Britain has a considerable number of teams in the various Footy Leagues. These are some of the more notable ones. Many of the bigger British clubs are currently owned by foreign investors.
Historically, which club Britons support has been a matter of home town pride, tribal affiliations where there is more than one club in a city, or familial connections. A Mancunian doesn't just arbitrarily decide one day to support United or City, he is born in a City-supporting household, in a City-supporting area of town. Changing allegiances was (and still is) very rare.
These days, Sky Sports' blanket coverage of the English Premier League has led to a generation of younger fans who reject home town loyalty in favour of supporting a team that might actually win something, and whom they can watch on TV down the pub, admiring the silky skills of highly-paid players. Standing on an unroofed terrace on a rainy October afternoon cheering on a bunch of no-hopers playing mediocre football for the Papa John's Trophy just doesn't seem quite the same.
Of course, this has lead to the dreaded accusation of "glory hunting" amongst some fans. A glory hunter is someone who supports a successful club, although they have no or very little local or family connection to said club, and seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of success. It's an accusation that your support is not sincere, and therefore calling someone a glory hunter is the worst insult one fan can give another. On the other hand, it's only logical that a team winning competitions will likely gather respect and new support. From the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, Manchester United were universally reviled due to constant homegrown success on the pitch, and therefore all of their fans were deemed by everyone else as "glory hunters" and stereotypically depicted as non-Mancunians with little knowledge of football beyond newspaper back-page headlines. Now that local rivals Manchester City have shaken the balance of power, many 'new' City fans have had the accusation of glory hunting aimed at them - giving Red Devils fans a break. It's also now relatively common for fans of a lower-league side who have little chance of getting into the Premiership in the forseeable future to have a secondary support for a Premiership side.
Most clubs have celebrity fans - how they are regarded by regular fans depends on circumstances but generally speaking, the ones who get involved in the running of the club, are vocal in their support during lean times, turn up regularly at matches and/or can prove that they supported the club as a child are held in high regard. The best examples are the Gallagher brothers (Manchester City), Fatboy Slim (Brighton & Hove Albion), Elton John (Watford) and Delia Smith (Norwich City), with the latter two having also owned their respective teams.
A note, incidentally - British teams don't wear "uniforms", they wear a "strip" or a "kit". Each club has a "home kit" for most games, a kit for away games where the home kits clash and sometimes even a kit for when both clash. We are describing the former. These kits, especially for the bigger clubs, have a tendency to change on a season-by-season basis, bringing in more money for the clubs by way of replica shirt sales.
"Everyone seems to know the score, they've seen it all before, they just know, they're so sure, that England's gonna throw it away, gonna blow it away, but I know they can play..."
- White shirts, navy shorts (although they've tended to go for an all-white kit very often of late). Home games at Wembley Stadium, London. Won The World Cup in 1966, famously wearing their change kit of red shirts and white shorts for the final. Despite the fifty-plus years that have passed since England's one and only major triumph, great things are still expected every time - a sense of anticipation often whipped up by the tabloids, with most fans taking a more realistic (ie. anything between extremely pessimistic and very cautiously optimistic) approach.
- Despite frequently producing any number of internationally admired world class players, including the so-called "Golden Generation" of the 2000s (Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Scholes, Rooney, Terry, Ferdinand, etc), they never really get anywhere. This is down to a puzzling inability for the team to play together (the Gerrard-Lampard dichotomy baffled many a manager), exhaustion after the gruelling domestic season and a somewhat proverbial problem with penalty shoot-outs, being eliminated on penalties in the 1990, 1998 and 2006 World Cups and Euro '96, 2004 and 2012 note . In 2014 they failed to even get out of the Group Stage. Sadly, no-one was particularly surprised.
- England frequently receive a pasting abroad for considering themselves a top international side despite not having won anything for decades. However, when you consider that a) only 8 countries have ever won the World Cup, and b) England remain one of a relatively small number of teams to consistently make it to the later stages of the tournament, this doesn't seem quite so fair. Nowadays, the attitude is somewhat diminished, with a very English morbidly humorous attitude attached - 'how badly are we going to do this time?'
- In terms of the World Cup, England are tied at 3rd (with Italy, behind Brazil and Germany) in terms of the most quarter-final appearances but in a mere joint-9th place (with seven other countries) for the semis. So they are a comparatively strong side, capable of giving a good showing against the best in the world on their day and still being considered a serious scalp for smaller teams, but rarely considered a serious contender or favourite to win.
- After 2014, old captain Steven Gerrard retiring from international football, ending the old guard — the only real survivors were new captain Wayne Rooney and goalkeeper Joe Hart (who was widely considered to have not had much of an ability to prevent the rest of his team from folding like wet paper). An exciting generation of youngsters and former outsiders was pushed to fore for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, including Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, the latter bursting onto the scene as a Premier League champion in 2015/16 and runner up to Kane for top scorer by 1 goal. This was underlined by England executing a faultless qualifying campaign, being the only team not to drop a point and the first to qualify after the hosts, France. Despite that and generally favourable results in the run-up to the tournament, including against hosts and favourites France (they won 2-0, but only a few days after the Bataclan gun attacks, meaning that French hearts weren't quite in it) note and World Champions Germany, in which England executed a stunning 3-2 comeback victory in Berlin. At the tournament, though, England ... crashed and burned, staggering out of the group stage and going out in the second round to Iceland - a defeat widely considered to be England's worst result since losing 1-0 to the USA back in 1950. Manager Roy Hodgson unsurprisingly resigned immediately after the match, and things managed to get even worse when his replacement, Sam Allardyce (a manager best known for being hired to resuscitate struggling teams) was sacked after just eighteen days later, following a tabloid sting in which he was caught talking about getting around FA rules on player contracts. All in all, England's post-tournament stint of being ranked 13th in the world seems to be a metaphor for their troubles.
- However, under young manager and former player Gareth Southgate, there was a degree of cautious optimism. With Rooney retiring, Harry Kane and Dele Alli of Spurs spearheaded the attack, along with the likes of Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling in support, albeit with a solid but not especially creative midfield, creating an attitude of "we might not go down in flames quite as spectacularly next time". Regarded with distinctly more optimism were England's youth prospects, with both the U-17s and U-19s winning their respective World Cups in 2017, the former disposing of Spain in the final 5-2, after having gone 0-2 down. Meanwhile, the U-21s reached the semi-finals of their European Championship, before losing on penalties to Germany - some things, it seems, never change.
- But they did change in at the 2018 World Cup, at least to a degree. England finished second in their group to Belgium, whilst elsewhere it was Germany's turn for a humiliating group-stage exit. Southgate's England went on to actually win a penalty shoot-out after a foul-ridden match against Colombia, following this up with a quarter-final win over Sweden to set up England's first semi-final appearance in over two decades. Alas, after going ahead they lost to Croatia thanks to an extra-time heartbreaker, and went on to lose to Belgium (again) in the third-place play-off. Still, this was England's best World Cup performance since 1990, raising hopes in England that the long national nightmare was nearing its end.
- This was followed up by a better-than-expected run in the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Drawn in a tough group with Spain and their recent semi-final vanquishers Croatia, England proceeded to top the group, recording a rare away win over Spain in the process (and holding Croatia to a draw in Zagreb before coming back from behind to beat them 2-1 at Wembley). At the finals in Portugal, they lost to the Netherlands in extra time but beat Switzerland in the third-place match — the latter by way of a penalty shoot-out, no less.
- Despite pre-tournament scepticism about selection, and then early tournament scepticism about lack of goals, England made a strong showing at the delayed Euro 2020, comfortably getting out of their group without conceding a goal, before the second-round had them squaring up to Germany in a massively hyped grudge match (mainly on the English side, though the Germans showed more interest than usual) at Wembley. England promptly and patiently outplayed a more experienced and (arguably) technically more able German side, winning 2-0. The country, unsurprisingly, went nuts. Subsequent victories over Ukraine and Denmark saw England reach their first major final in 55 years ... which they lost to Italy, on penalties.
- England have rivalries with several countries:
- Argentina - a bitter, one, this; not just because of the whole Falklands thing but also due to two very contentious quarter-final matches at the 1966 and 1986 World Cups. To date, the last encounter was in 2005 at the suitably neutral venue of Geneva; England won 3-2.
- France, for historical reasons (although this was dramatically put aside for the match played in the wake of the Bataclan attack; see above).
- Germany, although this is somewhat one-sided, with Germany not really caring about it. Since beating West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final, England have come to see Germany as something of a bogey team - getting knocked out by them at the 1970, 1990 and 2010 World Cups note and at Euro 96 note . England finally returned the favour in the delayed Euro 2020, sending Germany packing in the second round.
