Back before Christmas I realized that I was regularly spending my weekend mornings watching the Premier League. Yep, without trying or even noticing, I had became a soccer fan. So of course at some point I need to pick a team to follow. I have, of course, read Bill Simmons on the subject, and I generally agree with his key rules.
Avoid bandwagonning at all costs. We all hated that guy that became a Red Sox fan in October 2004, or a Cowboys fan in the 70s, etc. BTW, spell check is insisting that bandwagonning is not a word. If not, it should be.
Avoid teams in danger of not being in the Premier League next year. Not because I have anything against the Championship, it's just a practical matter in that I can't see the lower league games here in the US. If my team gets relegated in 5 years I'll deal with it, but it would be tough in year one of fandom. I take fandom seriously, and I'll be all-in for life once I decide.
Simmons had some other concerns about the team being somewhere he'd like to visit, worrying about the celebrity fans, and not picking too tortured of a team. Those are secondary issues for me. I went to Purdue, and I was a Red Sox and Patriots fan through the 70s and 80s. I do tortured sports fan well.
I'm also not in a hurry to pick a team. I'm content to just enjoy watching the games this season to see what happens. But I am making some progress on picking a team.
That rules out Chelsea, Man U, and Arsenal. Hugely popular with all the money is sort of an automatic turnoff for me. Maybe that is why I've never dated a supermodel?
Avoid the relegation zone.
Newcastle, Sunderland, Aston Villa, Swansea City, Norwich City, Bournemouth. Newcastle could get in the running if the survive the season, as they have some serious hardcore fans, which I appreciate, and they are sponsored by the beer, which is a fine reason to support a team.
Leicester City - Leading the EPL at the moment, in their 3rd year back in the top league. The Cinderella aspect of their run certainly could be appealing, but it hasn't really caught my interest. Also could be a bandwagon candidate if they win it all this year, and I don't think I'm going to make a decision before then.
Manchester City - As the historically less successful team in Manchester (wich is still pretty damn successful), they are sort of the Mets to the Man U Yankees, which should make them appealing. Yet I was rooting against them when I watched their match recently. So probably not.
Tottenham Hotspur - On the short list. I have enjoyed watching them play, like the aggressive style while still playing good defense, and really, could their name be any more British sounding?
West Ham United - For whatever reason I was rooting for them over Man City last week, but that was the first time I had ever even thought about them, so probably not, although if I find myself actively rooting for them again soon I may need to elevate them to top 4. Also, they are the favorite team of Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, so there is that.
Liverpool - Also on the shortlist. Yes, they are Big 4ish, but they are one that hasn't won anything recently, but might be on the verge soon. As a lifelong Red Sox fan I have a compelling reason to follow Liverpool, although I have to admit in watching them twice now I haven't felt the emotional pull I would expect. Maybe that is me rebelling against the obvious choice.
Southampton - On the shortlist. Originally I was taken by the home fans singing of "When the Saints Come Marching Home" in one of the first games I watched. Didn't expect to hear 30,000 English soccer fans singing that song, even though the song's providence probably is British. Got bonus points for beating Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford and causing the fans to jeer the own team. Admittedly, that seems to be happening a lot to Man U this season.
Stoke City - Don't think I've seen them play yet. No opinion.
Watford - Same as above
Crystal Palace - A friend described them as the KC Royals; young, don't have the money, but find a way to win. It sounded appealing but in watching at least one match I haven't felt any pull towards them.
Everton - Eh, so Sylvester Stallone is a fan.
West Bromwich Albion - Who?
Also, I loved the transfer period. In America the last place teams in any sport start giving up and selling of stars for future stars at about the 2/3 point. In EPL, the bottom teams go on a spending spree to buy their way to safety out of the relegation zone. It's been really fun to watch. Alas, Newcastle's spending spree may not do them any good as they dropped their first match 3-0 to Everton after the spending spree.
So at the moment it's probably between Southampton and The Spurs. Subject to change, of course. If you are an EPL fan feel free to make your case for your favorite team.
Update: After watching the 30 minute special on Southampton's rise from League One to Premier in 3 years, and reading about the cool investment they are making in US youth soccer, I'm all-in for Southampton.