How to pick a Premier League club - NBC Sports

How to pick a Premier League club
Why you should, shouldn't root for all 20 sides
August 14, 2013, 12:45 pm

LONDON -- There are people who say that you can’t really pick a Premier League team – you have to wait for one to pick you. This is a very Harry Potter and his magic wand sentiment, which is nice. But, you know what – let’s try anyway. Here are some fairly involved capsules on all 20 Premier League teams.

Most of the categories are self-explanatory. I’ll point out two:

1. Realistic hope: This is sort of a “best case scenario” for the club this year – but we’re trying to stay based in reality. Obviously miracles can happen, but this is one of the points – miracles tend not to happen often in the Premier League.

2. OptaComp: Together with Matt Drew and the good people at Opta Sports, we came up with a familiar North American team that might bear a reasonable resemblance.

OK. Let’s go pick a Premier League Team.

* * *

ARSENAL

Location: North London

Colors: Red and white.

Nickname: Gunners.

Stadium: Beautiful new Emirates Stadium, opened in 2006, might be the nicest in the Premier League. But it does lack the grand history of Highbury, Arsenal’s famous old grounds. They keep trying to add some of the magic of Highbury to Emirates.

American connection: Largest shareholder is Stan Kroenke, owner of several teams in the U.S. including the St. Louis Rams and three pro teams in Denver. Fun fact: Kroenke’s full name is Enos Stanley – he was named after Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial.

Realistic hope: Top 4 finish again.

Why you should be a fan: Great history with amazing players like Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. … Has played exciting and open soccer ever since Frenchman Arsene Wenger took over. … Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch” about his allegiance to Arsenal might b the best book ever written about sports fandom. … You would never have to worry about relegation -- Aresnal has been in the Top Division since 1919.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: There is a sense that the team is unwilling to spend as much money as Chelsea or Manchester City and is fading as a real contender as a result… There is also a sense that Arsenal has moved away from its blue-collar past. While they used to be known for their tenacious reputation and boring soccer (“Boring, Boring Arsenal” they were called), they are now playing beautiful soccer in a gorgeous new stadium with the highest ticket prices in the Premier League.

Twitter fans:

@We_Are_OneTeam: Arsenal FC!  They operate with total class, and play beautiful footbal‪l.

@joelfleetwood Arsenal. They play the prettiest form of the game, attack, and do it with substantially less money than the other title rivals.

@BLarsenAFC1886 Arsenal because you can't buy class. Beautiful football, perfect club model, & best relationships I've built with fellow fans.

Cool celebrity fan: Mick Jagger if you’re old. Robert Pattinson if you’re young.

OptaComp: New England Patriots. You have a long-tenured coach widely viewed as a genius, and a team that wins consistently but is finding that next championship to be elusive.

* * *

ASTON VILLA

Colors: Claret and blue.

Location: Witton, Birmingham in the center of England.

Nickname: The Villains

Stadium: Villa Park is one of England’s great old grounds, opened in 1897. It was one of the hosts for the 1966 World Cup.

American connection: As strong as any team. Numerous American players, including Michael Bradley and Brad Friedel, has played for Villa. And the team owner is Randy Lerner, former owner of the Cleveland Browns.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation and maybe have some success against rival West Brom.

Why you should be a fan: Tom Hanks became a fan because he thought the name sound like an island off Sardinia. … Villa has a wonderful history. The Villans are one of only five teams to have won the European Championship. … Great fan base.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: They barely avoided relegation last year. Do you want to put yourself through that?

Cool celebrity fan: Black Sabbath. Or Prince William.

Twitter fans:

@redveale Aston Villa. As a Michigander, Birmingham reminds me of Detroit, and Villa with its long, storied history, reminds me of Tigers.

@ArnoldPSU Aston Villa because I've supported them for years and love the history and tradition.

@lazyrasmus Aston Villa because Black Sabbath.

American comp: New York Mets. Big team with a big stadium. Wrecked by financial problems that forced the team to unload and start over with kids.

* * *

CARDIFF CITY

Colors: Red and black.

Location: Cardiff in South Wales

Nickname: The Bluebirds

Stadium: The almost brand new City of Cardiff Stadium, opened in 2009.

American connection: None I can find.

Realistic hope: Stay in the Premier League for another year.