- The oldest is of course the rivalry with northern neighbours Scotland, although some English fans can be dismissive of this due to the perceived gulf between the two sides (ironically, this is very much the same attitude taken by German fans to their supposed rivalry with England). Indeed, many England fans look on the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland teams as kid brothers and wish them well - which winds up Scotland fans no end. The fact that they rarely play each other — the annual England-Scotland fixture hasn't happened since 1989 — doesn't help, although they were drawn in the same group for Euro 2020, which actually took place in 2021. The result, a 0-0 draw, was regarded as unsatisfactory by English fans and wildly celebrated by the Scots (albeit tinged with mild regret because Scotland had looked more like winning), which speaks volumes for the expectations of both sides.
- Hooliganism involving England 'fans' reached a high (or, depending on your point of view, low) point in the 1980s and 1990s. Things have actually improved since then, although trouble persists due to a small minority drinking too much and getting rowdy, local police going in strong because they expect trouble and modern hooligan gangs following countries like Russia targetting English fans at international tournaments due to the latter's historic prowess.
- The very poor behaviour of some 'fans' at the delayed Euro 2020 final — those without tickets illegally gained entry to Wembley Stadium and in some cases caused injury to those who were there legitimately — was widely seen, along with online racial abuse directed against the three England players who missed their penalties in the shoot-out, as an embarrassing reminder that, despite the progress made in recent years, certain problems have not been eradicated among the rowdier elements of the English fanbase.
- The fact that the England team still sings the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen", before matches is a bone of contention among other Home Nations fans (except the Northern Irish, whose team also sings this one) and some England fans who would prefer a more English anthem like "Jerusalem".
- Over two decades after it was first released, "Three Lions" (opening lyrics above) remains a firm favourite with England fans. It was originally written by David Baddiel and Frank Skinner for Euro 96, which England hosted. It is the only song in the history of the British singles charts that has got to number one on four separate occasions — twice in 1996 and once each during the 1998 and 2018 World Cups. Some opposing players and fans claim to regard the tone of the song — particularly the "it's coming home" refrain — as disrespectful, the counter-claim being that such complaints miss the point.
"Yes sir, I can boogie, but I need a certain song, I can boogie, boogie woogie, all night long..."
- All-navy kit (although traditionally, white shorts and red socks were worn). Home games at Hampden Park, Glasgow. Used to be ever-present at World Cups in the past without ever managing to get past the first round, but failed to qualify for anything between 1998 to 2020.
- The trend continued in 2015, with a last minute goal by Poland's Robert Lewandowski denying Scotland the win they needed to remain in contention, ultimately making them the only Home Nation not to reach Euro 2016. They then looked on the edge of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, before narrowly failing to get the win they required to go through to the play-offs. Again.
- Finally, the run ended when they qualified for the delayed Euro 2020, after beating Israel and Serbia (both on penalties) in the Nations League play-offs. At that tournament, they were drawn in the same group as historic rivals England, and treated the result of that fixture — a well-earned 0-0 draw at Wembley — like a famous victory. However, defeats to the Czech Republic and Croatia in their other two group games meant that once again, the Scots were eliminated in the first round.
- Well known for their supporters, the Tartan Army — many of whom deliberately play up to the stereotype of Scotsmen wearing nothing under their kilts. They're actually among the better behaved and better liked supporters of a national team ... unless they're playing England, in which case things will get rowdy.
"Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi, gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri; ei gwrol ryfelwyr, gwladgarwyr tra mad, dros ryddid collasant eu gwaed." note
- AKA "Cymru", Wales' Welsh-language name. All-red kit. Home games at Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff.note
- Managed to make the World Cup quarter-final in 1958 and the quarter-final of Euro 76, but Wales is really rugby territory and until recently, the team had never enjoyed much success, failing to qualify for any international competition between 1976 and 2016 despite producing some world-class players like John Charles (1960s), Ian Rush (1980s) and Ryan Giggs (1990s-2000s). Gareth Bale is the current star for Wales, having come into his own at the same time Giggs was nearing the end of his career. Just before the end of the summer 2013 transfer window, Real Madrid purchased him for a fee of what some sources reported as £86 million ($132 million), which if accurate would be the largest transfer fee in history until Paul Pogba's £89 million transfer to Manchester United in 2016 (something that apparently continues to put previous holder of that accolade and now-former Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo into an almighty snit). He became a key part of Real's first team for several years, but fell out of favour with manager Zinedine Zidane in 201920, and has since been loaned back to Spurs amid transfer rumours involving several big English sides.
- In recent years, Wales have been developing a solid core of proven Premier League players, sprinkled with a couple of world class players in Bale (Real Madrid) and Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), along with a team spirit to match any team on the planet, leading some hopes that an epic revival might be on the cards. After an astonishing qualifying campaign for the 2016 Euros former players such as Thierry Henry are pointing out that if they believe that they can do it, they might just be capable of going on and winning the tournament. They thrashed old bogey team Russia 3-0 and a much fancied Belgium 3-1 to reach the semi-finals of the competition, a feat not managed by any British team since 1996, before running out of steam against eventual winners Portugal (who mostly squeezed through thanks to healthy dose of luck). For a time, they were ranked in a well-deserved 10th place, two places above England, but a poor 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign ended that run; as of September 2020, they're 23rd to England's 4th.
- The current crop of players was largely nurtured and brought through by legendary former player and Manager Gary Speed, who tragically took his own life in November 2011 after, with only four months of prior managerial experience, taking them over seventy places up the FIFA rankings in less than a year in the position. While Speed's successor Chris Coleman was acknowledged to have done a superb job , it is undoubted that this current Wales team is very much a product of Speed's tenure and that he is sorely missed.
- After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, Coleman confirmed that he planned to leave the job, despite the pleas of a number of players. He deserves credit for not only the astonishing 2016 campaign, but bringing through young talent, including 17-year-old wunderkind and ex-Liverpool player Ben 'The Prince of Wales' Woodburn (an accolade he got for a stunning goal in qualifying). Giggs was hired as Coleman's replacement (though officially titled "Head Coach"), making a solid start by shepherding Cymru into Euro 2020. They finished second in their group to Italy, but ran into a buzzsaw in the round of 16, being annihilated 40 by a Danish side making an inspirational run for their fallen star Christian Eriksen* . They have since broken their 64 year wait for a return to the World Cup, breaking Ukrainian hearts in a play-off in Cardiff.
- Northern Ireland
"Will Grigg's on fire, your defence is terrified..."
- AKA "Norn Iron". Play in green shirts and white shorts. Home games at Windsor Park, Belfast. Well known for occasionally punching well above their weight - they did so at the 1982 World Cup (becoming one of the smallest countries ever to reach the second round), and more recently they've managed to beat Spain (the World and European champions at the time), England (in a famous World Cup Qualifying match in 2005) and Russia. George Best, of Manchester United in the 1960s and 1970s, is probably their, ahem, best (and best-known) player ever.
- They qualified for Euro 2016 at the top of their group, hammering top seeds Greece 3-1 to confirm their place in the finals and got out of their group, before going down in brave defeat in the last 16 to fellow Brits, tournament surprise package Wales, who ultimately reached the semi-finals.
- Until the 1980s, these four teams played an annual tournament known as the British Home Championship (sometimes referred to as the British International Championship - that being the name on the trophy - or the Home Internationals). National pride inspired some epic performances, especially from the smaller nations against England, but also led to some ugly hooliganism. This, combined with falling attendances (except in the England-Scotland fixture), fixture congestion and problems with playing in Northern Ireland, led to it being discontinued. For the record, England won this competition the most times, but Northern Ireland got to keep the trophy as they won the last one.
- An attempt at a similar tournament — albeit one involving the Republic of Ireland (see below) instead of England — was made in 2011. Called the Nations Cup, it was only played once and was not repeated due to low attendances.
- The Republic of Ireland is often regarded as an honorary Home Nation, due to the close links between Britain and Ireland. The bit in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where the (emphatically English) Weasleys (and others) energetically support Ireland in the absence of a British team is quite true to life (except in football rather than Quidditch, obviously) and was evidenced at the 1994 World Cup, when none of the actual Home Nations qualified (it may have helped that Ireland's manager, Jack Charlton, was not just English but a member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning side). The reverse is not usually true - at least, where the English are concerned; sports shops in Ireland and Scotland usually report increases in sales of replica shirts of countries that are playing against England during World Cups and European Championships.
- The question of whether there should be a unified Great Britain team is sometimes raised, usually by FIFA officials who want to score a few political points by querying the unique status of the Home Nations FAs. The fact remains, though, that because the practice of playing internationals between the Home Nations developed before football associations were created elsewhere in the world, there has never been a UK-wide football association.
