Also, if I lived in England there's a good chance I would absolutely HATE the Prem. From the over commericialization, to the rising ticket prices, to the way they treat the real supporters like spoiled black pudding.
Still, we press onward and upward.
Before we jumped into part two, interested in joining a free fantasy 'football' league? Possible runner-up prize is a 2004/05 Carlos Bocanegra Fulham shirt that simply doesn't fit over my bulging muscles any more.
Here's mine (Wernham Hogg Paper): from Yahoo! UK
League ID: 1519
Password: (You'll have to earn it. Hint: It's one of the clues from 'Porno Password' in 'The Cable Guy.' Second hint: Rhymes with a Grateful Dead song.)
Oh and one final time, if you own every Robbie Williams album, this isn't the guy for you. But if you don't know you Andy Cole from your Carlton Cole, read up.
NAME: Chelsea FC
HOMETOWN: West London
MANAGER: Jose "The Special One" Mourihno (Hired 2004) ... Love him, hate him, you can't help but have an opinion on the smug/genius/insane Portugeezer coach. His post match "interviews" are always worth watching, especially when the Brit on the other end tries to provoke him.
2005/6 RECORD: 29-5-4, 1st place, back-to-back crowns.
SILVERWARE: First Division: 1954; EPL: 2004/05, 2005/06. FA Cup: 1970, 1997, 2000; League Cup: 1965, 1998, 2005
NICKNAME: The Blues/Chelski
GROUND: Stamford Bridge, capcity: 42, 360. Here's how it used to look.
RIVALS: Fulham (West London derby); Just another every other team in global football.
IN: Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan, $55 million U.S.); Michael Ballack (Bayern Munich, free); Salomon Kalou (Feyenoord, undisclosed); Hilario (Nacional, free); Jon Obi Mikel (Lyn Oslo, £16million); Wayne Bridge (Fulham, loan return).
OUT: Maniche (Dynamo Moscow, loan return); Lenny Pidgeley (Millwall, free); Eidur Gudjohnsen (Barcelona, undisclosed); Jiri Jarosik (Celtic, undisclosed); Filipe Morais (Millwall, free); Glen Johnson (Portsmouth, season loan); Carlton Cole (West Ham United, undisclosed); Asier del Horno (Valencia, undisclosed); Damien Duff (Newcastle United, £5million); Hernan Crespo (Inter Milan, undisclosed).
STARMEN: How can you pick just one? Let's say Terry, because for all the billions Chelski has shelled out, at least its skipper (now of the Three Lions, too), the heart and sole, is Chelsea born and bred. Plus his haircut is just too silly for words. Here are some better words, from writer John Carlin in the June 2006 New York Times Sports Magazine.
"You look at John Terry and you have a deeper understanding of how it was that a small island nation once conquered half the known world. Terry -- the captain of the English Premier League champions, Chelsea, and the pillar of his national team's defense -- has the height, the bulk and the air of cold command of the red-coated British sargeant who in days of emprie instilled terror in his troops and enemy forces alike."
FAST FACT: Since his takeover of the club in 2003, Siberian billionaire Roman Abramovich, by all accounts a somewhat shady character, has poured roughly $800 million U.S. into player transfers. (And you thought the Yankees essentially buying Bobby Abreu was bad. Shit, people are even calling for a dreaded salary cap now because of Ambramovich.)
REASON TO LIKE: With Cole, Terry and Lampard you have three good English blokes that are arguably the best at their respective positions in the league. ... At time, stressed, at times, can play brilliant football.
