, I have the same feelings watching a Man Utd game as a Patriots game but I will also sit and watch any other game that’s on, even the Hull vs Birminghams. I would suspect most English viewers look at their football the same way as I look at the Patriots. I don’t have the built in bias and can therefore watch and enjoy more games. As an American football fan, I think I get the better deal which may be what the author was trying to get across in his post.

  29. Melissa

    September 3, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I agree… there’s nothing wrong with clapping for a great goal, and I always got excited when Ronaldo would do a fancy cross-over or some really difficult footwork. But it doesn’t mean I like him or his attitude, I can just appreciate is unarguable skill as a player.

  30. Stevie the K

    September 3, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Great, great post!

    As an American not geographically bound to any English team, I have the luxury of ‘rooting for’ whomever I want, and I’ll freely admit that changes year to year.
    What I want to see are:
    1. Great, attacking football
    2. Underdogs overachieving
    3. Great individual personalities, both player and Gaffer.
    4. To a certain extent, a creative, playmaking, attacking midfielder, since I most identify with that position and style of play.

    Last year I rooted for both Villa and Hull. Year before, Pompey.
    I like ‘arry. I like Yossi. I like Robbie Keane. I miss LuaLua – not merely for his name but his occasional brilliance. I like BrickTop from “Snatch”, though that’s not particularly relevant here.

    I earned my suffering ‘stripes’ from following the Boston (now New England) Patriots through over 3 decades of mediocrity, so I have nothing to prove to anyone by choosing a different English football side. I love the League and love the game, and that should be enough.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  31. Melissa

    September 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Ok, I can raise my hand to all three of those questions… And I support Liverpool. Die. Hard. However, I have also lived in Liverpool, so I think I can be an exception to the “There’s nothing worse than an American who follows one of the big Four or one of the grander continental clubs” snobby mindset from Lyle above. Should only British people support Premier League teams?? I only support Liverpool. And Liverpool haven’t won the Premier League in 20 years now, and only recently won the Champion’s League thanks to a miracle. I don’t watch United, I don’t watch Arsenal, and I only watch Chelsea cuz they are a good-looking squad. I do however, support the American players plying their trade in Europe, so I might get excited if say, Clint Dempsey/Jozy Altidore/Charlie davies scores a goal. And furthermore, I probably wouldn’t even be a footy fan had I not lived in a football obsessed city. Liverpool is what caught me and reeled me in, and with them I shall give them my loyalty til my dying breath!!

    I also agree with Jose, you cannot be a fan of United and LFC, Barca AND Real. It doesn’t work like that. You can appreciate beautiful football, and enjoy a good game, but being a true FAN and SUPPORTER, means you have to chose. I would get killed if I said I supported the Redskins and the Baltimore Ravens- Redskins all the way baby, even if we go 5-10. Being a proper fan/supporter means you understand the history behind the team, the traditions, and the rivalries. You understand that a Liverpool supporter would never root for United. EVER! It’s not done, and it would be considered the equivalent of high treason. And you also understand that Everton is Satan, whether they are a good team or not. They just are.

    That all being said, I do believe you can have a second team. But that team should not be in the same country, or have a decent chance in playing each other in european tournaments. I’m a Liverpool supporter, and I watch the L.A. Galaxy every chance I get (only cuz I love Landon!) But on the off chance that Liverpool went on an American tour and played the L.A. Galaxy, I would be there, dressed in my Liverpool shirt, cheering on Nando, Stevie and Co. and enjoying a good game.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want to be a Premier League fan that “has two teams” that’s fine. But be prepared for the derision of those who truly understand what being a Premier League fan is all about. And be prepared for the quiz you’ll get if you happen to cross paths with me. If you can’t name at least 5 players on the team, know the stadium name, know the last year we won the Premier League, and/or CL, and name the manager, you don’t deserve to call yourself a fan.