- Aside from the Olympics (see below) a Great Britain XI has twice been called into existence for friendlies - in 1947 to commemorate the Home Nations FAs rejoining FIFA, and in 1955 to celebrate the IFA's 75th anniversary; on both occasions, the opposition was a composite Rest of Europe XI and the colour of the British side's shirts depended on the venue - they wore navy for the 1947 match which was played at Hampden Park and green for the 1955 one which was played at Windsor Park. Wales have twice played a Rest of Great Britain XI - in 1951 to commemorate the FAW's 75th anniversary and in 1969 to commemorate Prince Charles's investiture as Prince of Wales.
- A British team has periodically entered the Olympic football tournaments - the first time the Olympics had football was at the Paris 1900 Olympics, when amateur side Upton Park (no relation to West Ham United note ) represented Great Britain, winning the gold medal. Football was next in the Olympics in 1908 when London hosted the games for the first time; then, an amateur team made up exclusively of English players won the gold medal, a feat they repeated in 1912. Disputes over amateur status - the FA wanted the Olympic football tournament to be for amateurs only, while FIFA wanted it to be open to all available players - resulted in the FA withdrawing from FIFA for a time. The British Olympic football team remained English amateurs only until the FA stopped recognising the distinction between amateurs and professionals in 1974, after which they stopped entering a team for the Olympics (by which time they had failed to qualify for three successive Olympics). This is why Olympic footballnote is taken much less seriously in Britain than it is in other countries.
- More recently, this issue was raised again because London hosted the 2012 Olympics, meaning that Great Britain would (as hosts) be able to enter a football team. However, it was left to the FA to organise this after the SFA, FAW and IFA all withdrew from discussions over fears that a British Olympic football team would undermine the special status of the Home Nations under FIFA's constitution, leading to them being forced to field a unified team in all future international competitions. The fact that no-one believed FIFA President Sepp Blatter's assurances that this would not be the case speaks volumes for the regard in which FIFA was held during his time in office. A compromise was eventually reached whereby a squad of English players would represent Great Britain, although in the event the squad consisted of 13 Englishmen and five Welshmen. They were knocked out in the quarter-finals. The FA has no plans to enter a team in subsequent men's Olympic football tournaments.
Below League Two is that entity known as "non-league" which encompasses everything from professional clubs that used to be in the League (and would like to be so again) through the semi-professional sides in regional feeder leagues right down to amateur Sunday morning sides. The highest non-league division is called the National League (confusing, right?) which used to be called the Football Conference and may still be referred to as such.
In addition to the league structure, there are two major knock-out tournaments which offer clubs an additional chance for some silverware - the FA Cup (the oldest national football competition in the world, dating back to 1871) and the EFL Cup (founded in 1960 and historically the League Cup; it's had many names over the years due to sponsorship - Coca-Cola Cup, Carling Cup, etc; nowadays, it's the Carabao Cup). Both of these tournaments have their finals at Wembley. The FA Cup is by far the more prestigious of the two and is open to non-league clubs which, due to the random nature of the draw, can and sometimes do get the chance to play against the big teams (although actual acts of giant-killing are rare). Any club that wins the League (or, since 1992, the Premier League) and the FA Cup in the same season is said to have done the "Double". Manchester United managed a unique "Treble" in 1999 (Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League), while the only instance of a domestic "Treble" (Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup) was that of Manchester City in 2019. Clubs in League One and League Two contest the EFL Trophy (which, like the League Cup, has had various names due to sponsors - Auto Windscreens Shield, Johnstone's Paint Trophy, etc - but is currently the Papa John's Trophy) which, like winning one of the lower division, tends not to be regarded as a major trophy.
The current big clubsHistorically, which clubs get to be defined as "big" clubs has varied as fortunes have tended to fluctuate - although most lists made over the past half-century or so have invariably included the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. In the early 2000s, the talk was of the Big Four (those three, plus Chelsea), while more recently the talk has been of the Big Six (those four, plus Manchester City and Spurs). In April 2021, these clubs were given several more derisive nicknames — "Selfish Six", "Dirty Half-Dozen", etc — after they signed up to a proposed new European Super League alongside three Italian clubs (AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus) and three Spanish clubs (Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid). The ESL was widely regarded as a blatant money grab, as it would have featured only 20 teams, with the founder clubs guaranteed permanent places in the competition. It wasn't unanimously popular among big-name clubs; Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, and Paris Saint-Germain, all rumoured to have places set aside for them, opted out. Widespread outrage and condemnation followed from governing bodies, other clubs, supporters, politicians, pundits, the media and even many players of the clubs involved. Within 48 hours, the ESL had collapsed, with all six of the EPL sides withdrawing. The long-term consequences of this attempted breakaway and the resulting backlash remain to be seen.
Prior to this, in the late 20th century, there was often talk of a Big Five comprising Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham. These five remain the only clubs to have been in the top flight continuously since at least the 1970s. (In the case of Arsenal, since the 1910s.)
"North London forever! Whatever the weather, these streets are our own! And my heart will leave you never! My blood will forever run through the stone!"
- AKA "The Gunners". Red shirts with white sleeves, white shorts. Based in North London at the Emirates Stadium (known as Ashburton Grove prior to the naming rights being sold to the club sponsors, and as Arsenal Stadium for UEFA competitions), which replaced their historic home of Highbury. League Champions 13 times (three of those since the creation of the Premier League; most recently 2004), FA Cup winners 14 times (a record; most recently 2020), League Cup winners twice (most recently 1993), Fairs Cup (the precursor to the UEFA Cup) and European Cup Winners' Cup winners once each.
- Was British-owned until late in 2010 when American billionaire Stan Kroenke (who also owns the LA Rams and an MLS team) launched a takeover of the club, and as of July 2021 is completely owned by Kroenke. Have not won the Premiership since 2004 and since them have come 4th six times, 3rd four, 2nd twice, and most recently 8th (twice in a row). However, the last time they won it they went unbeaten.
- Arsenal has a large and diverse fanbase, including people such as Nick Hornby (whose memoir Fever Pitch was all about his experiences as an Arsenal fan in the 1970s and 1980s), Lewis Hamilton, Idris Elba, the late unlamented Osama bin Laden, Jeremy Corbyn (the local MP), his replacement as British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer, broadcaster Robert Peston, Ainsley Harriott and even (so rumour has it) the Queen herself.
- Historically (if you go back to the origins) the Gunners originate from South of the River at Woolwich Arsenal. Hence both the name and the gun logo. They were also the first southern team to join the Football League in, 1893.
- In recent history, Arsenal were once considered a dull defensive side under George Graham in the late 80s and early 90s, to the point where opposing fans would cheer "Boring, Boring Arsenal!". Following Graham's sacking and the hire of then-unknown Frenchman Arsene Wenger, Arsenal completely changed their style into an attacking team full of intricate passing and teamwork, a style nicknamed "Wengerball". For the first ten years of Wenger's tenure, Arsenal were dominant, winning the Premier League title three times (the third being unbeaten), four FA Cups (the first two being won the same year as their first two League titles), and even reached a Champions League final, which they lost to Barcelona. Following this, work was begun on a new stadium, and Arsenal seemed destined to join Europe's elite in terms of team and stadium quality. However, a combination of the stadium's finances, Chelsea's emergence, and sheer bad luck caused Arsenal to slide into perennial 3rd/4th-place finishes. They won three more FA Cups in four years under Wenger in the mid 10s and come oh-so-close to winning another League Title, but would ultimately fall short. In 2017, Arsenal would finish outside the Top 4 for the first time in decades, and Wenger would ultimately step down after the 2017/18 season. His replacement, Unai Emery, seemed to initially return Arsenal to success, with a 22-match unbeaten run that saw them competing for the title against a dominant Manchester City and a resurgent Liverpool, but then they collapsed again, falling out of the Top 4 and losing in the Europa League final to Chelsea by a score of 4-1. The next season, a string of bad performances would lead to Emery's sacking. Arsenal would then hire former captain Mikel Arteta, who again seemed to get the Gunners moving in the right direction, winning an FA Cup in his first season, but the second season would see a truly woeful campaign for the first half, from which they were ultimately unable to claw back in the 2020/21 campaign. As things stand, Arsenal are in the process of a long rebuild, where long serving favourites like Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were exiled and had their contracts terminated due to poor attitudes, whilst up-and-coming signings such as Aaron Ramsdale, Martin Ødegaard and Thomas Partey joined academy prospects Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe - the signs are promising, with Champions League qualification a real possibility, but they're still a long way off, as they are reminded by chastening thumpings at the hands of current juggernauts Manchester City (5-0) and Liverpool (4-0).
- As noted above, Arsenal were one of the "ESL Six" that attempted a breakaway from the UEFA Champions League, only to back out with their tails between their legs within 48 hours.