REASONS TO HATE: Between Roman Abramovich's billions of possibly illegal Siberian oil, to Mourinho's insanity, there's more than enough to turn off most. Plus the "Chelsea Village" is full of cosmopolitan, English yuppie scum. Oddly enough, the Chelsea Headhunters has been one of the more noted 'Firms' in England. ... Secondly, since they are so good, they tend to play a ton of joyless, dull games. ... Again, Mourihno's antics are going to catch up with him sooner or later. ... Drogba is a dirty SOB that readily uses his hands to cheat. ... Ballack, no American can root for this McDonald's pitchman. ... The biggest reason Sheva forced his exit from Milan is that his American-born model wifey, "wanted their kids in an English speaking country." I just have to ask, has she ever heard how most London Geezers talk? Well, perhaps if my wife looked like that, I might just listen. ... Did we mention the self-proclaimed 'Special One'? (I actually happen to like him.)
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Chelski chairman Bruce Beck is American. ... World Soccer Daily host Steven Cohen is probably the biggest Blue stateside. ... Michael Davies, occasional ESPN.com blogger and executive prodouncer of 'Millionaire' I think lives in NYC (can I please get on that and win at least $25K, pretty please I won't even sexually harass Meredith Viera from the hotsot either.)
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: An unholy amalgamation of the Yankees/Cowboys/Redskins and Knicks. Except, at least for the last two years, Chelsea spent money (more than the entire league put together) has paid off with two league titles, that and they'd never traded for Eddie Curry or Steve Francis or Deion Sanders.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Forget the league, Chelski has set its sights on the biggest prize in club football -- The Champions League.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Too much time and energy is spent in the European campaign(where they'll inevitably fall to Barca again) and somehow like the likes of Arsenal or Liverpool sneak up and pip the league away. (It's worth noting the Blues won their first eight or nine games to start last season, essentially wrapping up the crown in October since Manchester United stumbled out of the gate.) ... Also, the players simply can't take Jose anymore and start a revolt.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.chelseafc.com/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.chelseafootballclub.net/
LAST WORD: How in the world are the Blues not going to run away and hide with their third straight EPL crown? ... Says here Sheva has a disappointing season and Ballack is a complete non-factor, helmut head or not. ... They'll miss a class act like Eidur Gudjohnsen too. ... Perhaps the only thing that could derail this juggernaut is a total falling out between Mourinho and the board or Mourihno and the players, which conceivably could happen. The chips are already starting to fall against the Blues. William Gallas is AWOL and unhappy, if he returns. Joe Cole could be out for some time from an injury against the
Money can't buy me love, right?
NAME: Everton FC
HOMETOWN: Liverpool, you know, where Sir Paul McCartney, an Evertonian came from. (For your own good, click that link and watch the ensueing video. It will answer all of life's nagging questions. Namely, there is not a God.)
FOUNDED: 1878 (Formed as St. Domingo in the same year Thomas Edison patented the phonograph.)
MANAGER: David Moyes, Scotsman hired in 2002, Manager of the year 2003, 2005. Picked up the tag of the "Moyesiah," although in his latest autobiography, Wayne Rooney blames Moyes' gruffness for why he forced a transfer to ManU.
2005/6 RECORD: 14-18-6, 11th place
SILVERWARE: First Division winners: 1890-91, 1914-15, 1927-28, 1931-32, 1938-39, 1962-63, 1969-70, 1984-85, 1986-87; FA Cup winners: 1906, 1933, 1966, 1984, 1995
NICKNAME: The Toffees/The People's Club/The Blues (one of the approximately 327 teams in England to be called the Blues.)
GROUND: Goodison Park, (cap: 40,260)
RIVALS: Liverpool (The Merseyside Derby, one of Europe's best)
IN: Andrew Johnson (Crystal Palace); Joeleon Lescott, nice hair guy (Wolverhampton); Tim Howard (Manchester United, loan)
OUT: "Drunken" Ducan Ferguson aka Ducan Disorderly (the guy had an opera written about him by a devoted Finnish fan) (released); Nigel Martyn (retired)
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Tim Howard/Richard Wright; Def: David Weir (capt.), Joseph Yobo; Mid: Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill, Kevin Kilbane (aka Zidane Kilbane), Phil Neville; For: James Beattie, Andy Johnson
STARMAN: Tim Cahill. Call me an Aussie-file. Don't forget, he lead Millwall to its first FA Cup final a few years ago before signing with Everton. A consistent player with flashes of brilliance. ... Moyes also tipped Arteta for some big things.
