NAME: Sheffield United
HOMETOWN: Sheffield, smack in the middle of England
MANAGER: Neil Warnock, hired 1999. This should be fun. Apparently this guy doesn't care about acting like a jackass and starting fueds. Can't wait until they play Mourinho and Chelski.
2005/6 RECORD: 26-8-12, 90 points, second place in the League Championship, automatic promotion.
SILVERWARE: First Division Champs: 1897-98; FA Cup winners: 1899, 1902, 1915, 1925
NICKNAME: The Blades
GROUND: Brammell Road, capacity 33,000. It's the oldest contiously used ground in all of England. It first hosted a cricket test in 1855. Thats five years before the American Civil War. I'm sure the toliet facilites, especially the ladies' room are quite charming.
RIVALS: Sheffield Wednesday (Steel City derby)
IN: David Sommeil (Manchester City, free); Claude Davis (Preston North End, undisclosed); Christian Nade (Troyes, free); Mikele Leigertwood (Crystal Palace, £600,000); Li Tie (Everton, free); Rob Hulse (Leeds United, £2.1million); Ian Bennett (Leeds United, undisclosed)
OUT: Craig Short, Brian Deane, Garry Flitcroft (all retired); Bruce Dyer, Alan Wright (both released); Simon Francis (Southend United, free); Luke Beckett (Huddersfield, undisclosed); Phil Barnes (Grimsby, undisclosed); Ian Ross (Notts County, six-month loan); Kevan Hurst (Chesterfield, six-month loan).
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Paddy Kenny; Def.: Chris Morgan (capt.), David Unsworth; Mid: Phil Jagielka, Nick Montgomery, Paul Ifil; For: Ade Akinbiyi, Danny Webber
STARMAN: Phil Jagielka was voted best player outside the Premier League by FourFourTwo magazine. That's good enough for me.
ONE TO WATCH: Admittedly, there's not a ton of compelling stuff around the Blades, but pudgey Irish keeper Paddy Kenny should be up for some funny moments, in between a barrage of shots.
FAST FACT: Sheffield United owns a team in China -- the Chengdu Blades -- which they wouldn't sell for all the tea in China. Zing!
REASON TO LIKE: Blades is a cool nickname since it reminds me of Bennie Blades. ...
REASON TO HATE: ... Their proper name reminds me of Gary Sheffield.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Get back to us on that.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: If the Canton Bulldogs still existed, they'd be Sheffield United, with or without leather helmets.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Somehow, and I do me somehow, manage to avoid the drop. 17th place never smelled sweater. ... Warnock makes it through the entire season without getting suspended.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: The Drop.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.sufc.co.uk/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.sheffieldunited-mad.co.uk/index.asp
LAST WORD: Face it, the Sheffield United kit looks eerily similar to that of Sunderland, who were arguably one of the worst outfits ever to grace the EPL, when they finished last season with three wins in 38 games. They could somehow pull off a Wigan, but with the talent level on the roster one-and-done looks like an odds-on favorite.
NAME: Tottenham Hotspur
HOMETOWN: North London
MANAGER: Martin Jol (hired 2004); Jol is a pretty sweet dude, with a funny Dutch accent. Plus he's managed to make Spurs into a force to be reckoned in a short amount of time earning "Tony Soprano" status around the Lane. Did we mention he has brothers named Cock and Dick? Seriously.
"I am not a tiger, I'm a crocodile. I want success yesterday, not tomorrow. Yesterday. I love the team and I love to work with them, and if they do what we want and if they perform I'm easy going. If they don't then it's not just my business, it'll be their business as well."
2005/6 RECORD: 18-9-11, 65 points, sixth place, two points behind bitter rival Arsenal for the final Champions League spot. Many blame this on food poisoning suffered by much of the team the night before the final game against West Ham, an eventual loss.
SILVERWARE: First division: 1950-51, 1960-61; FA Cup: 1900-01, 1920-21, 1960-61, 1961-62, 1966-67, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1990-91; League Cup: 1970-1, 1972-3, 1998-99; UEFA Cup: 1971-72, 1983-84
GROUND: White Hart Lane, capacity 36,240. People don't tend to wax poetic about the Lane. It seems like a cool place to watch a game since the stands on the sides appear to hang right over the field.
RIVALS: Arsenal (North London Derby), West Ham United
IN: Dimitar Berbatov (Bayer Leverkusen, £10.9million); Reto Ziegler (Wigan Athletic, loan return); Dorian Dervitte (Lille, undisclosed); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (Lens, undisclosed); Didier Zokora (St Etienne, undisclosed); Wayne Routledge (Portsmouth, loan return).
