The thing that sets my favorite team, Tottenham Hotspur, apart from the rest is:
• We are very young with a number of homegrown stars. Aaron Lennon, England's most electric player at the World Cup is under 20 and plays for us. Ledley King, Michael Carrick and Paul Robinson were also on the English squad and are all 26 or younger. We also have three very exciting, world-class strikers in Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and Dimitar Berbatov, the oldest of whom is Keane, who just turned 26. Didier Zokora, the 25-year-old who starred for Ivory Coast in the World Cup decided to join us over a number of more famous clubs, which never would have happened two years ago.
|The EPL Decision: Box Set|
From the fans to the Sports Guy, here's all you need to know to pick your own EPL team:|
• We have one of the most intense rivalries in the EPL with Arsenal and we are the blue-collar, more historically downtrodden of the two teams although recently we have been narrowing the gap. If you think that what happened to Johnny Damon was bad after he went to the Yankees, just read a little about what happened to Sol Campbell after he went from Tottenham to Arsenal; it was brutal.
• We play in London so if you are ever in town you can go for a match unlike some of the more remote teams like Newcastle, Bolton and Blackburn. Also, since our fans are blue-collar the games are much more intense than West Ham and Chelsea, where the fans are more executive.
• Most importantly, after last year, we are starting to build a winning tradition under coach Martin Jol. Last year was our most succesful since the EPL came into existence in the early '90s, and due to our youth there is no reason to believe we can't get a lot better next year.
As you can see, it is a very exciting time to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan. I would like to invite you on the bandwagon while it is still pretty much empty because in one year it will be rocking.
--Ivan Santana, New York
In the interests of helping you pick your EPL team, allow me to break it down:
I'm assuming a few ground rules:
1) The team can't be awful -- some chance to win something (if not the league than a chance at Europe or a good cup run) -- though the threat of "the drop" adds something to the bottom of the table battles, if your team is relegated it is simply impossible to really follow them from the States, meaning you have to start over. Which defeats the purpose of, you know, picking a team.
2) The team must play an entertaining style -- because dour, defensive, negative, "park the team bus in front of goal" soccer can be excruciatingly boring. Which is why the Italian league is the worst league for a neophyte to watch at first -- you thought the national team is a bunch of cheating divers, wait til you see the guys just a cut below. They make Bruce Bowen look like a goody two-shoes.
3) The team cannot be "the Yankees" -- because who roots for the house in blackjack?
I think you should pick Tottenham Hotspur. If the Dodgers had stayed in Brooklyn, they'd be Spurs. A team that almost always promises more than they deliver, partly because their fans not only want to win, they want to win in style. Through the years, the style has been much more reliable than the results, though they just missed out on the fourth Champions League spot last term. A young, energetic and exciting squad, an attack-minded coach, and that particular fan base makes them the best bet for a combination of results and flair if one is going to not jump on the "Big 3" bandwagon.
--Seth, Anchorage, Alaska
Just read your chat and your request for ideas on an English soccer team to support. My advice follows, but please note that I am neither English nor am I a soccer fan. I probably know as much about soccer as you do. Anyway, with those caveats, my nomination for your team is Tottenham Hotspur. My reasons:
1) They are based in London, which is not self-evident from their name, so you'll sound smart when you tell everyone they are from London.
2_ Hotspur is a cool nickname, vaguely sexual and menacing at the same time. Bonus points for the Shakespeare reference.
3) They are usually pretty good, almost always finishing in the top half of the Premier League, so there is a chance of some championships in the future.
4) They are not great, like Aresnal, Manchester United, and/or Chelsea, so you won't be accused of being a frontrunner.
5) Blue is their team color. I like Blue.
6) I have actually seen them play twice at their home stadium, and they have a passionate fan base. The guy in front of me was unhappy with the play and pounded his fist on the railing on each syllable: "UN! AC! CEPT! A! BLE!!!!"