ONE TO WATCH: James Vaughan is the youngest EPL goal scorer at 16 years, 271 days. Could he be the next Rooney? Toffees aren't holding thier breath. ... Nigerian young-boy Victor Anichebe, has some potential too.
FAST FACT: Two -- Everton has scored the most goals in English first division history and is the only club to spend 100 seasons in the top flight. Bonus: Everton were orginally offered the chance to play at bitter rival Liverpool's historic Anfield ground. The Toffees declined. This may have happened in the 19th century.
REASON TO LIKE: Traditional. Good fans. Unheralded. Good club motto, too. -- "Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum", which means "Only the best is good enough".
REASON TO HATE: Phil Neville wears a Blue shirt and looks too much like Roger Daltrey for my likings. (Neville is NOT a pinball wizard.) ... You have a Liverbird tattooed on your chest. ... The fact Andy Johnson has been known to play in Kobe Bryant-style leggings.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: New Jersey's own and former Metrostar Tim Howard is on-loan with the Toffees from Manchester United this year. The fans with good seats at Goodison should be treated to some great Tourette's outbursts, if they are lucky.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: Chicago White Sox. The second team in a secondary English city. Granted they've been much more succesful than the Pale Hoses and Liverpool is a tinge better than the Cubbies. And to note, no Cub/White Sox interleague game has ever sparked riots, even with AJ Pierzynski in the mix.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: A return to 2004-05 form, which saw the Toffees, even after selling off Wayne Rooney, earn a Champions League spot. ... Beattie and Johnson form a deadly strike force, ending the Toffees search for a consistent scoring threat.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Andy Johnson turns out to be a dud (yes, he scores a ton of penalties, 11-out-of-13 for Palace in 2004/05) and Everton's quest for a goalscorer continues as they languish mid-table, or worse.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.evertonfc.com/
SUPPORTER SITES: http://www.fanbase.inuk.com/everton_football_links.html
LAST WORD: Call me crazy, but this team has potential for the top-six. It may all come down to the form of Johnson -- who did score 20+ goals for Crystal Palace two years ago in the top flight. Now with Tim Howard in the net, there's a good reason to root for these guys. These are my darkhorses for the season and the team I'll likely have the most rooting interest in. Since they don't have to worry about Europe, they should have fresh legs, too. Then again, maybe I'm overrating a middle-of-the-pack kind of team and they're not off to a flying start, witness Andy Van der Meyde claiming he was hospitalized over a 'spiked' drink.
NAME: Fulham FC
HOMETOWN: West London
MANAGER: Chris "Cookie" Coleman, hired 2003. The Welshman is one of the youngest bosses in the league. Had his played career cut short by an auto accident. Always seems to be on the proverbial hotseat.
2005/6 RECORD: 14-18-6, 48 points, 12th place.
SILVERWARE: Won the old first division, now the League Championship in 2001.
NICKNAME: The Cottagers, a name that strikes fear into the hearts of men.
GROUND: Craven Cottage (capacity: 22,500) By most accounts the smallest and dumpiest ground in the league. Although Fratton Park might give it a run. At least it's really in the middle of a neighborhood, a la Fenway.
RIVALS: Chelsea (West London Derby, the clubs are only a mile or two apart. Last year Fulham won 1-0 at Craven Cottage, the first win vs. Chelsea since 1979, sparking a pitch invasion from the fans. Good stuff.); Queens Park Rangers, Brentford
IN: Jimmy Bullard (Wigan Athletic, undisclosed); Gabriel Zakuani (Leyton Orient, undisclosed), Bjorn Runstrom (Hammarby, undisclosed), Franck Queudrue (Middlesbrough, undisclosed).