Why you should be a fan: Gritty bunch had 18 shutouts last year as they got promoted to the Premier League for the first time. … Also, it’s in Wales, so you’ve got Welsh solidarity happening here.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Well, they are called the Bluebirds but their shield now features a dragon to suit Malaysian owner Vincent Tan. There is a tiny little bluebird at the bottom now. People were in an uproar – though getting promoted tended to soften the hard feelings. … It could be tough to avoid relegation in their first year.

Twitter:

@marv3mania Cardiff because that's where Doctor Who is filmed.

Cool celebrity fan: Colin Farrell.

American comp: Toronto Blue Jays. They’re both blue bird teams, both from another country, both have had little success lately, both spent quite a bit of money to win now. It didn’t work out too well for the Blue Jays.

* * *

CHELSEA

Color: Blue.

Location: Fulham area of West London.

Nickname: The Blues

Stadium: Stamford Bridge, one of the great old grounds in England (Chelsea has been playing there since 1905) though there are persistent rumors that they would like a bigger and newer place to play.

American connection: No player or ownership connection but there is Chelsea in America.

Realistic hope: Win the Premier League. With the surprising return of brilliant, arrogant and mercurial manager Jose Mourinho – simply known as “The Special One” – nothing less would satisfy.

Why you should be a fan: Hugely expensive and excellent team with a billionaire owner in one of the trendiest parts of London. What’s not to like?

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Hugely expensive and excellent team with a billionaire owner in one of the trendiest parts of London. What’s to like?

Twitter:

@marcbeelman Chelsea. Talent, trophies, and drama, what more could you ask for. #CFC

@jmecmor Chelsea - Why?  Super, super, super Frank Lampard

@WilliamPLynch Chelsea, bc I know a girl named Chelsea and I like the color blue.

Cool celebrity fan: Will Ferrell.

American comp: San Francisco 49ers. Consistently good team in a super-cool town with a bit of a brash attitude. One difference is that while Chelsea owner – Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich is a huge and controversial personality, nobody really knows who owns the 49ers (I looked it up – it’s Jed York).

* * *

CRYSTAL PALACE

Colors: Blue and red.

Location: South Norwood in the Southeast of London.

Nickname: Eagles

Stadium: Selhurst Park, which holds about 26,000. The club is planning to expand.

American connection: Um, none really. Well, famous fan Jim Piddock co-created HBO’s Family Tree with Christopher Guest. Piddock is not American (see Twitter below). But Christopher Guest is.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation for the first time.

Why you should be a fan: Because you want to follow Palace’s desperate attempts to avoid relegation and stay in the Premier League. They’ve been up four times before and were relegated their first year all four times.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Do you really need that kind of anxiety in your life?

Twitter:

@Car54NC Happy to talk about being a Palace fan. Lots to talk about! BTW, Most Famous US fans is @realjimpiddock of HBO’s “Family Tree.”

@RealJimPiddock Not true. But flattery will get you everywhere.

Cool celebrity fan: Liam Neeson.

American comp: Cincinnati Bengals. Not much history of success, but every now and again they will emerge. And both have snazzy uniforms.

* * *

EVERTON

Colors: Blue

Location: Liverpool in Northwest England.

Nickname: Toffees

Stadium: Goodison Park, England’s first big soccer stadium (built in 1892).

American connection: Very strong. This is where Landon Donovan found success in the Premier League, and where Tim Howard has made a name for himself. Other Americans like Brian McBride and Joe-Max Moore also played for Everton.

Realistic hope: Maybe a Top 4 finish and success in the FA Cup.

Why you should be a fan: Gutsy team that tends to play over its head … Into the advanced metrics and usually overperforms … Strong American connection. … Awesome nickname.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Won’t sign big players and so, in the end, they probably will always fall a bit short.

Twitter:

@McGillicudy Everton. Felt fairweather to choose the most successful teams, punch above their weight

@markcoddington Everton - They're consistently good enough to matter, but not bandwagon-y good. Plus Howard, Donovan, and advanced analytics.

@bobtimmermann Everton, after all the Beatles liked them.

Cool celebrity fan: Paul McCartney. There is an ongoing effort to get him to buy the team. Sylvester Stallone is also an Everton fan.

American comp: Oakland A’s. Traditional team, had a lot of success in the 1980s, trying to win a Moneyball game that makes baseball look like a socialist regime.

* * *

FULHAM

Colors: White and black.

Location: Fulham area in Southwest London.

Nickname: The Whites

Stadium: Craven Cottage is the British equivalent of Wrigley Field … or maybe it’s the other way around since it is much older than Wrigley Field. Charming, ancient, it’s the only stadium by the Thames River. And it’s the only stadium with a Michael Jackson statue.