--Sean, Freehold, New Jersey
The case for Tottenham Hotspur is fairly easy to make. First, as the song says, "Tottenham are the greatest team the world has ever seen." Who can argue with that logic? Second, any fool can be a glory seeker -- just look around at the number of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Chelsea shirts one sees if one, in fact, sees any soccer jerseys. Why pick the team at the top? If one really wants to be a fan, pick a club with which you can grow. A fan will only know and appreciate glory by suffering with a team. Third, Tottenham are a club you can generally count on being in the Premiership from year to year. It can be more difficult to follow a club relegated to the division below the "Championship." Tottenham have been in the top flight continuously since the mid-1970s. So, you can count on seeing Tottenham on TV with some regularity. The Internet fills in for the rest of the games.
Fourth, Tottenham have won the FA Cup eight times in their history. The FA Cup is a knockout tournament like the NCAA tournament played concurrently with the second half of the regular season. If you like the fun of this sort of competition, you'll love Tottenham. Fifth, money dominates in English soccer as it does in all sports everywhere. It seems that only a few clubs have the means to win from year to year, particularly those with Russian billionaires as benefactors. Tottenham have enough support that they are not no-hopers for the title, and having won the title twice in their history (1951 and 1961), they have the pedigree to challenge for honors from year to year. Sixth, Tottenham are a team on the up. They finished fifth last season -- highest finish in over a decade. The club is building with a young squad playing attractive soccer. In short, they are fun to watch.
Seventh, what a name -- Tottenham Hotspur! It's rooted in Shakespeare, so one can feel superior to others when you explain the classical origins of the club name. Plus, one can correct people when they get the name wrong -- it's NOT Tottenham Hotspurs, for example. Spurs is just fine, and so is Tottenham.
--John Bauer, Kansas City
Your English soccer team should be Tottenham Hotspur. (1) The name is cool; (2) They're in London and you gotta go big town; (3) like the Sox, they've gone forever without winning but are basically near enough to the top to tease; (4) they have a number of writers who have followed them over the years; (5) they have duende according to English writers.
--Jim Haug, Williston, Vt.
If you want an English soccer team to watch next season you have to follow Tottenham Hotspur. People may be trying to sell you on bigger clubs like Man U, Liverpool, Chelsea, or Arsenal but I'm telling you Tottenham right now have the potential to be the '04 Red Sox. Two seasons ago they were dead and buried under a horrible coach until the guy quit and under new manager Martin Jol they are the new up-and-comers. They also have the greatest rivalry in the league with Arsenal dating back to 1919 when Arsenal was promoted to the top division ahead of Spurs under the shadiest of cirsumstances. So they have an 87-year rivalry made worse by the fact that their stadiums are only a few miles apart. The equivalent of having Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium at opposite ends of Charlestown. Add to that the fact that last season Spurs finished underneath Arsenal by 2 points because of a case of violent stomach flu; conspiracy theorists claiming that Arsenal fans poisoned the team's food at a hotel party prior to the final game of the season. Not even Aaron Spelling could come up with that plotline. It would have been the first time in years that they had finished above their North London rivals. What's not to love? Plus their coach is a chain-smoking, Kafka-reading gigantic Dutchman who looks like he could eat the Arsenal coach -- who is, by the way, a snivelling evil Frenchman nicknamed "the Professor."
--Matt, Somerville, Mass.
I put forward my team, Tottenham Hotspur, based out of north London who play at a place called White Heart Lane. Firstly, they're well known for being one of the biggest teams in England who regularly underachieve and haven't been great since the 1960s. Back then my dad lived right next door and watched them win the double in the '60/61 season (league championship and FA Cup). So why would you want to root for them> Because last season they went from ninth to fith, securing a position in the UEFA Cup (second-tier to the Champions League) for the first time since '89/90. They're an extremely young team and they're predominantly English, unlike those "English" clubs Arsenal and Chelsea (where Arsenal regularly didn't have a single Englishman in their starting lineup the entire time last season). This year they will have one. Chelsea will have two. The Spurs have seven in their starting lineup and all of them are regular contributors to the England setup. They play attacking, attractive soccer, preferring to pass the ball around the park then the traditional English way of boot it up the field to your big striker. They're extremely young and on the rise -- Martin Jol's policy of getting cheap young players from around England and supporting them with established European players has paid huge dividends. They are expected to challenge for the top four or five from now on against the real heavyweights Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Their fan base is amazing -- loyal and vast (throughout these years of malaise) despite the fact that their stadium only holds 36,000 -- and it seems they are finally being given a team worthy of the devotion they have shown. Not to mention they're not one of the big five but are still on Fox Sports World and are looked upon as a team of the future. Another caveat: their 19-year-old phenom of a right winger Aaron Lennon is almost certain to oust David Beckham from his spot on the right wing of England for the first time since 1998 after his inspiring performances as a sub during this World Cup -- ring in the changes. Lemme know what you think.
