Now that I have decided to invest my sports fandom in English football, I need to identify to team. Or, as a friend put it, have a team find me. This first cut will be 12 teams, and I will further narrow it down to My New Favorite Team™ within the next few weeks, hopefully before the season kicks off on august 10th.
With 20 teams to pick from, it would be in my best interest of finding a way to eliminate teams quickly to narrow my focus. Instead of exploring the histories of all the teams, I can narrow my list a bit, making it easier to find a story that captivates me enough to become a fan. After all, this is a fandom that will pass from generation to generation, whether or not Lincoln wants to become a soccer football fan or not.
The 20 teams, order of their finish during the 2017-2018 season are as follows:
West Ham United
Brighton and Hove Albion
Wolverhampton Wanderers (1st place in the Championship)
Cardiff City (2nd Place in the Championship)
Fulham (3rd Place in the Championship
Right off the bat, I’m going to eliminate the so-called “Big Six” teams: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. While in the other version of football I root for the dominant team of the last 15+ years – the New England Patriots – I want to start out this new fandom by identifying an underdog.
In fact, this little endeavor is actually inspired by a recent underdog story within the Premier League. During the 2015-16 season, Leicester City became the first team outside the “Big Six” to win the Premier League since Blackburn Rovers won in 1994-95. This was after finishing the prior season in 14th place, lowering expectations, with one site even predicting that they’d be fighting to avoid relegation the following season. Instead, they overcame 5,000-to-1 odds and won the championship for the first time in their 132-year history. In fact, they are the first team to make it through to the next round!
The three cuts were relatively easy as well. Though they fought their way back into the Premiere League, I don’t think I can throw my support behind the three arrivals from the Championship: Wolverhampton Wanderers (in spite of the cool name), Cardiff City (sorry Wales!) and Fulham. If my time as a financial writer taught me anything, it’s best not to go immediately after the latest IPO, instead waiting for some performance or proof of success before diving in. Since I plan on making this a long-term fandom, I want to identify a team that will stick around beyond this season (though if my eventual team ends up getting relegated this year, I will follow them in the Championship next year).
It’s with this in mind that the next team through has shown some middling success since their own promotion from the Championship. AFC Bournemouth has been in the Premier League since Leicester City’s magical championship season, and while they have never finished higher than ninth, they have shown that they can stick around with all the big spenders, despite challenges like having the smallest stadium for the time being. Plus, it was only six seasons ago that they were in League One (level 3 in the English football system), so it seems like they will continue to fight to stick around.
The final three cuts were for different reasons. Brighton and Hove Albion is out because their mascot is the Seagull… and I don’t like seagulls for various reasons. The next one out will be Huddersfield Town. Early odds had the Terriers as the second-favorite team for relegation, after already eliminated Cardiff City, though those odds were published prior to the conclusion of last season. To me, it looks like their stay in the Premier League will only be two seasons, so I’ve decided to cut them. My final cut is sadly Watford. I was excited when I learned they were previously owned by Sir Elton John, but that wasn’t enough to get them to the final eight.
All that said, the following eight teams (in alphabetical order) are on to the next round:
West Ham United
The plan is to cut this list in half again next week, and I’ve already attracted the attention of a couple of folks on Twitter trying to recruit me to one of these semifinalist:
This is going to be fun!
Until next time…