"So cheer us on through the sun and rain! Cos Chelsea, Chelsea is our name!"
- A West London club nicknamed "The Blues" or rarely "The Pensioners" note . Blue shirts and shorts, white socks; home games in Stamford Bridge which is actually in nearby Fulham. Despite having been owned by moneyed backers for most of the 21st century - Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich owned the club from 2003 until being forced to sell in 2022 thanks to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, with the club being bought by US billionaire Todd Boehlynote - Chelsea had a reputation of being somewhat underachieving, though not to the degree of Arsenal. This finally broke for them when they won the Champions League in 2012.
- League Champions six times (five of those since the creation of the Premier League; most recently 2017), FA Cup winners eight times (most recently 2018), League Cup winners five times (most recently 2015), Champions League winners twice (2012, 2021), Europa League and European Cup Winners' Cup winners twice each.
- Had some bad luck in Europe in recent years, being knocked out of the UEFA Champions League semi-final stage more than once thanks to contentious decisions and match-ups with bogey team Liverpool, who tend to bring their A-Game for European matches. In the 2009 home leg against Barcelona, the referee missed several clear penalties and had to flee the UK after receiving death threats.
- The term "Chelsea Smile" is sometimes used as a synonym for Glasgow Grin, from the days of rife hooliganism (the main characters in The Football Factory were Chelsea 'fans'), but this use has diminished significantly. Sadly, as one incident in early 2015 showed, some remnants of the hooliganism remain, as demonstrated after a tie against PSG.
- They were the first London side to win the UEFA Champions League (2012), beating Barcelona in the semi-finals and winning a penalty shoot-out against Bayern Munich in their home ground, bucking the "trend" of the English succumbing to the Germans on penalties.
- During the Abramovich years, in which he drowned the club with investment, Chelsea gained a reputation for paying absurdly high sums of money for players who turned out not to be worth that much for them.
- Take striker Andriy Shevchenko, whom Chelsea purchased for £30 million. His Chelsea career amounted to 77 games and 22 goals. The mathematically astute among you may have already calculated that this comes out to more than a million per goal.
- Similarly, striker Fernando Torres cost Chelsea a whopping £50 million, and did not, for the most part, live up to expectations, with 45 goals in 172 games, though one of these goals was in the 2013 Europa League Final, in which Chelsea defeated Benfica 2-1.
- In all fairness, it should be noted that both Shevchenko and Torres were seen as among the best strikers in the world when they were bought - both Shevchenko and Torres regularly scored over 25 goals per season for their previous teams (Shevchenko for Dynamo Kyiv and AC Milan, Torres for Atletico Madrid and Liverpool). In the years prior to their signings, Shevchenko had won several trophies in Italy and the 2004 Ballon d'Or, while Torres had powered his country to the 2008 European Championship title, scoring the winning goal in the final, before helping them win the 2010 World Cup.
- During Abramovich's tenure, the Chelsea manager's job also became notorious for its short tenure, with fifteen managers in his nineteen seasons in charge, with Abramovich gaining a reputation for demanding success and quickly firing managers who can't provide it constantly. To put that into perspective, Chelsea have spent more money on compensating their sacked managers than Everton have spent since the Premier League began. Bucking the trend, he was actually remarkably patient with José Mourinho, despite the fact that Chelsea went into a tailspin and the manager seemed to lose the dressing room after verbally abusing and firing the popular (and attractive) team doctor, despite the fact that their title defence morphed into only half-joking cracks about them fighting relegation, before firing him in late December and replacing him with safe pair of hands Guus Hiddink.
- Antonio Conte was next, and won the league, but then came 5th, an unforgivable sin for a Chelsea manager. Despite an FA Cup final victory against Manchester United, Conte was shown the door and got replaced by Maurizio Sarri, whose hypnotizing brand of attacking football turned many heads in the football world while at Napoli. The 2018/19 season immediately started well for Chelsea, including an effortless thrashing of all their rivals in their Europa League group. Unfortunately, their form rather collapsed after the turn of the year, with Bournemouth of all teams thrashing them 4-0, their worst Premier League defeat in 20 years, before City got their own back for a previous defeat by absolutely destroying them 6-0, Chelsea's worst defeat in any competition since 1991. Cue opposition chants of "Maurizio Sarri, we want you to stay!" Despite winning the Europa League, however, Sarri left Stamford Bridge due to the general sense of unease he was feeling around the club, and went back to Italy to join Juventus, much to Chelsea fans's disappointment and the outrage of his former followers at Napoli.
- Noteworthy Chelsea fans include Damon Albarn, Andrew Fletcher, Suggs and Gordon Ramsay.
- Chelsea, as noted above, were another of the "ESL Six" ... although by almost all reports, Abramovich and the directors weren't totally on board with this, and only joined because they didn't want to be left behind by their rivals. Notably, they were the first of the founding ESL clubs to jump ship,note doing so minutes after former Chelsea star goalkeeper and current technical director Petr Čech addressed an angry crowd of supporters that were blocking a main road to their ground. Needless to say, when Chelsea pulled out, much rejoicing followed.
- Abramovich was forced to sell the club in 2022 as a result of Russia's botched invasion of Ukraine, with it being bought by an American-led consortium headed by US billionaire Todd Boehly (the owner of the LA Dodgers). In his first season in charge, the club continued its reputation for spending large sums of money on players, spending more than £200million in one transfer window to bring in players such as England's star attacker Raheem Sterling, defenders Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly, and former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang. Unfortunately, this did not solve their troubles, and following a torrid run of form, manager Thomas Tuchel was sacked after an embarrassing 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb (whose team cost only £54m, less than the £62m Chelsea spent on Cucurella alone). Tuchel was replaced by highly-rated British manager Graham Potter (whose previous club, Brighton, had, coincidentally, been the team Chelsea signed Cucurella for £62m from).
"It's a grand old team to play for, it's a grand old team to support."
- AKA "The Toffees", based in Liverpool. Have spent a total of 105 seasons in the top-flight. Blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks, home games at Goodison Park (which is actually in the Walton district of Liverpool, not Everton). League Champions nine times (most recently in 1987), FA Cup winners five times (most recently 1995), League Cup winners twice (most recently 1984), European Cup Winners' Cup winners once.
- Previously thought of as the team that would break the "Big Four" note thanks to strong league and cup runs in the middle 00s (culminating in Champions League qualification in 2005), but have since dropped to mid-table, with financial hardship preventing major squad investment. Still widely considered a 'dark horse' side and one likely to cause upsetting score lines for the bigger teams, in the latter half of the 2010s they re-emerged as a team to be reckoned with, first with extremely talented youngsters Romelu Lukaku and Ross Barkley, ably supported by winger Gerard Deulofeu, in 2015-16. However, this team was undermined by defensive frailty, as brutally exposed by local arch rivals Liverpool. Despite having their most in-form striker injured in a brutal tackle by an Everton centre-back who was immediately sent off note , they sauntered to a 4-0 win, one so comfortable that Liverpool spent the last quarter of the match practically camped outside the Everton box, trying to get fan favourite defensive midfielder/centre back Lucas Leiva to score, apparently just for the hell of it. Lucas had played regularly for Liverpool for nine years. In that time, he had scored a grand total of six goals, the last of which had been scored six years ago. This was a tactic so ridiculous that Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp was caught on tv laughing. This unsurprisingly led to the sacking of Everton manager Roberto Martínez.
- 2016-17 got off to a rocky start with new manager Ronald Koeman but once the kinks were ironed in (largely starting in 2017), they qualified for Europe again. 2017/18, on the other hand, was one big Epic Fail with Ross Barkley refusing to sign a contract, Romelu Lukaku and fan favourite Gareth Barry both leaving, several signings which turned out to be disappointing, a disastrous Europa League campaign, and Ronald Koeman going through one long Humiliation Conga which ended in him being sacked in October. Former Everton player and U23 manager David Unsworth took charge until a new boss was found, with Watford's Marco Silva being headhunted, which led to him being unsettled and, once Watford's form declined, and Everton overtook them in the standings, sacked.
- After hiring Sam Allardyce to replace Ronald Koeman the team has found their footing once more, emphasising pragmatic and defensive play to avoid conceding goals (the single greatest source of defeat during the early season was not their inability to score but their inability to keep goals out, despite the presence of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford). Everton managed to remain undefeated in their first seven games under Allardyce and ascended back to the top half of the league from what was thought to be a relegation battle mere weeks before. Whilst they struggled to find their bearings at points after their initial revival, they remained in the top half, finishing eighth. Under legendary manager Carlo Ancelotti, with a more balanced front line and defence, they've become a threat once more, with striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin being considered an early competitor for the league's top scorer, and declared his desire to remain at Everton at least until they moved into their new 52,888 capacity stadium (something expected to happen in 2024)... then promptly packed his bags as soon as Real Madrid came calling.