--Ed Gomaa, Charlottesville, Va.
I'm going to have to pitch for my boyfriend's favorite team, Tottenham Hotspur. Reasons to support them:
They have fantastic jerseys (very important in EPL soccer as a lot of the jerseys are totally hideous -- see: Portsmouth)
You'll be able to watch them on TV ... they are on Fox Soccer Channel alot.
They are sponsored by a poker company ... and we know you love gambling. Maybe supporting them will help with learning how to gamble on soccer?
They're a London team, so if you ever decide to make a pilgrimage for a game, you'll be able to stay in London.
They have great fans and great chants (we know how important that is).
They're good: they finished fifth this season and look to do much better next year.
But not too good: they're more like the Red Sox than the Yankees. If you're going to pick a team to root for, you absolutely CAN'T jump on the bandwagon of a team that's already winning like Man U, Chelsea or Arsenal. If you get on the Spurs' wagon now, there's a good chance you'll be with them when they win it all.
Their roster for 2006-07 has at least 10 players that were on their nation's World Cup roster this year, including English goalie Paul Robinson.
A derby match is a game in which two teams in close geographical proximity (both from London, both from Birmingham, etc.) play one another. The North London Derby, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Arsenal, is recognized as one of the most heated derbys in all of Eurpoean football (think Yankees/Red Sox times 5). You'll be able to watch that twice a year ... home and away.
They have an incredible tradition ... been around since 1882.
Spurs were the first British team to win a major European trophy, 1963 European Cup Winners Cup.
They have won the FA cup, the oldest single elimination tournament in world football (1871) eight times. Third-most all time.
Their motto is Audere est Facere. To Dare is to Do. See comment above regarding your gambling.
So, I hope you choose Spurs, if only because if you don't my boyfriend may not let me read your column anymore!
--Catherine, Brookline, Mass.
If you want to get into soccer, I've got the perfect team for you. Tottenham Hotspur. Aside from having easily the best name in professional soccer, with Real Salt Lake coming a close second, they also fit well for Red Sox fans like us. Right now they're sort of in the 2003/2004 Sox period, where things have just about hit hardest for their fans. The team just missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League (think of it as March Madness) on the last game of the season because 10 of their players got food poisoning the night before the game. As a result, they lose the last game, their archrivals (Arsenal) go to Champions League, and they're stuck at the UEFA Cup, European soccer's equivalent of the NIT.
If that can't convince you, take a look at star midfielder Edgar Davids, a black Dutchman with dreads and goggles. Absolutely priceless character who's told prior coaches to get their heads out of players' asses.
Now I know it won't take a simple e-mail only appealing to our common roots to entice you, but give these videos a shot on YouTube. When the fans do their best to make the team badge (some loon sort of creature balancing on a ball) look ominous in a stormy sky to Jay Z's 99 Problems.
To one of my favorite team tribute videos on YouYube called Have A Little Faith, clearly made RIGHT before their fateful loss at the end of the season.
How can you not love this team? You can't stay negative with a team name like that. In all seriousness though, the team is a lot of fun to watch and they always make a highlight reel with their notable slick passing and exciting play which they've always been known for (instead of winning).
--Jonathan, New York
Bill, there's only one choice: Tottenham Hotspur. When I had to sit down and decide which NBA club to support, as a Tottenham fan, it had to be the Celtics. Here's why:
• Both teams boast a glorious past.
• Both teams hark on about said glorious past ALL the bloody time
• Both teams pride themselves on an "old-school" aesthetic (check out our "uniform" this season ...
• Both teams boast prodigiously talented youngsters (Did you see Aaron Lennon in the WC? -- guy's gonna explode this year).
• Both teams put their fans through the grinder like no other. Celtics had Rick Pitino, Spurs had Christian Gross, a bald Swiss who turned up to his inaugural press conference clutching a London Underground ticket proclaiming it to be his "Ticket To Success." He nearly got us relegated.