OUT: Alain Goma; Facundo Sava; Adam Green (all released); Darren Pratley (Swansea City, undisclosed); Wayne Bridge (Chelsea, end of loan), Steed Malbranque (I'm assuming they'll sell him off somewhere, it's only been rumored all summer).
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Anti Niemi Def: Franck Quedrue, Mortiz Volz, Zat Knight; Mid: Jimmy Bullard, Papa Bouba Diop, Claus Jensen; For: Brian McBride, Luís Boa Morte (captain).
STARMAN: Luis Boa Morte. This guy is quite cagey and his name means "Good Death" in Portuguese. Clearly Fulham's classiest and crafiest player.
ONE TO WATCH: Bullard, he of the feathered coiff. Wigan is going to miss this guy, who although will never suit up for England, is an exciting talent that goes full-bore for 90 minutes. I'm shocked Fulham had the foresight to snare him. ... Also keep an eye on the fantastically named Collins John.
FAST FACT: Fulham's club chairman is Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Harrod's department store in London. Also the father of Dodi Al-Fayed, who died in a Paris car crash alongside Princess Diana.
REASON TO LIKE: They've never been shy to sign Americans, which is a plus.
REASON TO HATE: The fact that this team is realistically never going to win a major trophy. ... There are a lot of American soccer nerds that have adopted Fulham in recent years due to their incorporation of USA talent, that's the downside.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Dos -- both American legend Brian McBrice and defender Carlos Bocanegra ply their trade at the Cottage.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: Hard to say. Maybe if Hofstra football went Division 1A.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Top half of the table, deep Cup run. Finally win a game on the road, something I think they may have done once, at most last year.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Sucked, again, into the relegation scrap, which somehow they avoided last year. Can't win on the road, the defense is even leakier than last season.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.fulhamfc.com/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.fulhamweb.com/
LAST WORD: Adding Bullard, great move. Adding Frenchy Franck Quedrue, tres magnifique. Still, that spells another season around 12-15 place. At least they employ an Icelandic player -- Heidar Helguson.
NAME: Liverpool FC
MANAGER: Rafa Benetiz (Hired, 2004, guided the Reds to the 2005 Champions League, turned Liverpool into a mini-Spanish national side, too)
2005/6 RECORD: 25-6-7, 82 points, 3rd place
SILVERWARE: First Division winners: 1901, 1906, 1922, 1923, 1947, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990; European Champions: 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2005; UEFA Cup: 1973, 1976, 2001; FA Cup: 1965, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1992, 2001, 2006; League Cup: 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1995, 2001, 2003 ... Yeah, they've got some history.
NICKNAME: The Reds.
GROUND: Anfield, capacity 42,362
RIVALS: Everton (the Merseyside Derby); Manchester United
IN: Anthony Le Tallec (Sunderland, loan return); Craig Bellamy (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed); Gabriel Paletta (Atletico Banfield, £2million); Fabio Aurelio (Valencia, free); Salif Diao (Portsmouth, loan return); Florent Sinama-Pongolle (Blackburn Rovers, loan return); Jermaine Pennant (Birmingham City, undisclosed). UPDATE -- Added Feyernoord striker Dirk Kuyt.
OUT: Fernando Morientes (Valencia, undisclosed); Bruno Cheyrou (Rennes, undisclosed); Chris Kirkland (Wigan Athletic, six-month loan); Dietmar Hamann (Bolton Wanderers, free); Djibril Cisse (Marseille, season loan); Djimi Traore (Charlton Athletic, £2million)..
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Jose 'Pepe' Reina; Def: Jamie Carragher, Sami Hyypia, Steve Finnan; Mid: Steven Gerrard (capt.), Xabi Alonso, Jermaine Pennant, Harry Kewell, Luis Garcia; For: Peter Crouch-bot, Robbie Fowler, Craig Bellamy
STARMAN: Steven Gerrard. Probably the most inspirational player in the league. Can do a little bit of everything. Plus, he's born and bred in Liverpool -- a Scouser if you will -- and grew up through the Red's youth system, making him somewhat of a rarity these days. He's sort of a Larry Bird type player, except without the upper-lip fuzz. However both Bird and Gerrard could sit in the sun for a week and not get a tan.