OUT: Mido (Roma, loan return); Goran Bunjevcevic (released); Noureddine Naybet (released); Stephen Kelly (Birmingham City, undisclosed); Mounir El Hamdaoui (Willem II, undisclosed); Johnnie Jackson (Colchester United, free); Dean Marney (Hull City, undisclosed); Michael Carrick (Manchester United, £18.6million).
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Paul Robinson (England No.1); Def: Ledley King (Capt.), Young-Pyo Lee, Paul Stalteri, Michael Dawson; Mid: Edgar Davids, Aaron Lennon, Didier Zokora, Wayne Jermaine Jenas; For: Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov
STARMAN: With a nod to my friend Suppe, I'll go with his junior-man-crush, Jermain Defoe. (Although Robbie Keane is basically the same player, except white and Irish.) How Defoe was left off the England roster for the 2006 World Cup is a mystery on par with who built the pyramids.
ONE TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Ivorian International Didier Zokora as he tries to replace midfield fulcrum Michael Carrick, who really drove Spurs most of last campaign. ... Nautrally most of Merry Old wants to see how pacey winger Aaron Lennon progresses.
FAST FACT: Last season, in a 3-1 victory vs. Charlton, Tottenham fielded the youngest ever team in the EPL -- nine of which were English.
KARMA WATCH: It bears noting Tottenham switched shirt sponsors from Thomsen, which had a winking smiley face logo, to Mansion, an online casino with an ungodly ugly "M" logo.
MEL GIBSON UN-APPROVED FACT: Due to the high Jewish population in North London many assume Tottenham to be a Jewish club. Whatever the real facts may be the fanbase have adopted the persona of the 'Yid Army', foreskin status or not.
REASON TO LIKE: Tottenham were fun to watch with a captial F last season. ... Again, you can't dislike Martin Jol and his gaped tooth smile. "He's got no hair and we don't care." ...
REASON TO HATE: You're an Arsenal Fan. ... The fact ESPN.com's Bill Simmons arbitrary chose Spurs as his team to follow this year. .... Also ESPN VP John Skipper, the man responsible for Davie O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa, is a Spurs man.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: None. (Steve Nash is a big fan, but he's a Canuck.)
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: Los Angeles Dodgers. Always a good team with strong support. A decent history that dates back a long time, but not a ton of winner's trophies. Plus both are known for their white uniforms. Larry David even used the London high-occupency lane to attend a game at White Hart Lane last year. (Not true.)
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Find a way to improve on last year's ultimately disappointing fifth place. ... A good, deep run in the UEFA Cup.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Europe wears them thin. ... Last year proves to be all smoke and mirrors as they tumble down the table.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.tottenhamhotspur-mad.co.uk/index.asp
LAST WORD: Spurs queitly came out of nowhere last year. They've got a lot of talent, but replacing Carrick will be very difficult, meanwhile Berbatov should replace Mido, though not his swarthiness. On the plus side Jol convinced fellow-Dutchman Edgar Davids to stick it out in North London another season. Also, I'm sure Spurs fans are expecting huge things from Aaron Lennon. If he couples with Jenas on the wings, they'll maybe be the fastest team in the league when you add in Defoe and Keane.
NAME: Watford FC
HOMETOWN: Watford, a suburb west of London.
MANAGER: Adrian Bothroyd, hired 2005.
2005/6 RECORD: 22-9-15, 3rd in League Championship, won promotion playoffs (beat Crystal Palace, Leeds United)
SILVERWARE: Nothing of note, though they were in the Premier Leauge in 1999.
NICKNAME: The Hornets
GROUND: Vicarage Road, capacity 22,000
RIVALS: Luton Town
IN: Damien Francis (Wigan Athletic, £1.5million); Scott Loach (Lincoln City); Richard Lee (Blackburn Rovers, loan return); Sheku Kamara (Charlton Athletic); Claude Seanla (Tottenham Hotspur); Chris Powell (Charlton Athletic, free); Danny Shittu (QPR, £1.6m); Tamas Priskin (Gyori ETO, undisclosed), Ben Foster (Manchester United, season loan).
OUT: Jamie Hand (Chester, free).
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Def: Danny Shittu, Jay DeMerit, Chris Powell; Mid: Damien Francis, Gavin Mahon (capt.), Ashley Young; For: Marlon King, Darius Henderson
STARMAN: Marlon King, Jamaican scored 21 goals in 40 games last season to help the Hornets into the top flight.
ONE TO WATCH: Ashley Young. Only 20 years old, if he puts in work with the Hornets this year, a nice transfer could be in his future. Can be used on the wing or up top.
FAST FACT: No. 1 shirt (although not the first choice) Alec Chamberlainn will be 42-years-old during the season. He also serves as the keepers coach and got his start with Ipswich Town in 1981.