- This led to the very unexpected recruitment of another former Real Madrid manager and Liverpool resident - Rafael Benitez. Since Benitez had become internationally famous at Liverpool FC, taking them to Champions League glory, and had in 2007 referred to Everton as a "small club" after a rather drab 0-0 in the usually combustible Merseyside derby (fellow Spaniards have since explained that he meant that they were playing like one, rather than that they were a small club themselves and just conveyed it badly), this was met with decidedly mixed feelings. And by 'mixed feelings', we mean 'threatening banners'. However, even the most rabid Everton fans can't deny either Benitez's remarkable track record or genuine love for the city, and the majority responded to the banners and threats with firm support for the new manager... if with a certain sense of caution. Even after a good start was undermined by injuries and a horrible run of form (including a humiliating 4-1 thrashing by Liverpool, their worst loss in the Goodison leg since August 2003), most of the blame was initially apportioned to the club's hierarchy, fans having got wise to the fact that Benitez was the 5th manager in 5 years (i.e. it was extremely unlikely that the problems were his fault). However, whilst they earned a dramatic win over Arsenal, the slump was not truly arrested, and Benitez himself went out of the door after a poor performance in a loss to than-bottom Norwich (the first time since May 2004 that Everton lost to the then-last place), leading to another change at Goodison - Everton had last scored first in a game under his management in a horrible 5-2 loss to Watford 2-and-a-half months earlier, and, between than and his sacking 12 league games later, had only led for 2 stoppage time minutes through bargain-buy Demari Grays winner v Arsenal (they won a cup game away to Championship strugglers Hull, but even then, they trailed after 40 seconds and were taken to extra time), hence the re-utilisation of Ferguson until a new appointment was found, even though certain board members wanted Martinez to come back. The initial choice, highly travelled Vitor Pereira, who won trophies in Portugal and China, but had failed spells with many other teams, including in the German 2. Bundesliga, was very unpopular amongst fans, and Frank Lampard, with a point to prove, came in, a year after being sacked by Chelsea, and signed 2 players as soon as he arrived on Transfer Deadline Day.
- Part of one of (arguably) the most famous rivalries in Football, with neighbours Liverpool. This has ranged everywhere from friendly competition to seemingly utter hatred over the hundred-plus years of the clubs existence. Currently seems to be the latter as of 2022, thanks to an utterly brutal tackle by keeper Jordan Pickford on star Liverpool centre-back Virgil Van Dijk in the 2020 Goodison derby putting the latter out for the season, for which Pickford - bafflingly - escaped punishment, despite VAR, on the grounds that Van Dijk was offside (ex-refs expressed bemusement, as the rules offer plenty of scope for punishing misdemeanours when the ball is out of play). Silky midfielder Thiago Alcantara was also badly injured (though the perpetrator, Richarlison, was justly sent off). Given that each derby tends to be played in the context of the last at each respective ground, the 2021 Goodison derby was both significantly more vicious than usual and humiliating for Everton, the general sense being that Liverpool were making a point. None of this is entirely surprising: the fixture has a reputation for brutality, officially having the most red cards in Premier League history. However relations between fans remain cordial — a factor heavily influenced by the fact that many Liverpudlian families contain supporters of both clubs, with the rivalry being characterised as a family feud (in other words, it's vicious, it's personal, and woe betide anyone else who gets involved). In 2021, when Liverpool legend Rafael Benitez became the first man since the 19th century to manage both teams, neither fanbase was entirely sure how to react when the two teams faced each other... until Liverpool started thumping Everton, when the Liverpool fans started cheerfully singing Benitez' name.
- Famous fans include Paul McCartney, Ian Astbury, former Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, Claire Sweeney and Gareth Evans.
- Leicester City
"Oh, when you're smiling, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you!"
- AKA "The Foxes". Blue shirts, white shorts. Home games at the King Power Stadium. Came out of freaking nowhere to win the Premier League title in 2015-16, the first top-flight title in the club's 125-plus-year history (prior to this, the club's main honours had been winning the League Cup three times). By "freaking nowhere", we really mean it they had been in the Championship as recently as 2013-14; were nailed, bolted and hard welded to the bottom of the Premier League table for much of the 2014-15 season (only survived relegation that season by collecting 7 wins and a draw in their final 9 matches thanks in part to their new manager, Claudio Ranieri); and were 5,0001 shots to win the title entering the 2015-16 season. They then proceeded to top the table in September, leading to jokes about how Leicester were going to win the league, only to then continue winning.
- For further context, they smashed record after record - they became the first team to be bottom at Christmas in one season and top at Christmas the next, star striker Jamie Vardy (signed four years before from non-league Fleetwood Town for £1 million - in other words, what former England and Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney then earned in a month) scored goals in eleven consecutive games breaking the record set by legendary Netherlands and Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and their entire first team cost £22 million. For context, Manchester United shelled out £36 million for the unproven but talented teenager Anthony Martial and most teams in the top 10 have at least one £20 million player and/or several £10 million-plus players.
- Their unexpected success led to some people having to double down on rash declarations, including that of former England and Leicester striker Gary Lineker, current host of Match of the Day (and face of Walker's Crisps), who had declared when Leicester were top at Christmas that if they won he would host Match of the Day in his underwear. After Leicester were crowned champions, everyone called him on it, including Prime Minister David Cameron in Parliament.
- On the first programme of the 2016-17 season, Saturday 13th August 2016, he delivered on his promise, wearing Leicester City shorts no less.
- Another impressive thing to note is that while normal service has resumed in the Premier League, they made waves in the Champions League, comfortably winning their group, to make the last 16 against Sevilla. They were unlucky to lose 2-1 in the first leg, but it turned out to be the final straw for their title winning boss Claudio Ranieri, with the side falling towards the relegation zone in the league after losing 5 on the trot. To say that sacking was unpopular was an understatement, yet caretaker Craig Shakespeare won his first 4 league games, and won the return leg against Sevilla to progress to the last 8 of the Champions League, and be English football's sole remaining representative in the competition, where they only lost to eventual finalist Atlético Madrid through a penalty for a foul clearly outside the box.
- In 2018, tragedy struck the club following a league match against West Ham United - the helicopter of much-loved owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the man who bought and refurbished the club, then backed their title winning run, crashed in a parking lot outside the stadiumnote . The crash claimed not only his life, but also that of two staff members, the pilot, and a visitor. In matches afterwards, the players - many of whom had been part of the 2015/16 title winning side - were on the brink of tears, and the vast majority of the squad attended the funeral in Thailand. Touchingly, every Premier League club paid their tributes.
- Since then, Jamie Vardy has proven evergreen, only getting faster despite his passing years, and demonstrating his skills by coolly grabbing a hat-trick in a 9-0 demolition of Southampton (itself the joint largest win in Premier League history, and the joint largest away win in English top flight history full stop) on the way to claiming the Golden Boot at a record-breaking age of 33 in 2019-20, as Leicester finished 5th and qualified for the Europa League.
- In May 2021, Leicester reached the FA Cup Final — one of the first major British sporting events to experiment with large crowds following the COVID-19 Pandemic (attendance was capped at 20,000, significantly below Wembley's capacity). Thanks to the fact that their opponents Chelsea were one of the ESL Six, almost all neutrals wanted Leicester to win — which they did, overcoming their opponents 1-0 to win the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history.
"And you'll neeeeeeveeeeer waaaaalk, aloooooooone!"
- AKA "The Reds", due to their all-red kit. Home games at Anfield note . Won everything in sight in the 1970s and 80s. Finally won the Premier League in the 2019-20 season. They have the most Champions League wins in England (6) and they have never let anyone forget it. Fans famously sing "You'll Never Walk Alone", a song originally from the musical Carousel, which has become so bound up with the club's identity that it is not only the Club Anthem, but the title is the club's motto, on the badge and atop the famous Shankly Gates. It has since become one of the best known and most popular anthems in football, having been adopted by Celtic FC of Scotland (leading to a long-running controversy about which team adopted it first), Club Brugge of Belgium, Feyenoord, FC Twente and FC Cambuur of the Netherlands, Genoa CFC of Italy, and Borussia Dortmund, as well as about half the other teams in the German Bundesliga, even by teams as far afield as FC Tokyo of Japan.
- League Champions 19 times (once since the creation of the Premier League, in 2020), FA Cup winners seven times (most recently 2006), League Cup winners eight times (most recently 2012), European Cup (AKA Champions League) winners six times (most recently 2019), UEFA Cup winners three times, Club World Champions once (in 2019).