ONE TO WATCH: We'll say Pennant. A) He's not that old. B) He swings crosses in faster than most blokes can down a pint of lager. C) Whilst with Birmingham City, he played a game with an ankle monitoring unit, stemming from multiple DUI arrests. DOGBITE!
TRAGIC FACT: It's not pretty, but '80s Liverpool supporters did a lot to populate the 'hooligan' aspect of European Football. First, there was the Heysel Stadium disaster in the 1987 Champions League/European Championship Final, where 39 Juventus supporters were killed in a stadium crush. This resulted in English teams banned from Euro competition for five years. Two years later, was the Hillsborogh disaster where the stadium essentially collasped. To the club's credit there are memorials for both tragedies at Anfield. And when Liverpool played Juve in the 2005 CL, it was one of the most touching things I've ever seen at a sporting event when the Kop sung 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at halftime. Not a dry eye in the house. ... That all said, Liverpool fans are insane with travel. If the Reds played a game next to a rice paddy in Ragoon, at least a dozen red-faced Scousers would make the trip.
FUN FACT: Robbie Fowler, aka 'God' to many Reds' fans, once celebrated a goal by pretending to 'blow a line' on the touchline. Now just suppose, will you, that Joe Buck was calling that game. Would his head a) explode or b) melt like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'? (My answer, all depends if someone is touching his throat or not.) Also, his name must always be pronounced or written, Foulah.
FUN SONG: "Luis Garcia, He drinks Sangria, He came from Barca, To bring us joy, He's five foot seven, He's football heaven, So please don't take our Luis away"
REASON TO LIKE: Simply put, "You'll Never Walk Alone" is the best football song period. Even the dour Germans love it. And it's at the end of Pink Floyd's 'Fearless.' Nice.
REASON TO HATE: The smug, joyless, tactern demeanor of Benetiz is off-putting. ... You're an Evertonian. ... Another, 'trendy' team to throw your support behind, particularly after the miracle in Istanbul. ... Their hellbent intent to dump comedy-keeper Jerzy Dudek.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: None on the team. A lot of Americans did claim to be 'Pool fans after their amazing comeback from down 0-3 to win the 2005 Champions League over AC Milan. ... Formerly, Houston-born but Scouse-raiser Zak Whitbread played for 'Pool, but he's since been jettisoned to Millwall. ... I once saw them play an exhibition at Giants Stadium, including Michael Owen's last goal for the club.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: St. Louis Cardinals/Boston Celtics both 'classy' teams with rich history, lots of championships and not all that flashy, which still manage to find detractors.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Win the league. Simple. (And with the potential talent and depth they have, there are no excuses. They won't be playing 75+ matches this season, all told, like last year.)
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Finish fifth, and out of the Champions League, which could happen if they get off to another slow start.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.liverpoolfc.tv/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.koptalk.com/
LAST WORD: Of all the teams in the league Liverpool may have actually helped itself during the summer transfer season the most. First, they jettisoned inconsistent goal 'scorers' Morientes and Cisse and brought in the tempermental but rugged Craig 'Bedlam' Bellamy. Second, getting Jermaine Pennant to solve their right-side problems was genius, so was finally finishing the Mark Gonzalez transfer. Then again, it all could come down to the fitness of tin-man Harry Kewell. One thing is for sure, with John Arne Riise, Kewell, Bellamy, Luis Garcia and now Pennant, Liverpool will lead the league in forearm tatoos.
And more importantly they might just have enough juice to oust Chelsea from the penthouse and win their first EPL crown.