FUN FACT FOR MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS: Pop diva Sir Elton John bought the Hornets in 1976, he later sold then and bought them back. He's honorary life
REASON TO LIKE: Plucky underdogs. ... Goofy-looking moosehead crest just makes you smile.
REASON TO HATE: Eye-jarringly hideous home kits.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Jay DeMerit, Wisconsin-born American defender made it into the starting lineup after basically going to England and trying out for a bunch of teams. A true American success story. He even scored in the promotion playoff final against Leeds. Put it this way, this guy couldn't find a job in MLS.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: Olkahoma City Hornets/Sonics. I've hear Watford dismissed as the lamest place to live in England. Well, sorry Oklahoma City, only tornando fetishist would want to live in your city.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: This year's Wigan.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: This year's Sunderland.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.watfordfc.com/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.gloryhorns.co.uk/
LAST WORD: Walking to the Arena Auf Schalke in Gelsenkirchen, Germany I encountered an English bloke that supported Crystal Palace. Obviously he had a handle on the Championship last season. When I asked him how Watford, a team with questionably marginal talent, managed to eek into the Premiership he cited, "good team spirit." That and a couple haypennies will get you relagated pretty quick.
Yet, for some reason the scrappy Hornets survive the executioners blade this year, at least. These seems like guys you could get behind. (That's not an Elton John joke, either.)
NAME: West Ham United
HOMETOWN: East London
MANAGER: Alan Pardew, hired 2003. Good manager, great dancer. Traded words with Aresene Wenger when the Frenchman started a lineup without any English players in a Champions League match. Wenger called Pardew a racist. Pardew defended himself by saying his wife is a Swede.
2005/6 RECORD: 16-15-7, 55 points, ninth place and they qualified for the UEFA Cup after reaching the FA Cup Final (losing to Liverpool in PKs in a classic game); All and all not a shabby season in the return to the top flight.
SILVERWARE: FA Cup winners: 1964, 1975, 1980,
NICKNAME: The Hammers/The Irons
GROUND: Boleyn Ground, capacity, 35,647 (It looks kinda funny with some castle turrets on the outside.)
RIVALS: Millwall (Fiercer than some wars); Chelsea, Tottenham
IN: Lee Bowyer (Newcastle United, undisclosed); Jonathan Spector (Manchester United, £500,000); Carlton Cole (Chelsea, undisclosed); Tyrone Mears (Preston North End, £1million); John Pantsil (Hapoel Tel Aviv, £1million); George McCartney (Sunderland, £600,000 plus Clive Clarke); Robert Green (Norwich City)
OUT: Lionel Scaloni (Deportivo La Coruna, end of loan); Yaniv Katan (Maccabi Haifa, season loan); Elliott Ward (Coventry City, £1million); Chris Cohen (Yeovil, undisclosed); Shaka Hislop (FC Dallas, undisclosed); Carl Fletcher (Crystal Palace, £400,000); Clive Clarke (Sunderland, as part of George McCartney deal)
KEY PLAYERS: GK: Roy Carroll; Def: Danny Gabbidon, Paul Konchesky; Mid: Nigel Reo-Coker, Mathew Etherington, Yossi Benayoun; For: Dean Aston, Marlon Harewood
STARMAN: On a purely talent basis, it's got to be young Isreali-midfielder Youssi Benayoun. Though small in stature, this guy is a maestro dribbler and passer. He has been linked with a future move to Arsenal. ... A lot of Hammers fans would want record-signing and new England call-up Dean Aston (and his receeding hairline) to be their main star, however he injured his ankle in training during his first England call-up and will be out 12 weeks. Too bad.
ONE TO WATCH: Marlon Harewood. At 27, he's not a spring chicken, yet he's a mountain of a man that scored the decisive goal in last year's FA Cup extra time semifinal win over Middlesboro. Plus, you've got to love a guy that captain Nigel Reo-Coker dubbed, "Black Homer Simpson."
FAST FACT: West Ham prides itself as the "Academy of Football" for its vaunted youth system. Current heavy-hitters Rio Ferdinand, Paul Konchesky, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe have all come through its ranks. In the past, Bobby Moore and Sir Geoff Hurst are Academy grads.
AAPR FACT: Teddy Sheringham, the 40-year-old striker is the second-eldest field player to appear in the EPL.
SONG WATCH: Irons supporters are famous for singing, "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles." There is probably a reason for it. But I'd personally rather leave it in the category of why is grass green?
REASON TO LIKE: Cool uniforms. Good, devoted, slightly demented fans. Solid football.