- The club is well known outside of football for the Hillsborough Disaster, where 97 fans were crushed to death prior to an FA Cup semi-final.note Coming only a few years after the Bradford City Stadium Fire, the resultant inquiry led to the Taylor Report, which instituted all-seater stadia and other policies that led to a near total neutralisation of England's notorious hooliganism problem, reforms which, along with the creation of the Premier League, kickstarted the revival of English football.
- At the same time, The Sun, with its infamous headline 'The Truth', smeared Liverpool fans by claiming that they attacked police officers, as well as that they urinated on and stole from the dead, all in order to deflect blame from the South Yorkshire Police, in collusion with the Government as part of a cover-up (slurs, incidentally, which were disproved and dismissed by the Taylor Report and over 150 witness statements were later proved to have been altered to show the police in a better light). To this day, you quite literally cannot give away a copy of The Sun in the city of Liverpool, despite numerous grovelling apologies of dubious sincerity. As of February 2017, the club has outright banned The Sun and its reporters from Anfield, the Melwood training ground and club press conferences, and Everton have since followed suit. When they were told in late 2019 that this would prevent them from potentially hosting any England warm-up matches for Euro 2020, the response was more or less summed up as, "so what?" (and that was the polite version).
- After decades of campaigning by groups such as 'Justice for the 96'* and latterly by local Labour MP and then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, raising the matter in Parliament after being heckled with cries of 'Justice for the 96' when giving a speech at the 20th Anniversary of the Disaster, triggering the Second Hillsborough Inquiry. This exonerated the fans in 2012 and changed their official cause of death to 'unlawfully killed' after concluding that 'up to 41' might have survived had the emergency services coordinated better. Afterwards, campaigning groups and Burnham pushed for further inquests into just who was responsible, forcing the resignation of a number of senior police figures. This earned him cheers at the 25th Anniversary of the Disaster, and a speech in Parliament in April 2016, which included a vicious excoriation of those responsible, drew thunderous applause.
- As a side note, the youngest victim of the Hillsborough Disaster, 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, was the cousin of a then 9-year-old little boy named Steven. Said little boy grew up to become Steven Gerrard, a club legend, talismanic captain of club and country and to be widely considered by his peers as one of the best players of his generation, with luminaries such as Zinedine Zidane calling him the best midfielder in the world, and later a highly successful manager at Rangers FC in Scotland. What could motivate such a man? Well, in his autobiography in 2006, he revealed that he played for Jon-Paul.
- Since 1990, their fortunes have been decidedly mixed, becoming known as the team most likely to come third in any competition you care to name. High points including a Treble in 2001, an epic underdog comeback Champions League win in 2005 against AC Milan, then one of the best teams on the planet, who raced into a 3-0 halftime lead. Six second-half minutes later, it was 3-3 and Liverpool won on penalties. To this day, no one (including the participants) is entirely sure what happened. For this reason it is generally referred to as 'the Miracle of Istanbul'. Then there was the FA Cup Final of 2006 against West Ham, in which the score was also 3-3 and was almost singlehandedly won by Steven Gerrard, another Champions League Final appearance in 2007 (Milan got their revenge), a League Cup triumph in 2012 and highly creditable title challenges in 2001/02 and 2008/09. After that, it went decidedly downhill for a few years, before the title challenge of 2013/14. However, this was followed by another steep decline (2014/15 ended with a 6-1 defeat by Stoke), then another sharp rise under Jürgen Klopp confirming the club's reputation as a footballing yo-yo. For this reason, 'Liverpool fan' has sometimes been considered synonymous with 'masochist'. However, under Klopp, they have stabilised as consistent title challengers (and in the 2019/20 season, at long last, winners), becoming one of the most feared attacking teams in Europe.
- Historically famous for downright mesmerising attacking football, spearheaded by lightning fast strikers who would do phenomenally well, get snapped up by Real Madrid, Barcelona or Chelsea and then collapse. Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Philippe Coutinho (attacking midfielder and auxiliary forward) were never quite the same - though Torres managed a late career revival at Atletico Madrid. Luis Suárez, on the other hand, seems to be doing just fine (though it's arguable that Liverpool have had their revenge). Under Klopp, and financed by the Fenway Sports Group, they've got sufficient pull and cash to keep whoever they want, with the only bar being potential willingness to break the carefully maintained wage structure (in this case of Mohammed Salah - though the general consensus is that if they do it for anyone, it'll be him). In July 2022, they did. Salah signed a new three year contract and there was much rejoicing. Internationally very popular, with hundreds of millions of fans worldwide. Their rivalry with Manchester United is so intense it's pretty much hatred, which led to mass gloating when Liverpool strolled to a 5-0 victory at Old Trafford in 2021, and spent the last 40 minutes Just Toying with Them. Domestically, the favoured punchbags are Arsenal and Crystal Palace (Arsenal have conceded four goals or more 11 times in the Premier League era. 6 of them have been at Anfield), and occasionally Everton - mainly because the derby atmosphere means that unless the usually technically inferior Everton are right on their game, Liverpool will have absolutely no compunction about going through them like a buzzsaw.
- Infamous (like Arsenal) for fizzling out dramatically, epitomised by the 08/09 and 13/14 seasons, both followed by steep declines - 2014/15 ended with the aforementioned 6-1 defeat, their worst since 1963. Cue the arrival of charismatic German Jürgen Klopp, famous for gegenpressing style of 'heavy metal football', breaking Bayern Munich's stranglehold on the German title with Borussia Dortmund, then reaching the Champions League final. The clubs being Friendly Fandoms, this was considered a match made in heaven. Klopp's Liverpool were quickly cast as 'Europe's Entertainers', combining the front foot defence of the gegenpress with an attack led by the 'Fab Four' of wing forward Sadio Mane, talismanic pocket-sized playmaker Philippe Coutinho, creative striker Roberto Firmino, and the apparently unstoppable Mohammed Salah.
- After Coutinho went to Barcelona for a mind-boggling £142 million, the team rebalanced with several key defensive acquisitions - cultured Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk, Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho, and Scottish left-back Andy Robertson (who went from bargain buy from relegated Hull City to widely being acknowledged as the best left-back on the planet in a year). Add academy right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, who went on to feature in two Champions League finals before he turned 21 and is widely considered to be arguably the best right-back on the planet, breaking the record for a defender's assists in a league season, before breaking it again the following year, and the restoration of talented but injury-prone centre-backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip meant that Liverpool became a much more balanced team. The defence did its job, while the marauding full-backs provided the front three (renamed 'the Red Arrows') with the ammunition to become the terror of Europe, being the highest scoring front three in a single season in Champions League history.
- Cue a charge to the 2017-18 CL final, then another (which they won) in 2018-19 while simultaneously missing out on the Premier League by a single point, despite racking up 97 (then the third highest points total, full stop, in first division history - the two highest were 98 that same season, by Manchester City, and 100 the season before, also by City), only losing one game in the entire league season, keeper Alisson winning the Golden Gloves and both Salah and Mane winning a joint Golden Boot (out of three players, no less). Undaunted, they continued that form into 2019-20, winning every game but one (a draw with Manchester United) by halfway, ending 2019 with only one loss in the league in the entire calendar year, and maintaining a home record of 50 games unbeaten, only the third team to do so after Chelsea (2004-2008) and a previous Liverpool side (1978-1980). While they failed to emulate the Arsenal "Invincibles" of 2003-04 and the COVID-19 pandemic caused a break in play in March, they were already 20 points ahead of rivals Man City, had only one draw and one loss all season, and were considered champions-elect. Once the season resumed in June, a goalless draw to derby rivals Everton signified a rocky start, but they mathematically won the league a week later anyway, when Chelsea defeated City, simultaneously being the earliest team to win the title (with 7 games to spare) and latest (in actual date). They received a guard of honour in their very next game against City, who consoled themselves with a 4-0 win - unsurprisingly, the new champions didn't care that much, and despite ending the season in cruise control, still racked up 99 points (only short of City's 'Centenarians').
- The following season ended up as a nightmare, with defensive injuries forcing 20 different centre-back partnerships in just 38 games. Yes, 20. And it only got worse, with injuries, illness, and personal tragedies hitting the rest of the squad. That and Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino suffered a mystifying loss of form, plus Burnley breaking their famous 68 home game unbeaten run in January, leading to six back to back defeats at home, meant that Liverpool fans could genuinely wonder if they'd been put under some kind of curse. As it was, after being 7 points off the top 4 with 10 games to go, they showed the old 'mentality monsters' mindset and won 8 of the remaining games by any means necessary (this included highlights such as a last second winning header from Alisson, of all people, against West Bromwich Albion, being the first time a Liverpool goalkeeper had scored in the club's 129 year history), ending the season as the league's form team. This allowed them to - somehow - defy all logic and reach 3rd place, 2 points clear of 4th placed Chelsea and only 5 points behind 2nd placed Manchester United. The difference in class between the three top four chasers was made starkly clear when Liverpool calmly disposed of Crystal Palace, who were out to give their then-retiring boss (and former Liverpool manager) Roy Hodgson a big send offnote , while Chelsea and Leicester both collapsed under pressure against Aston Villa and Spurs respectively. Once all the dust settled, there were two questions: first, 'what the hell just happened?' and 'how the hell did they do that?'