American connection: Strong – players like Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson, Kasey Keller and Clint Dempsey played for Fulham. The new owner, Shahid Khan, also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, let’s face it, they have a Michael Jackson statue – the former owner, Mohamed Fayed, was a friend.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation and get back into the Top 10.

Why you should be a fan: Fantastic old stadium with a Michael Jackson statue out front. What else could anyone want. Fantastic history. Super friendly fans -- Fulham is the only team in England that has a “neutral” section where fans of neither team can sit and watch.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Fulham has never won a top league championship. Fulham has never won an F.A. Cup.

Twitter:

@sleek67 Fulham bc my best bud has season tix.

@JacobDHuff Fulham FC because they picked up Eddie Johnson back when he was with The Wizards and I've followed them since.

@Nebelwerfer Fulham. A club steeped in tradition with the most welcoming fans and they do everything, on and off the field, the right way.

Cool celebrity fan: Hugh Grant. Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame was a huge fan but he apparently started to find football players a bit too whiny.

American comp: Pittsburgh Pirates. Been around a long time and had some success a long time ago. Lots of tradition. Wonderful place to watch a game right by the river.

* * *

HULL CITY

Colors: Orange and black.

Location: Kingston Upon Hull in the Northeast.

Nickname: Tigers

Stadium: KC Stadium, which holds about 25,000 fans.

American connection: Jozy Altidore played there for a couple of years.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation.

Why you should be a fan: Gritty team that has fought back from relegations, near financial collapse and all sorts of other plagues. Also, their former manager once had a halftime talk RIGHT ON THE FIELD.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: it could be a short stay in the Premier League. Also, they are having a fight about what the team should be named (there’s talk of dropping the “City” and just calling them Hull Tigers). And as the Opta people point out, they wore this uniform in 1992-93. Grrr.

Twitter:

@AdamButlerTV Hull City. Visited as a child and the people were terribly friendly.

Cool celebrity fan: Pavement (the band)

OptaComp: Arizona Cardinals. Not much of a history, and some of their uniform choices have not been wise. But they’re proving to be somewhat competitive recently.

* * *

LIVERPOOL

Colors: Red

Location: Liverpool

Nickname: Reds

Stadium: Anfield is legendary. It opened in 1884 and has featured some of the greatest teams in top league history. I often heard it compared to to Fenway Park. Generally considered the loudest stadium in the League.

American Connection: Boston Red Sox owner John Henry owns the team.

Realistic hope: A Top 4 finish for the first time in five years.

Why you should be a fan: Was England’s most legendary team until Manchester United emerged in the 1990s. Has won 18 top division titles and won Europe five times. … And because the crowd singing You’ll Never Walk Alone is SURE to give you chills.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: All those top division titles and do you know how many Premier League titles they have? Zero. Have not won England’s top league since 1990.

Twitter:

@xlynwoodx Liverpool. Because I'm a masochist

@BMcCarthy32 Because click this link.

@surelynotjess Liverpool. Never walking alone.

Cool celebrity fan: Samuel L. Jackson.

OptaComp: Dallas Cowboys. Once dominant, known throughout the world, still have a huge following and will have some success. But it has been a long time since they were the best.

* * *

MANCHESTER CITY

Colors: Sky blue.

Location: Manchester in Northwest England

Nickname: Citizens.

Stadium: Etihad Stadium, which opened in 2003, is part of the upscale Sportcity, which includes an arena, a velodrome and a squash center.

American Connection: Numerous Americans, including Claudio Reyna and DeMarcus Beasley have played for Man City.

Realistic hope: Premier League championship.

Why you should be a fan: A historic team with a strong following – and now, because of billionaire owner Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, they have more money and and spend more money than any other team.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: They have more money and spend more money than any other team.

Twitter:

@SkywalkerScotty Manchester City. Thought of them as the Mets when I followed them. Plus their kits are smooth.

@896FFlati Man City. I know it’s shallow but the uni's pulled me to them.

 @GracieLoPan Manchester City because I chose them just as they got promoted and were a colorful EPL punchline.

Cool celebrity fan: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers or Oasis’ Liam Gallagher, depending on if you like the Packers or Britpop.

OptaComp: Los Angeles Dodgers. Had success in the 1960s because of a few iconic players, and are now finding success by outspending everybody.

* * *

MANCHESTER UNITED

Colors: Red and black.