    • Lyle

      September 3, 2009 at 10:46 am

      I’m glad I offended you Melissa. 🙂

      • Lyle

        September 3, 2009 at 10:47 am

        … and yes, living in Liverpool would make you an exception. Just why didn’t you choose Everton though?

        • Duke

          September 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

          If the Redskins were 5 and 10, there’d still be one more regular-season game left…

          But a good point, all the same.

          • Melissa

            September 4, 2009 at 8:29 am

            Duke Thanks for the math correction…. i’d had a very long day by that point. and it was only 10:30!! Either way, we’d still be royal losers and I’d love them anyway 😉

            And Lyle, I lived in a liverpool section of liverpool, not an evertonian section. The city has sections for both teams, and if I walked into a pub in the everton section wearing my liverpool shirt, I’d probably be in mortal danger. hooliganism is a huge problem in liverpool and they don’t discriminate between the gender/sexes. But it was a fate thing i guess. And I’m not offended by your attitude. Some of my best friends in England have the same attitude.

  32. Goatygav

    September 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Ian also makes an excellent point. Unless you’ve experienced that atmosphere between two big rivals, which you can cut with a knife, then I don’t think you truly can understand how a loyal supporter feels.

  33. Goatygav

    September 3, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Loyalty is everything in Football. You wear your colours with pride. The term “Turncoat” or “Plastic Fan” would be applied to any supporter who changed allegencies between clubs.

    It’s like an identity. “Oh yeah – Goatygav – He’s a West Ham fan” might be how someone would begin to describe me. Changing teams, to a real supporter, is unthinkable.

    You’ve also got to realize that 99% of fans are passionate about the game of Football and do appreciate the game when it’s played well – by any team. Personally I’ll applaud a good move or goal if it’s scored against my team as would most other true fans at Upton Park.

  34. Ian M

    September 3, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Unfortunately you have to understand that what makes English football matches different to a match anywhere else on the globe IS the single-minded, tunnel vision of the average match-going supporter towards his team and AGAINST any other team.

    To a large degree this ‘passion’ for your club (and whether misplaced or not, IT IS a passion) is now ‘contained’ whilst within the confines of the stadium but is sometimes impossible to constrain on the surrounding streets.

    Take the “its a matter of life-and-death” mind-set the English fan has for his team away from him and what you’ll also be taking away is the atmosphere at a match that the EPL is rightly admired for throughout the football world. This is however an unlikely scenario as the powers that control football know that these are the type of people who are most likely to attend matches and swell the coffers of the clubs and by extension the governing body itself.

    Don’t listen to those who say the football hooligans are not real football supporters because thats exactly what they are – over zealous, but none-the-less real football fans.

    If, for example, Spurs fans didn’t detest Arsenal or Manchester United fans hate Liverpool the games between them would be undoubtedly be diminished and its the atmosphere that makes these games such an event to either attend or watch on TV.

    Please understand that I am not condoned the kind of violence shown at the recent Millwall v West Ham game – I’m merely explaining that the unique atmosphere of an EPL match relies to a certain extent on the amount of animosity one set of fans has for the opposition.

  35. AtlantaPompey

    September 3, 2009 at 10:15 am

    I adopted Pompey after the Great Escape of 2006. I’ve seen them lift the FA Cup and avoid relegation, not to mention the entire soap opera of this summer. We’re not only relegation favorites, but favorites to win the bottom of the league and you can get a pretty good set of odds on fewest points, fewest goals, etc.

    But I’m not switching allegiances for anything. Pompey chose me, and I’m sticking with them through thick and thin.

    Anybody who adopts a team also adopts all of the baggage that comes with that team. I hate Scum, for instance.

    I don’t remember where I heard this but it’s appropriate: “Supporting one of the Big Four is kinda like cheering for Brad Pitt to get laid. Where’s the challenge?”

    Play Up Pompey!!!

