Stories Of Fandom In The Premier League: Which Team Should I Root For?

Once upon a time, I suggested that cheering for a Barclays Premier League team is like marrying a mail-order bride. There's no real love there. Instead, it's a relationship built on materialistic affection.

I've revised my stance since then. I've come to realize that BPL fandom is more like love that comes from a blind date. It's often a random spark that lights up your life, but you have to go in with an open mind to find it. Consider the pathways our five writers, including myself, took to reach our clubs. Timing was everything.

In this, the summer of soccer in the United States, more Americans than ever are committed to the game. They just don't know where to focus their energy in non-World Cup years. I've heard on more than one occasion new footy fans ask, "Which Premier League team should I root for?" I've seen the question almost daily on Twitter.

There's no one answer, and there's no right answer. I can't tell you whom to support. We at TSFJ have been there, though, and we're willing to help.

Read our stories of fandom. Maybe you'll draw inspiration. The season starts on Saturday. Go fall in love.

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When someone asks you, "Why do you love Arsenal?" the answer is a simple one: Thierry Henry. His brilliance on a football pitch was like witnessing Godzilla trample over a city or LeBron freight-training his way down the court on a one-man fast break. You couldn't take your eyes off of it, and you just got caught up in the moment.

However, my fandom of Arsenal is more than that. In reality, Henry was the sealed cork top on an aged bottle of delicious whiskey that was waiting to be sipped. I got to learn about Bertie Mee, Paul Merson, Patrick Vieira and David Seaman. I began to embrace that gorgeous-looking red and white kit. I embraced Arsene Wenger as "my manager" on a level similar to Bobby Cox and Bob Stoops within my sports fandom.

Most importantly, I was a fan embracing a club with fans literally from around the world. In America, I've been known to be a fan of the underdog and the unknown. (I mean, I'm a Jacksonville Jaguars fan for Christ sakes) Yet, being a fan of Arsenal meant that total strangers from all across the globe would walk up to me and start talking about the Gunners, simply because I had on my red and white Arsenal paraphernalia. It's a beautiful thing.

So yes, being a Gooner (the nickname of an Arsenal fan) is pretty friggin' cool, even if our team is insanely profitable and has the proclivity to not want to spend huge money on the world's biggest stars. Those annual dreams of finishing first in the Premier League are what makes watching football at ungodly early morning hours on the weekend so fun. Well that, and telling fans of ManU, Man City, Liverpool and Spurs to fuck off. -Ed

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When I was in college, I struck up a friendship with a group of guys who used a basement apartment as our hang-out spot. We called it IHOS, the International House of Sausage. No women allowed.

Not that they'd want to show up. The place was a rat's nest. Eventually, my friend Sibi convinced me to pull for his favorite team, Everton. I think he did it mostly because he wanted another fan. After a few Saturday mornings when I couldn't keep my eyes open, I told him I was sorry. I couldn't support any team that played that early on a weekend, not even the Blues.

Sibi graduated, moved to India and moved back. Since he came back about a year ago, our friendship grew stronger than it was when we spent our days at IHOS.

He still prodded me about rooting for Everton. Last spring, I took a BuzzFeed quiz about which EPL team to follow. I'd take the test, get an answer other than the Toffees and use it as proof why I shouldn't follow EPL.

The gods are fickle. I answered 10 or 12 moronic questions and got my team. It was Everton.

I believe in the universe. It wouldn’t let me escape the Blues. I’m grateful for Sibi, Tim Howard, BIG ROM and Ross freaking Barkley. No matter what happens, Sibi and I will always be close, if only for the Toffees.

COYB. Screw Moyes. Roberto is our God. -Mark Trible

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There’s nothing in my life that mirrors heroin addiction as closely as my fandom for Liverpool FC.

It all started the summer after my freshman year of college. I was flipping through channels when I saw a game on, so I sat down and watched.

That game just so happened to be one of the greatest ever played in any sport. The 2005 Champions League Final pitted Liverpool against AC Milan. If you have a spare three hours to watch a soccer game that happened nine years ago, do it.