Location: Trafford, Manchester in Northwest England.

Nickname: Red Devils.

Stadium: Old Trafford, iconic, enormous, second-largest football grounds in England (behind Wembley), called “The Theater of Dreams” by United great Sir Bobby Charlton, the Yankee Stadium of England, you know, back when there was a Yankee Stadium in America.

American Connection: Owned by Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tim Howard also spent a few years at Old Trafford.

Realistic hope: Premier League championship.

Why you should be a fan: Well, many people are. They’re measured as the second-most popular team on earth (behind Spain’s Real Madrid). The advantages are obvious. Winning. Tradition. Dominance. Wonderful history. This was the team that came back from the Munich Air Disaster. This was Charlton’s team. This was Cantona’s team. This was Beckham’s team. This was Alex Ferguson’s team. Those names are like Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Stengel in baseball 

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: They may be the second-most popular team on earth, but they are surely the most DESPISED team on earth too. That much winning and that much exposure will do that.

Twitter:

@MattfromKC Manchester United. "If ur not a MANC, then ur a WANK". They are the funnest team to watch, good ball control, sharp passing, etc

@mlward54 Manchester United. All because of Eric Cantona.

@ChefMXMoreno Manchester United. I suffer enough with the Bears here. RT

Cool celebrity fan: Usain Bolt.

OptaComp: New York Yankees. Easiest comp in the league. Unparalleled success, enormous revenues, ubiquitous logo, loved by countless fans and despised by multiples more.

* * *

NEWCASTLE

Colors: Black and white

Location: Newcastle upon Tyre in Northern England.

Nickname: Magpies.

Stadium: St. James Park is like a cathedral at the highest point of Newcastle – the whole city seems to surround it. Soccer has been played there since 1880. There was a lot of worry when the loan company Wonga.com bought the naming rights – to have a holy place like this called Wonga Park was simply too much for many. But Errol Damelin, founder of Wonga, did an amazing thing. He actually renamed the place St. James Park (it had been called Sports Direct Arena for almost a year).

American Connection: Not much. American Oguchi Onyewu did play for the team in 2006-07.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation and help manager Alan Pardew keep his job – most seem to think he’s the manager on the hottest seat.

Why you should be a fan: Kind of the bad boys of the Premier League. They have a strong history, they play pretty rough (“proper English football,” one fan calls it), and they have, um, very passionate fans. Oh yeah, one of the team’s heroes, Kevin Keegan, left his final game in a helicopter.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: All those same reasons why you should be a fan – also, they could be in for a rough year.

Twitter:

@TheNumber65 Newcastle United. One city, one club. Passionate fans: club got relegated and still 45,000 showed up.

@amyrwood Newcastle, because Alan Shearer was a bad, bad man.

@PleaseDoNotJar Newcastle United. I enjoy disappointment.

Cool celebrity fan: Sting.

OptaComp: Oakland Raiders. Almost a perfect comp – men in black, proud history, rabid and entertaining fans, the team is now a sort of tragicomic shell of what it once was.

* * *

NORWICH CITY

Colors: Yellow and green.

Location: Norwich in East England.

Nickname: Canaries.

Stadium: Carrow Road is a historic but small stadium with fewer than 30,000 seats. There is a lot of talk about the need to expand.

American Connection: American Zak Whitbread played at Norwich for a year.

Realistic hope: Avoid relegation for third straight season.

Why you should be a fan: The city has one of those cool English names that is spelled one way (Norwich) but pronounced a different way (NOR-idge) so you can get some quick Premier League cred pronouncing it right … A small team that is famous for overperforming – its win over famous Bayern Munich in 1992 is still remembered. They earned two promotions in two years to reach the Premier League, and this will be its third straight season in the Premier League.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: This is their owner. I mean: Come on.

Twitter:

@sparksjay NorwichCity Made two promotions in two years to reach the Premier. Plus, Canaries. Plus, color scheme.

Cool celebrity fan: Hugh Jackman.

OptaComp: Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Small market team with a history of bright, summer colors, quite a bit of struggle and one all-too-brief stretch of success.

* * *

SOUTHAMPTON

Colors: Red and white.

Location: Southampton on the South Coast of England.

Nickname: Saints.

Stadium: St. Mary’s Stadium is a beautiful place that holds about 32,000 and was opened in 2001.

American Connection: American Kasey Keller played here briefly.

Realistic hope: Another year in the Premier League.