    • Eddie

      September 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

      I like what you said there: “Pompey chose me.” I like that because I think that is what frequently happens. As a friend of mine once said, “You don’t pick the club, it picks you.” And that doesn’t have to mean because you are born there, so you have no choice.

      I happen to like one of the Big 4 teams in Engalnd. I didn’t set out to like them, and it happened before there was a Big 4. It happened right around 2000-2001, and I was drawn to them because of a couple of players I really enjoyed watching. Soon enough, I found myself rooting for them and wanted to know more about the club, its history, etc.

      If they were relegated, would I continue to follow them and “support” them from afar. Hell yes, I would.

      I find it more annoying when I hear that someone who is actually from England tell me how they used to be an Arsenal fan, but now support Chelsea. Yes, I have heard this twice in the past year while watching in the bar.

  36. Nick

    September 3, 2009 at 10:14 am

    You also have to look at it from a different perspective. If your a new fan and actually want to be able to see your club play live on tv almost every weekend, then your pretty much forced to choose one of the top 4 clubs. People who are just starting to follow the game of “football” don’t want to watch a replay of the match 8 hours later or watch a poor quality version on a computer screen.

  37. Leon

    September 3, 2009 at 10:03 am

    Someone roots for Liverpool and ManU? Why not just throw in Arsenal and Chelsea and Man City too. Wanker.
    I adopted Hull at their entrance to the EPL last summer and that’s the only team I’ll pull for. I hate having to root for the big 4 to win but I need the other relegation contenders stamped down for my Tigers!

    • Brad in SoCal

      September 3, 2009 at 9:25 pm

      Way to go, Leon, but I’ll go you one better. I adopted Hull after my previous favorites, Reading, went down, because I liked their grit and underdog status. Further, I’ll root for the Burnleys to upset the big boys every time to show that money isn’t everything, and hope that Hull can stay up by then beating the Burnleys. A longshot, perhaps, but so was the American Revolution.

  38. Jason Gatties

    September 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I support only two teams in the world and they play in different leagues so there is no conflict.

    1. Fulham (supporter since 2000-2001 season)

    2. Chicago Fire (supporter since their birth)

  39. sucka99

    September 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

    errr – I can understand a Liverpool fan who also pulls for Roma or Bayern, but Manchester United?!?

    • Gaz

      September 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm

      My thoughts exactly. 🙂

  40. Jose

    September 3, 2009 at 9:51 am

    You cannot claim to be a fan if you support Liverpool and United, you are merely a spectator. How could you engulf yourself in what it means to support either of these clubs with passion if you also cheer on the other? It makes no sense whatsoever.

    Sounds like me as someone unwilling to suck up and stick with their side through thick and thin, someone who just wants to soak all the glory of victory.

    That’s no fan, that’s bandwagon.

  41. Lyle

    September 3, 2009 at 9:47 am

    There’s nothing worse than an American who follows one of the big Four or one of the grander continental clubs. Unless you married into the team or lived next door to Anfield, I say man up and follow a smaller club that is worthy or relegation year in and year out. There’s something cowardly about being American and following Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea (maybe less so with these guys depending on when you started following them).

    • Rob

      September 3, 2009 at 12:35 pm

      Agreed. But just remember, the big four are the ones always on TV here in the states.

      Meanwhile, Watford for life right here.

    • rhybread

      September 4, 2009 at 2:05 am

      So what about American’s like myself, raised in America, but born in London, whose family team is Arsenal, or another big club. I have another friend who was raised in Los Angeles like me but was born in Barcelona. It’s a family tradition to follow the club of the city our family is born in. Just because we’re American, but we didn’t “marry in to the team or live next door,” are we not worthy of following the club our family has followed for about a century?

      And what if we weren’t born there, what’s wrong with supporting the club with a rich tradition of excellence and a long history? American’s naturally support winners. Just because many clubs are mismanaged or have a little bad luck, doesn’t mean we should be locked into supporting them just to make you feel better about yourself.

  42. ovalball

    September 3, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Well done.

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