Other reasons why Spurs are the chaps for you:
• Our head coach, Martin Jol, not only possesses a comedy accent, but looks like Shrek, is outrageously popular but incredibly frightening. He's a complete hero.
• Our rivalry with Arsenal. We're constantly the underdogs against our North London neighbours. We represent all that is good (and frustrating) about football: playing with style, history, choking at the last (more of that in a minute), great flair players. They are the Enemey: cheating and diving their way to success. And they're just too bloody good, too.
• But, we would have finished above Arsenal last year and thus qualified for the uber-lucrative Champions League, had we got a win on the final day of the season. However, the Spurs team get struck down with a mysterious illness the morning of the game and are forced to compete with guys throwing up on the pitch, all entirely drained. We lose, Arsenal win: they qualify. Bastards. This would only happen to Tottenham.
• Jurgen Klinsmann used to play for us.
• We're actually going to be pretty damn good this year.
So there you are, Bill. You're now a Spurs fan. Congratulations, and best of luck for the new season. I'll save you a ticket for the first North London Derby against Arsenal.
--Charlie Parrish, London
Follow Tottenham Hotspur (aka Spurs), for the following reasons.
1) Being in the USA it must be a bigger team or you'll never get to see any highlights or news on them. This leaves the top 5-6 teams
A. Manchester Utd -- my local team and loved by every female or any non-football fan. A bit like the Bulls/Lakers. Too obvious a choice, although are now owned by the Glaziers and opposing fans chant "U-S-A-" at them to mock them
B. Chelsea (aka Chelski) -- Were a nothing team until a dodgy Russian oil billionaire pumped millions in and bought them all the best players (that to me isn't sport!)
C. Arsenal (aka Ar*e) -- Spurs' arch rivals and the most succesful London-based club. However, they have one English player on the team and probably only 2 or 3 on the whole squad! Also have a French manager and loads of Frenchmen on the team -- enough said (don't do it!)
D. Liverpool (aka Scousers) -- The most succesful English team of all time; however, if you ever fancied going to watch them you would have to be very wary of two things: 1) Scousers' reputations as thieves -- don't park your car anywhere near the ground! 2) Even English people can't understand their thick accents.
E. Newcastle United (aka The Geordies) -- A bit like supporting the Golden State Warriors or the Wizards, they will never win anything. They are known to be the most passionate fans in the league (which really bugs me as when they were in the lower leagues these so called passionate fans of c50,000+ only 2,000-3,000 bothered to watch them! Rubbish!
F. Spurs -- After years of underachievment have recently changed direction. They have bought many of the best young English players in the game. This has been done with a view to get them to grow and improve together. They have added a few world-class foreigners to the mix and had their best season in years. Remind me of the Clips in that the previous owner refused to splash the cash (leading to years of not competing) but like Mr. Sterling have recently started splashing out. Also have the most exciting English player at the moment in Aaron Lennon, a 19-year-old superstar who has pace to burn but only stands about 5 feet tall. Spurs are also supported by Steve Nash, have won more European trophies than anyone in England apart from Liverpool and Man Utd, were the first English team to win a European trophy and also the first post-war team to win the double (League and cup competitions). Finally, with them being London-based (White Hart Lane) you could go and watch if you ever come to the UK (as I know you Yanks don't go anywhere apart from London!). They play in white and are sponsered by a gambling giant!
"We are Tottenham, we are Tottenham, super Tottenham from the Lane, we are Tottenham super Tottenham, super Tottenham from the lane!"
--Nathan Moult, Stockport, England
After much thought and a cold MGD, your EPL team of destiny is the Tottenham Hotspurs. As a cardinal rule, only posers bandwagon on the four horsemen of the EPL (Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U, and now Chelsea). Also, knock off the bottom feeders due to relegation -- nobody would be a Clips fan if they got demoted from the NBA to the D League to the CBA. Plus, they routinely sign superstars who are way past their prime, which Al Davis has proven time and again is the way to go and always leads to excitement at the beginning of the year. Jurgen Klinsmann had a brief stop. And most importantly, the Hotspur nickname -- it's so USFL.