Within the first half, Liverpool went down three. Being down 3-0 is death in soccer, especially in  the Champions League Final. And it was definitely death against an AC Milan team that was on the short list of best teams in Europe.

Forgetting they were dead, Liverpool fans sang "You'll Never Walk Alone," the club's anthem, clear through halftime, loud enough that the team heard it in the dressing room. The team responded to the song by scoring three goals in six minutes, then winning the damn thing on penalty kicks.

I wasn’t fully aware of the magnitude of what had happened, but I was soaring and had to see more.

No high I’ve ever experienced with this team has ever come that close to the first one.

Like heroin. Or so I’m told.

That want for more has led me to follow this team through thin and thinner in years to come. Seriously, the chapter of Liverpool’s history when I decided to become a fan is probably their darkest competitively. At its worst, it was the hellish, asset-stripping ownership of Americans Tom Hicks and George Gillett (which inspired this song) and the mismanagement of Roy Hodgson (who somehow failed his way up into the England men's national team manager's job like Lane Kiffin. Football is just as stupid as football!).

Last year, second-year Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers turned a soccer team into turbo murderballers who scored for fun and ripped off 13 Liverpool wins in a row by playing faster in attack than anything this side of lightning. That is as close as anything has come to that first high. But I’ve never stopped wanting more.

I’ve watched Liverpool legally and semi-legally in Rome, Paris and London. I finally got to see Liverpool in the flesh this summer, in Charlotte. Their opponent was AC Milan, strangely enough. I sat next to a friend, another happy addict.

It was bliss. But it wasn't as good as the first time. Like heroin, or so I'm told. -Carden Hedelt

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My appreciation for the Hull City Tigers started as a joke. I've wanted to develop a vested interest in soccer for quite awhile, and the TSFJ Summit back in April was the perfect excuse to do that.

Keep in mind that until recently I was convinced that MLS was the definitive standard for soccer so I would have been impressed by just about any Premier League team. Still, there was something to be said about the allure of Hull City. Those orange and black kits caught my eye, and for some reason I just knew with a name like Hull City that they had to have been one of the elite teams in the EPL.

The game that introduced me to them that weekend was one where they came back from 2-0 down to draw with Fulham.

The timing on my Premier League club of choice was awful, though, because I would have likely rooted for Tim Howard and Everton had the World Cup taken place beforehand.

Or maybe I would have embraced my inner Gooner with Arsenal (see: Ed).

Fortunately Hull City is just good enough to maintain a spot in the Premier League, but apparently nowhere close to toppling elites like Liverpool or one of the Manchester clubs. Now that I think about it, the worst thing I could have done was educate myself on what makes an EPL team great.

Life comes at you fast, but I feel confident in saying their kits are championship material, and looking the part is half the battle. -Esau Howard

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Southampton's Matthew Le Tissier was something to behold. He effused joy on the pitch, dinking the ball over, around and through defenders with ease. Le Tissier scored more highlight-reel goals than any player in Premiership history. His exploits popularized the phrase "even by his standards" among broadcasters. Each week, it seemed he topped himself.  He was a floppy mop and floppy socks away from being Pete Maravich in cleats.

Of course, I never actually watched Le Tissier play. I merely YouTubed him after hearing his name enough times through the years.

In a previous life, I was a Middlesbrough supporter. But Boro was relegated in 2009, and I had neither the patience nor the energy to endure seasons in the Championship, England's second division. So I watched soccer purely as a fan of the sport rather than one of a specific club.

It was nice for awhile, but I missed the rush of being nervous at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. So when Southampton gained promotion prior to the 2012/13 season, I joined the Saints. I remembered Le Tissier. I remembered the beautiful red and white striped kits.

I quickly fell in love with the club. They were heroic in defeat to Manchester United and Manchester City that initial season, having led both teams in a three-week span. The Saints staved off a relegation scare to finish comfortably in 14th place.

Last season was even better. Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Dejan Lovren formed the core of a Southampton team that played both stylishly and well. They finished eighth.

All four of those players left this summer. I was as gutted as the roster. But that's the thing with fandom. If you don't get heartbroken every once in awhile, how do you know that you care? -Dillon Friday

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