Why you should be a fan: Exciting young team was buried in the third division in 2011. Earned promotion to second division for 2011-12, earned promotion to Premier League last year and then, against odds, finished 14th to fairly comfortable stay in the Premier League. Also, the club’s all-time great Matthew Le Tissier is all kinds of wonderful.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: There’s only so much success in the Premier League you can realistically hope for with a smaller team like Southampton.

Twitter:

@moviegoer74 I root 4 @SouthamptonFC because I'm from Long Island & there's a Southampton, LI. So I like to think they're Long Island's team.

Cool celebrity fan: Will Champion, the drummer from Coldplay.

OptaComp: Tampa Bay Rays. Team from the South without much money but a great sense of acquiring and developing young talent.

* * *

STOKE CITY

Colors: Red and White

Location: Stoke on Trent in the West Midlands

Nickname: Potters

Stadium: Britannia Stadium, built in 1997, has a gorgeous view over the city.

American Connection: Strong – three Americans (Geoff Cameron, Maurice Edu and Brek Shea) – played for the team last year.

Realistic hope: To break through into the Top 10 for the first time.

Why you should be a fan: The oldest team in the Premier League, and are widely believed to be the second oldest team in the world (behind Notts County FC). … Fierce team that plays what others call an ugly defensive style but what locals understand has kept Stoke City in the Premier League since 2008.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Well, there is that ugly style. Get ready for a lot of boots down the field.

Twitter:

@AWholeTim Fan of Stoke City. Love their fighting spirit.

@ozsportsdude Born in Stoke moved to Austin when 10. Stuck with them when I got one 150-word story a week about them. Now in Premier League with great crowds.

Cool celebrity fan: Slash from Guns and Roses.

OptaComp: Chicago Bears. Ancient team, unparalleled tradition, usually can’t score, hit some real lows in the 1990s and 2000s, pummeled its way back into contention.

* * *

SUNDERLAND

Colors: Red and white

Location: Sunderland, Tyne and Wear in Northeast England.

Nickname: Black Cats

Stadium: Awesomely named Stadium of Light was built on Sunderland’s last working coal mine in 1997. It holds almost 49,000 and is right on the River Wear.

American Connection: Strong. American star Jozy Altidore plays for the team now, and Sunderland is owned by Ellis Short, who was born in Independence, Mo. – same hometown as Harry Truman.

Realistic hope: To avoid relegation with a little less drama than last season and to beat rival Newcastle.

Why you should be a fan: A dominant club before World War II, Sunderland has won five top division titles and two FA Cups in its long history. … Plays a rough and tumble style that has kept them in the Premier League for seven straight seasons, though last year was a close, close call.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: No, really, last year was a CLOSE call. Sunderland survived by three points. … Their manager Paolo Di Canio in the mid 2000s publicly and proudly declared himself a fascist (he would famously raise his arm in a fascist salute to fans and he often praised Mussolini) though he now says he is not a fascist. “Not a case of if Paolo Di Canio will storm out in a huff and set the Stadium of Light on fire,” the Daily Telegraph wrote of him. “But when.”

Twitter:

‏@JMSwim Sunderland. One spot away from relegation when I started following the EPL.

 @daneekasghost Sunderland.  The first time I watched EPL, they won on a 90th minute goal, thought I was signing up with an exciting team.

 @nvasconcelos Sunderland. Jozy.

Cool celebrity fan: Sugar Ray Leonard

OptaComp: Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the biggest and most successful teams a long time ago, it has been many, many years since they’re won big. But they still have some of the League’s most passionate fans,

* * *

SWANSEA CITY

Colors: White

Location: Landore, Swansea in Southwestern Wales

Nickname: Swans

Stadium: Liberty Stadium is the smallest in the Premier League with fewer than 21,000 seats. It is shared with the Ospreys, one of Wales’ most successful rugby teams.

American Connection: Um, well, uh, Catherine Zeta-Jones is a fan. She’s not American, but, you know, she’s married to Michael Douglas.

Realistic hope: To pick it up against teams they should beat and break into the Top 10 of the League.

Why you should be a fan: Plays beautiful football with lots of short and precise passes. This might because they are managed by the great Michael Laudrup.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: There’s a feeling that Swansea rises to play against the big teams, but often can’t be bothered against the others. Also: Did you heard the one about the Swansea ballboy who got kicked during a match?:

Twitter:

‏@ShaneWilsonPhD Swansea. It's nice for Wales to break up the all-English league, and Cardiff fans have a thuggish reputation.