REASON TO HATE: The film "Green Street Hooligans" made it decidedly uncool to be an American supporting the Irons.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Former ManU player Jonathon Spector signed with the Irons in the transfer season.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: Philadelphia Flyers. There seems to be a certain amount of grit associated with both teams.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: It'll be tough to surpass last season, but at best this team can threaten for Europe.
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Europe wears them out and they finish middle of the pack.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.whufc.com/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.westhamonline.net/
LAST WORD: West Ham returned to the top flight last season and made no apologies. They won 3-1 vs. Bolton on the first matchday and never looked back. The sequel, though, is always more difficult, but Pardew just might be able to
NAME: Wigan Athletic
HOMETOWN: Wigan, Meat Pie capital of England, part of greater Manchester.
FOUNDED: 1932, didn't gain "League" status until 1978.
MANAGER: Paul Jewell (hired 2001) Has seen Wigan promoted twice on his watch. A rarity in English football, as it seems no one has anything bad to say about him. Jewell also helped small Bradford into the Prem in 1999.
2005/6 RECORD: 15-17-6, 51 points, 10th place. Absolutely shocking to most English pundits who expected the Latics to finish 20th.
SILVERWARE: Nothing of major note, although they did make the League Cup final last season.
NICKNAME: The Latics
GROUND: The JJB Stadium, capacity 25,138
RIVALS: The English Press
IN: Fitz Hall (Crystal Palace, undisclosed); Tomasz Cywka (undisclosed); Emile Heskey (Birmingham City, £5.5million); Chris Kirkland (Liverpool, six-month loan); Denny Landzaat (AZ Alkmaar, undisclosed); Emmerson Boyce (Crystal Palace, £1million); Luis Antonio Valencia (Villarreal, season loan)
OUT: Stephane Henchoz (released); David Thompson (released); Reto Ziegler (Tottenham Hotspur, loan return); Jimmy Bullard (Fulham, undisclosed); Jason Roberts (Blackburn Rovers, undisclosed); Damien Francis (Watford, £1.5million).
KEY PLAYERS: GK: John Filan/Chris Kirkland; Def: Pascal Chimbonda (for now); Arjan de Zeeuw (Captain), Matt Jackson, Leighton Baines; Mid: Denny Landzaat, Graham Kavanagh, Luis Antonio Valencia; For: Henri Camara, Emile Heskey
STARMAN: Wigan owns about as many standout stars as a black hole. Pascal Chimbonda is probably Wigan's best player, but who know how long he'll stick it out with the club.
ONE TO WATCH: Leighton Baines. He's young, has a terrible name and great pace.
FAST FACT: The nickname 'Latics' is short/slang for Atheltic. Fas-cin-ating.
EVERYBODY "HATES" WIGAN: The word most associated with Wigan Athletic is "unfacied." It seems a lot of snooty British writers looked down their noses at the Latics, they were founded in the 20th century afterall. Most cited Wigan as a "rugby league" town and came up with tons of excuses why they weren't worthy to grace the Prem. Well, Jewell and Co. showed them and finished a remarkable tenth spot.
KARMA WATCH: Afro-superstar Pascal Chimbonda came completely out of nowhere to earn a spot in the EPL's best XI. Yet, immediately after the final game of last season he handed in his transfer request in the locker room -- still in uniform. Tottenham have been heavy for him, but at the time of this posting, he's still with the Latics. Will this kill Wigan's Jewell-mentum for a year ago?
REASON TO LIKE: Being "unfacied" by the British press earns them lovable loser status in my book. Is there anything worse than the alternately stodgy/sensationalistic British journos?
REASON TO HATE: You're a snob that doesn't recognize teams founded outside the 19th century.
AMERICAN CONNECTION: Nein.
AMERICAN EQUIVILENT: A dose of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Both teams with minimal history, but have managed to put themselve in better position than many established squads.
BEST CASE SCENARIO: Repeat of last season, or maybe just maybe sniff out that final European spot
WORST CASE SCENARIO: Last year was a fluke.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: http://www.wiganlatics.co.uk/
SUPPORTER SITE: http://www.wiganathletic-mad.co.uk/
LAST WORD: Wigan. Wigan. Wigan. The Latics did some savvy moves in the summer, like adding Landzaat and Valencia, as well as getting Chris Kirkland on a loan deal. Of course, most will boil down big-time signing Emile Heskey, a rather beefy lad that formerly represented England. Those gents in the press have had a field day with him coming to the meat pie capital of Merry Old and the fact Wigan shelled out so much dough for a guy with four goals in 34 games last season for Birmingham. It seems impossible, on paper, to top last season but Jewell seems like a great boss and might be able to pull it out.
Well, folks, that be it. Enjoy the season.
Last chance for Fantasy Football. League ID: 1519 Password: jumble form -- "ENPLIL".
In case you missed it: Part I, Part II, Part III,