- As of May 2022, Liverpool are right on City's tails (City have a three point advantage, though it was 14 points in January), having won the League Cup (beating Chelsea on penalties), won the FA Cup (beating Chelsea... on penalties... again, after dispatching City in the semi-finals) and casually crushed everyone else in their Champions League group, a so-called 'Group of Death', achieving maximum points, before dismissing Inter Milan, Benfica, and (after a brief scare in the second leg) Villareal, in successive rounds to set up a Champions League Final rematch with Real Madrid. They were the only team with a shot at the mythical 'Quadruple', coming within 8 minutes of snatching the Premier League from under City's noses, before City came from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa on the final day, and their scoring and defensive records are second only to City - and that by the finest of margins. They likewise lost the Champions League final to Real Madrid, also by fine margins and thanks to a borderline supernatural goalkeeping performance by Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois. The result was something of a hollow victory: Of the four trophies, they won arguably the two least prestigious, both on penalties, and didn't score a single goal in the three finals they played in. Some respect was regained by promptly beating Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield.
- Liverpool are also known for their rich history in Europe, thriving on long odds - the more ridiculous, the better. For example: The 2005 Champions League final (3-0 down 54 minutes in, level at 3-3 on 60 minutes); the 2016 Europa League Quarter Final against Borussia Dortmund (3-1 down at 60 minutes, 4-3 up at 92 minutes); and the 2019 Champions League semi-final against Barcelona (3-0 down on aggregate, missing two star attackers. Level on aggregate on 60 minutes, after two goals in as many minutes, ahead on aggregate/4-0 up on the night on 79). They've previously been dubbed Europe's Comeback Kings (it actually trended on Twitter), and aren't shy of handing out thrashings either; in 2007, they broke the Champions League's goal scoring record against Beşiktaş (8-0), and in 2017/18, they stuffed two teams 7-0. Even European giants like Real Madrid, Manchester City, AS Roma, Barcelona, and Porto aren't immune. In Barca's case, it was another memorable comeback ('the Miracle on the Mersey'), destroying them 4-0 at Anfield with Salah and Firmino out through injuries to turn around a 3-0 loss in the first leg. note . In Porto's case, it's becoming something of a Running Gag: they draw Liverpool and promptly get absolutely stuffed at home. They have hosted Liverpool 3 times in 4 seasons. As of 2022, the aggregate score is 14-2, and just to toy with Porto further, in January 2022 they promptly signed Porto's star man Luis Diaz for less than half of his release clause. Diaz immediately fit into the Liverpool squad and was instrumental in helping them lift a cup double and make a run to the Champions League final. In their most recent games, they lost 7-1 on aggregate, this in a group round where Liverpool became the first English team to win all six matches - in a so-called 'Group of Death', no less (this included putting out what was essentially a reserve team away to old rivals AC Milan in the last match. Given Milan's European history and position as leaders of Serie A, this might be considered a mistake. It wasn't). In short, Liverpool are dangerous in Europe.
- Having won six Champions League trophies (in '77, '78, '81, '84, '05, and '19), 5 of them before a rule change in 2009, they are the first and only (thanks to said rule change) English team to be allowed to keep the trophy, a new one being made for the following season. Liverpool fans frequently gloat about this.
- Liverpool's fansnote , colloquially known as 'the Kop' or 'Kopites', after the Kop End, which itself is named after the hill on which the Battle of Spion Kop was fought in 1900, are some of the most famous in the footballing world and certainly among the most vocal, giving Anfield a reputation as one of the most atmospheric stadiums on the planet, famed for 'the Anfield Roar' - which, following the expansion of the Main Stand, taking the capacity to 54,000, has only got that much louder, being voted the joint loudest stadium in Europe along with Barcelona's Camp Nou (which is almost twice as large, holding 99,354). No matter how well or badly the club is doing, the sight and sound of the Kop in full voice is truly breathtaking. This makes Anfield an intimidating place to go, and when on a particularly strong streak (such as when they went undefeated in the Premier League between April 2017 and January 2021), it's referred to as 'Fortress Anfield'. Fans are also a fairly cosmopolitan bunch, with a fanbase estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. The club takes advantage of this with its summer tours to the US, Australia and South East Asia. More local support is drawn from North Wales, Ireland and Scotland, with a long tradition of club legends from those countries, such as all time top scorer Ian Rush (Welsh) and defenders Mark Lawrenson (Irish) and Alan Hansen (Scottish). There's also a certain fondness in Germany, partly because Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp is still beloved by fans of his former team, Borussia Dortmund, and also because of the Kopites' historic twinning with Borussia Mönchengladbach. Matchgoers in particular are pathologically loyal to the club; it takes a lot to make them stop singing for any length of time and if they have done so, it's a very bad sign. If they have started booing and you are the manager, you are likely to be fired soon afterwards.
- More puzzlingly, there's a massive fan base in Norway. No one is quite sure why, though cheap plane/ferry tickets to Liverpool may have something to do with it. There's also the relative prominence of Norwegians in Liverpool sides down the years, such as fan favourite John Arne Riise, Champions League winner with Liverpool, famous for having a left foot that passably impersonated Mjolnir. note
- Merseyside derbies are sell-outs and pretty scrappy matches - they have more red cards than any other fixture in the league - and, often, surprisingly high scoring, since both teams desperately want to win. The balance of power is currently weighted towards the red half of Merseyside, with Everton having failed to register a win at Anfield in the 21st century and consistently getting turned over by Liverpool, sometimes in very embarrassing fashion. When they do, the result is usually Unsportsmanlike Gloating.
- However, in times of need both sets of fans can and do become very close, with supporters of both teams often being found in the same family, after Hillsborough there was a chain of scarves connecting Anfield and Goodison Park. In essence, the rivalry's more like a family feud - and accordingly, can vary between its current status of mutual hatred and, as in the 80's, being known as 'the Friendly Derby', with one notable FA Cup final featuring both sets of fans mixing freely and singing, 'Merseyside, Merseyside' and, predictably, 'Are You Watching Manchester?' While relations have not so much cooled but frozen, it is notable that to this day, it is the only major derby that does not enforce fan segregation. Oh, and following a particularly nasty newspaper column in The Sun by Kelvin MacKenzie (yes, the man who was behind that headline) aimed at Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, Everton followed Liverpool in banning the paper and its journalists from their grounds.
- Liverpool-United derbies, however, are much more combustible affairs, with vile chants about the Hillsborough Disaster aimed at Liverpool fans, some of whom have been known to reply with chants about the Munich Air Disaster, despite routine pleas in the pre-match programs not to bring the subjects up. On a lighter note, this also means that Unsportsmanlike Gloating is par for the course if one team if doing particularly badly - as demonstrated when Liverpool beat Manchester United 5-0 at Old Trafford in 2021, having led 4-0 at half time and, after Salah inevitably completed his hattrick, spent the last 40 minutes of the match playing keep-ball while the Liverpool fans cheerfully and ironically serenaded beleaguered United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with "Ole's at the wheel!" The return fixture wasn't much more fun either, as Liverpool won 4-0 despite playing much of the match in 3rd gear - though the match was more notable for the solemn round of applause in the 7th minute in tribute to United forward Cristiano Ronaldo (who wears the number 7) whose newborn son had just died, something accompanied by a rendition of club anthem 'You'll Never Walk Alone' and the usually unheard of sight of United shirts being waved in the Kop end.
- A fun fact for those interested in the business of football (and sport more generally): Liverpool FC is presently the property of Fenway Sports Ventures. Yes, that's Fenway as in Fenway Park. In Boston. With the Red Sox. Same owners - who are incidentally, ticket price incident aside, actually very popular thanks to the stadium expansion, investment in the transfer market, visible involvement with the club and securing the services of Jürgen Klopp, with whom the fanbase has an ongoing passionate love affair. Securing the Champions League, then a first top division title in 30 years was just the icing on the cake...
- Until Liverpool were announced as one of the ESL Six, which at least put a dent in the love affair between the supporters and Fenway Sports, with many fans calling for the club's sale (matters have since calmed down following a rapid retreat). Klopp, who didn't know about the plans until after they were publicly reported, strongly opposed them, likely securing his place in the fans' hearts all the more. Liverpool's entire playing squad, led by widely respected captain Jordan Henderson, issued a statement on social media condemning the ESL plans, very bluntly saying, "we don't want this".