NAME: Manchester City FC
MANAGER: Stuart 'Pyscho' Pearce. Hired 2005. (You'd prolly guess a guy like this is a punk rock fan, but would you believe he's actually soft-spoken
2005/6 RECORD: 13-21-4, 43 points, 15th place
SILVERWARE: First division: Champions 1937, 1968; FA Cup: 1904, 1934, 1956, 1969; League Cup: 1970, 1976
NICKNAME: City/The Blues/The Citizens (a name I've seen in print but never spoken.)
GROUND: The City of Manchester Stadium, capacity, 48,000, a rather new 'sterile' ground that lacks the charm of the former 'Maine Road' stadium.
RIVALS: Manchester United. One of the fiercest yearly derbies in the world. Mainly due to City's futility. A win over United makes the season for a City fan. Bonus points for jeering United with "U-S-A" chants from a fixture from last season.
IN: Joe Hart (Shrewsbury, £600,000); Paul Dickov (Blackburn Rovers, free); Ousmane Dabo (Lazio, free), Dietmar Hamann (Bolton Wanderers, free); Bernardo Corradi (Valencia, undisclosed), Hatem Trabelsi (Ajax, Free).
OUT: Kiki Musampa (Atletico Madrid, loan return); Albert Riera (Espanyol, loan return); David Sommeil (Sheffield United, free); Geert de Vlieger (SV Zulte Waregem, free); Mikkel Bischoff (released); Tuomas Haapala (released); Ian Bennett (released); Karl Bermingham (released); Paul Collins (released); Michael Ward (released); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Southampton, undisclosed); Lee Croft (Norwich City, £700,000); Willo Flood (Cardiff City, undisclosed), David James (Portsmouth, ?).
KEY PLAYERS: GK:
(Honestly, looking at this roster makes you want to vomit. I'd say adding guys like Hamann and Dickov is like the Kansas City Royals thinking they made a good move bringing in Reggie Sanders and Mark Redman before the start of the 2006 MLB season. Ugh.)
STARMAN: Darius Vassell, by default. Plucked away from Aston Villa in a bit of savvy rarely seen at a club like this, he has played for England and knows how to score goals in the Prem.
ONE TO WATCH: Georgios Samaras -- The young Greek had a pretty decent stretch at the end of last year. Perhaps the only guy on City still with a good amount of upside. Also, bears a decent likeness to Freddie Mercury, all he needs is the 'stache. ... Also keep an eye on rightback Micah Ricards is being touted as a possible England starter, as well as Republic of Ireland middie Steve Ireland (in his honor I now call myself Michael United States of America).
FAST FACT: Both Oasis brothers and Ricky "The Hitman" Hatten are Blues til they die.
FUN FACT: If you get into soccer, you'll soon learn that soccer mascots are a pitiful lot, especially in Germany. (Think Dinosaurs and weird-looking horses.) Soccer purists loathe these puffed-up idiots, yet City's Moonchester is pretty funny, although certainly not in Gabibbo territory.
REASON TO LIKE: It's hard to dislike City's scrappy, red-headed stepchild persona in comparison to mega-club ManU. ...
REASON TO HATE: ... But then you just look at their current roster of talent.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Former USMNT captain, Claudio Reyna is a Citizen.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: The New York Mets, 2006 season notwitstanding. Think the Steve Phillips, Mo Vaughn era. Overaged, mediocore players in the city's second club.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Beat ManU, nothing else then would matter.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Lose to ManU twice and finish another boring, mid-table season, or possibly get sucked into the drop zone.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.mcfc.co.uk/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.mancityfans.net/mancityfans/site.php
LAST WORD: Unless you took a right-hook from Hatton and just woke up out of a coma, there's really nothing to excite you about the prospects of this City campaign. If things don't break right, they could even be in the relegation mix particularly if they sell off David James to Pompey. And I wouldn't care either way. Sorry. Just wake me up on Dec. 9 and May 5 for the derby days.
UP NEXT -- Parts III & IV next week. Be sure to watch the Community Shield this Sunday when Liverpool plays Chelski. It's only the 400th meeting between the two in the last two years, so it should be a good one.