Looking for a Premiership team? Simple, Tottenham Hotspur. Playing in the shadow of Chelsea and Arsenal (their bitter rivals, whom they lost a Champions League spot to in the final game of the season), Spurs have taken the Oakland A's route and have begun stockpiling the best young talent in England. Aaron Lennon was a real threat in the World Cup and Jermaine Defoe was the other striker they forgot to take to Germany. They have a strong 2005 Cleveland Indians vibe of a young team bursting with talent ready to take over. Just a pleasure all around.
Tottenham Hotspur has everything going for them. They play in London. They competed with the big clubs last season (despite having none of the big-time Eastern European money ... allthough that brings up another reason to love English soccer: the Russian/Ukranian mob bosses that have taken over the game thanks to the lack of any salary cap and the fact that all the other owners are NEVER going to say anything for fear of being visited by some dude named Dimitri or Vladimir. Is money laundering legal in Britain? Either way, it would make a great plot for a Bond movie). And finally, Tottenham have Robbie Keane playing striker. This guy is amazing. He'll jog around the field for an hour doing nothing and just when you want him to be struck by lightning, he'll uncork something that makes the British announcers (another reason to watch the Premier League) almost swallow their microphone. Plus, he celebrates every goal with a cartwheel/summersault combo that you were going in Grade 4 gym class.
Hey Sports Guy. I have the perfect english soccer team for you. Tottenham Hotspur, Spurs for short. They're historically one of the top four teams in England, but haven't won a championship in god knows how long, and they have to watch as Arsenal (the Lakers to their Clippers) win championships all the time. They currently have a great young team and are on the rise, they have potential to even win a championship in a few years, kinda like the Bulls. But the best part is they never, ever, win the big game! A couple of my favorite Spurs stories will help you understand.
• My best friend supports them and you don't even understand how tortured he is. I remember we watched a Man United-Spurs game in 2002. At the time United were at the tail end of a 11-year, Celtics-like dynasty and Spurs were a midtable side. Somehow Spurs were 3-0 up at halftime, and my buddy was giving me all kinds of grief. From watching the World Cup I'm sure you understand this is like being up 30-0 in football. Game over, right? Nope. United came back in the second half and won 5-3! I don't even want to know where that ranks on the levels of losing. The fourth goal was good, but the fifth (by David Beckham no less) just rubbed salt into the wounds ... typical Spurs.
• This past season they were having a great year, their best in over 15 years, sitting in fourth place and closing in on a spot for this year's Champions League. Their main rivals, Arsenal, were having a terrible year by their standards, in fifth place. It all came down to the last game of the season -- if Spurs could beat West Ham (a decent team, but a very winnable game) then they would make the Champions League; a loss or draw and Arsenal would make it. Here's the best part. The night before the game, most of the Spurs' team came down with food poisoning from some lasagna they had at the team hotel! Of course they lost, 2-1, and many of their players said it was because they couldn't run from the food poisoning. Arsenal made the Champions League and the rumors were that an Arsenal fan had tampered with the lasagna. Kinda sums up Spurs' luck doesn't it?
So it has to be Spurs. Like I said, a good, young team with potential and quality players, a tortured history, and a Red Sox type fan base. And if that doesn't work, Steve Nash is a Spurs fan.
--Jon Cummins, Tampa, Fla.
These are the reason why you should support Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, as I have for the past 13 years:
• They are probably the one club in England most like the Red Sox.
• They are one of the biggest underachievers in England and maybe all of Europe. In all of the Premiership history (which is only going back to the start of the 92-93 campaign, it was called the First Division for 100 years before that), not including last season Spurs had finished in mid-table mediocrity every single season. They never finished higher than seventh, and never worse than 14th. That is no easy task.
• Even though they spend quite a bit of money buying players, the purchases never seem to work out.
• Spurs are a club where players who are in their prime and seemingly are good buys, seem to go and die.
• You really need to support a team from London. If you are going to attend games, do you want to head up to the Northeast or other areas of the country -- no. London is the place to be. How many places can you get to in England, besides London, with direct flights from the biggest airport near you, LAX?
• You need to support a team that still has the potential to win the league. Why root for a team that realistically has no chance whatsoever. This way, you root for a team that has a chance to win, even if it is very slight, keeping your hopes up, so then you can be terminally disappointed so it is even more painful year after year. Like I said earlier, you need to die a little bit with the team you support.