@circling Swansea City -- Welsh, strong supporters trust, "Spanish" style of play,  almost relegated to the Football Conference in 2003.

@tracymohr Swansea City, who play attractive football and are run well.

Cool celebrity fan: Well, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

OptaComp: Houston Texans. After years of almost being invisible, Swansea has quietly become quite good while not really threatening to win a championship. Fun to watch, you wonder if they can take the next step.

* * *

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

Colors: White and Blue

Location: Tottenham in North London

Nickname: Spurs

Stadium: White Hart Lane is a wonderful stadium in the middle of a North London neighborhood. The club is planning to build a new stadium, but it will be in the same place and the idea is build it out of the same style. A great place to watch a match.

American Connection: Very strong, beginning with (but not ending with) Coach Ted Lasso. Spurs is where Brad Friedel plays, it was the home for Clint Dempsey before his return to America, and Tottenham has a strong presence with American fans, including Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane. 

Realistic hope: To top rival Arsenal in the standings for the first time since the Premier League began.

Why you should be a fan: Fun and open style of play that is wrapped up in one of their mottos: “The game is about glory.” … Strong connection to its community … Tremendous history and deeply devoted fan base.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: There’s something insubstantial about the team – Spurs has finished below rival Arsenal EVERY SINGLE YEAR since the Premier League began. … You could be setting yourself up for some serious heartbreak.

Twitter:

@Aiteeyo Tottenham Hotspur. Beautiful, flowing, creative football. Run their club the right way. Solid history.

@BurritoBelly Tottenham. I knew I hated Arsenal first, so siding with Spurs was a no-brainer.

@JimPiascik Tottenham. Because I was told them winning would be like the Indians winning the World Series.

Cool celebrity fan: Jude Law or Adele.

OptaComp: Chicago Cubs. Historic and rich team trying to recapture glories of long ago. Great stadium right in the city. Heartbreak always seems to be right around the corner.

* * *

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Colors: Blue and White

Location: West Bromwich, West Midlands

Nickname: Baggies

Stadium: The Hawthorns is a stadium of about 26,000 that opened in 1900.

American Connection: John McEnroe is a fan.

Realistic hope: To avoid relegation.

Why you should be a fan: A strong history includes the wonderful story of the Three Degrees – three black players (Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis and Brendon Batson) who played for West Brom in the 1970s, a time when racism was rampant in the Premier League stands. The three led West Brom to strong showings and helped make them one of the most exciting teams in the country.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: The team did finish eighth last year, but there’s a sense that with the loss of scorer extraordinaire Romelu Lukaku (who scored 17 goals while on loan to West Brom) there could be a relegation fight on their hands.

Twitter:

@Mesonychteuthis I root for West Brom, because they are an absolute gas to watch.

Cool celebrity fan: Eric Clapton.

OptaComp: Detroit Lions. Founding member of the league, won in the early days, hasn’t won anything since. Now showing signs of competence.

* * *

WEST HAM

Colors: Claret and blue.

Location: Upton Park in East London

Nickname: The Hammers (also The Irons)

Stadium: The Boleyn Ground is usually called Upton Park because that’s where it is located. It holds 35,000 or so, and it features a World Cup sculpture, which features three West Ham legends (Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters) who were pivotal players on England’s 1966 World Cup champion. 

American Connection: Fairly strong. Americans John Harkes, Jonathan Spector and Ian Feuer all played for West Ham at one time.

Realistic hope: To match or improve upon last year’s 10th place finish.

Why you should be a fan: The team’s thrilling history, centered around those three great West Ham players who led England to glory in 1966.

Why you shouldn’t be a fan: Because they’re still talking a lot about 1966.

Twitter:

@Zuk_Is_Wise West Ham United. They remind me most of my Royals. Great tradition but gone through a rough period and on the upswing

@tigerpride West Ham. Underdogs; historically working class part of London. Started supporting them a long time ago and never stopped.

@SPianovich 
West Ham, because I like the rap stylings of Kanye West & the taste of ham

Cool celebrity fan: If you are among the low 40-percent who approve, then you’d probably say it is President Barack Obama. If you are not, you might prefer Alfred Hitchcock, Katy Perry or Matt Damon.

OptaComp: Cleveland Browns. Big in the 1950s and 1960s with plenty of famous stars. It’s been a struggle since. Browns have never been to a Super Bowl. West Ham has never won a top division title.

Joe Posnanski is the national columnist for NBC Sports. Follow him on twitter @JPosnanski