• And outside of Chelsea, Man Utd and Arsenal, there are really only three other teams even could possibly have a shot of winning the league: Liverpool, Spurs, and Newcastle (another fine choice by the way, for some of the same futility reasons as Spurs, but who wants to go all the way up their to see matches, and you can't fly direct into the Toon, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne).
• Spurs was the fashionable team in England throughout the '60s and won many honors, even across continental Europe. This is important, so people can look back at this time (I am 34 years old so I am not one of those people), and yearn for the glory days and be duped into thinking the team can be great again, can win again, although the reality is it is still very much a longshot.
• Being a longshot to win the league, if it ever happened, it would be that much more satisfying, kind of how the Red Sox came back from 0-3 down against the Yanks to eventually advance to the Series and beat the Cardinals. If the Sox had beaten the A's or someone else and not faced the Yankees in the playoffs, you wouldn't have really exercised the demons despite winning the series. Anyway, beating the Yanks on the way made it that much sweeter.
• Spurs colors are Navy blue and white. This way when you buy swag you can wear something that is not Red all the time.
• The nickname of the club, Spurs
--Adam Low, Chicago
Your only real possibilities, and all of this comes down to affinities you already openly profess.
The LA Clippers option: Spurs (Tottenham Hotspur for the newcomers).
Not really quite like the Clippers in the grand scheme of things -- there have been various times in Spurs history in which they have been awesome. Just not recently: the last 10 years or so have been very Clippers-like in their mismanagement, and they have been overshadowed by other London-based rivals like Arsenal and Chelsea. But they're about to be really good: great young players, the equivalent of cap room (too difficult to explain just now how that works), great underrated young coach (the Clippers comparison is inexact). Plus, their name involves an obscure Shakespeare reference, which for an English professor like myself is notable. A very (currently) unfashionable team, but that's about to change; if Paddy Power still accepted bets from the U.S. I'd put some $$$ on them since they're 50-1-- that's a great bet in my view. I realize that part of this pick for you means wanting to travel to games and hang out in order to pick up the scene; if you want that to happen in London, here's your team.
The Boston Celtics option: Liverpool.
Great record setting team in the late '70s/most of the '80s (led by Kenny Dalglish, which is Scottish for "Larry Bird"), then some rough years after involving poorly chosen younger players, cocaine, and bad fashion. Now on the rebound with a great coach, a direct pipeline into young Spanish talent, and a reasonable chance to win the league. Really your only choice when it comes down to it -- also, close to the best fans you'll ever meet, fans exceeded only by:
The Boston Red Sox option: Newcastle United.
Best fans in all of global professional sports in a cold and miserable city in the far northeast: incomprehensible accents, horrible weather, great beer. What you're used to, but with the best fish and chips you'll ever have. The Red Sox comparison might be inexact -- Newcastle are sort of the pre-'04 Red Sox and the Cubs (of the last 100 years) rolled into one. The basic story is: rumors of success some time in the distant past, decades of underachievement punctured by seemingly supernatural intervention which prevents rare moments in which achievement is a possibility, then great success in the '90s followed by a long descent into one long hangover. Right now they're sort of like the Red Sox going into the 1994 season- - except Clemens has retired, Mo Vaughn is already injured and out for the season, and you're coming off a season in which Mike Greenwell and Otis Nixon had a knockdown fistfight in the outfield and Aaron Sele and Butch Hobson came to blows as to whether or not Sele should be pulled after giving up three home runs in a row. Dark times right now for Newcastle --- but when they get better (as they must), it will be that much better. Coolest uniforms out of the bunch, also.
So, your three options-- the only remotely viable ones-- are Liverpool, Spurs, and Newcastle: Liverpool if you are doing this pragmatically, Newcastle if you're doing this romantically, and Spurs if you're going for a combination of prescience and ahead-of-the-game-trendiness-on-behalf-of-an-obvious-underdog (otherwise known as the "I'll buy Clippers season tickets and chronicle what that's all about WITHOUT EVER ACTUALLY DECIDING THAT I'M A FAN OF THEM!" syndrome).
--Gregory Dobbins, Sacramento
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.