- Manchester City
"Blue moon, you saw me standing alone..."
- AKA "The Sky Blues", "The Citizens" or simply "City". Sky blue shirts, white shorts. Home games at the City of Manchester Stadium. League Champions six times (four times since the creation of the Premier League, most recently 2019), FA Cup winners six times (most recently 2019), League Cup winners seven times (most recently 2020), European Cup Winners' Cup winners once.
- The other major club from Manchester, perhaps unfairly defined by long-standing rivalry with crosstown Manchester United (For the non-Brit footy fans out there, imagine the LA Clippers and the NY Mets in relation to the Lakers and the Yankees.note That's how they compare Man City to United). In their 117-year history they have won less trophies than their rivals (prior to 2012, they hadn't won anything since the 1970s), and until recently were the butt of many a football-based joke thanks to their late-1990s slip down to what's now League One.
- However, in 2008 an Abu Dhabi-based investment group took over the club, bringing in massive amounts of finance. In turn this brought several experienced international stars to the club, making City serious trophy contenders. Following their 2011 FA Cup victory they beat Manchester United to the 2011-12 Premier League, and won the Prem again in 201314. Thus, they are now considered part of the "Big 4," usually at Liverpool's expense - and won the 2013-14 title at Liverpool's expense too. The 2012 Premiership title was won with a 94th minute 3-2 win over QPR in the last game of the season. Had the match ended at full timenote , City would have lost 2-1 and conceded the Premier League to Manchester United by two points. The victory put them level on points, but with a greater goal difference.
- Their 2017-18 season saw them destroy everyone in their path to the Premier League title, setting various records on the way: record points tally (100), most goals scored (106), most wins (32), as well as a record winning streak (17). Their only two losses were against Liverpool (as described below), and against Manchester United - and they were leading 2-0 at halftime. They also won the League Cup, thrashing Arsenal 3-0. Despite this, though, they were knocked out the FA Cup by Wigan Athletic in the fifth round, and also had to kiss goodbye to the Champions League in the quarter-finals, again thanks to Liverpool.
- As noted, Liverpool tend to get their own back whenever City come to Anfield (most recent result: 3-1 in Liverpool's favour). Until February 2021, it was the only stadium which City haven't won at in the Premier League following the Abu Dhabi takeover, and they hadn't won there at all since 2003. This status as chief pain in the neck isn't always restricted to Anfield visits, as Liverpool demonstrated when they turned over City 4-1 at the Etihad earlier in the 2015/16 season. On the other hand, when the two met in the 2016 League Cup final, it was City who had the last laugh. And then in 2017/18, Liverpool came to the Etihad... and one sending off later, were thumped 5-0. Then a couple of months later, City's attempt to do their first league double over Liverpool in 80 years, when Liverpool ripped them to shreds, with a face-saving City recovery making it 4-3. They suffered an even worse defeat in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, being humiliated 3-0 in a match where they didn't even get the ball into the box once. The Sky Blues seem to have gotten better after that, though: in the 2018-19 Premier League season, they held the Reds to a 0-0 draw at Anfield and would have even come out victorious if it weren't for a missed penalty, and then doubled down by winning 2-1 at the Etihad. Going into the final day of the 2018/19 season, the two were locked head to head in what's widely considered to have been the best race for the title in years, being separated by only one point, and each being over twenty points ahead of the next best team with over 90 points each, leading to general agreement that while only one team can win, neither deserves to lose. Both sides won their final matches, giving City the crown. Their League Cup win against Chelsea on penalties and their 6-0 annihilation of Watford in the FA Cup final also made them the first men's football team in England to complete the domestic treble.note Since then, the rivalry has only intensified - after a Liverpool off-season in 2020/21 where Liverpool managed to get every single senior centre-back injured (and a chunk of the midfield, many of whom were filling in at the back) as they limped to a 3rd place finish, both teams shot out of the blocks, and despite City looking like they were going to pull away with a 14 point lead in January, Liverpool hauled them down after two tense 2-2 draws, finally reclaiming top spot in mid-April by two points and a net 9 goal edge - though City have a game in hand. As many have commented, this is essentially recreating the famous 18/19 title race, with higher stakes: City are chasing a League and European double, while Liverpool (after beating City in the FA Cup semi-final and winning the League Cup) are chasing the mythical 'Quadruple' of both domestic cups, the League, and the Champions League - and both could yet meet in the Champions League final too.
- Liam and Noel Gallagher are famous City fans: the band famously played a sold-out gig at Maine Road, City's former stadium, in 1996. Liam's second band, Beady Eye, also performed a cover of "Blue Moon", the club anthem, in a video for the club revealing the jersey for the 2011-12 season.
- City were another one of the ESL Six, though much like Chelsea, their owners and board were not totally on board with the concept. Manager Pep Guardiola, much like Klopp, strongly opposed the ESL.
- Manchester United
"And the team that gets me excited? Manchester United!"
- AKA "The Red Devils", "Man U" or just plain "United". Red shirts, white shorts, black socks. Home games at Old Trafford, the biggest club ground in the land (capactity: 74,140). England's most successful club - League Champions 20 times (a record; this includes 13 times since the creation of the Premier League, most recently 2013), FA Cup winners 12 times (most recently 2016), League Cup winners five times (most recently 2017), European Cup (AKA Champions League) winners three times (most recently 2008), Europa League and European Cup Winners' Cup winners once each, plus winners of the Intercontinental Cup and the Club World Champions once each (in 1999 and 2008, respectively).
- To give you an idea of their success, they have only 4 fewer Premier League titles than all of the other winners put together. A lot of this is down to their most famous manager, who spent over a quarter of a century in the job (1986-2013). The fact that he's called Sir Alex Ferguson indicates something.
- Probably the most famous football club in England, and for that matter the world, with an official fan club that comprises 5% of the planet's population, with arch-rivals Liverpool close behind in both respects. They are also arguably the world's largest sports club, and are regularly at or near the top in overall team value. In 2018, they were valued at £3.2 billion ($4.1 billion), neck-and-neck with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona as the most valuable football club, and trailing only the Dallas Cowboys in all of world sport. Because Manchester United fans can be found around the world (witness the incredibly lucrative promotional tours in the far east) it is often said - by City fans and just about everyone else - that real Mancunians support City and/or most Manchester United fans have never been to Manchester. Which is of course, nonsense, as Manchester is very divided between City and United and United had a solid large fanbase before the worldwide success of the Nineties and Noughties.
- Has a long standing rivalry with City - the fact that Old Trafford is located in Trafford (technically outside the City of Manchester, but within the Greater Manchester area) makes most Mancunians who are not fans treat United as a bastard team to the area, though Mancunian United fans will bite back. That said, much like the Liverpool/Everton rivalry mentioned above, there are times where the fans will unite, such as the anniversary of the Munich plane crash in 1958 which killed several members of the United squad & left several others seriously injured (legendary City goalkeeper Frank Swift also died in the disaster, and at the time the whole of Manchester was in mourning, which would explain why City fans do not use the disaster to taunt United fans), or to pay tributes to the victims of the 2017 terrorist attacks at the Ariana Grande concert in the city.
- Equally, there is a similarly longstanding (and arguably much more vicious, lacking the family ties mentioned above) rivalry between United and Liverpool, one that can be traced back to the inter-city rivalry of the industrial revolution as well as the fact that they are by far the two most successful teams in English history. This can lead to epic footballing clashes and to unsavoury scenes on the pitch and in the stands, such as Luis Suárez' racial abuse of Patrice Evra and both sets of fans winding each other up - United fans taunting Liverpool fans about the Hillsborough disaster, and the Scousers responding in kind by taunting the Mancs about Munich.
- The 2013-14 season of the Premier League was the first time since 1986 that Manchester United didn't have Ferguson at the helm. His replacement was Everton manager David Moyes, who was actually Ferguson's handpicked successor. However, the season went horribly wrong for United, and after they were assured of not making the Champions League for the first time in nearly 20 years, Moyes was sacked in April 2014.
- 2014-15 got off to a bumpy start, with Louis van Gaal taking the helm. The first half of the season was marked by the injury-plagued squad scraping wins and draws by the skin of their teeth, while Van Gaal tested out different formations and played some players out of position. In April, they found their form, holding onto fourth place on the table (by the skin of their teeth) and managing to defeat Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa with something of the style they were once known for under Ferguson. Many United fans remained unconvinced, particularly due to the protracted transfer saga involving star Goalkeeper David De Gea, the last-minute purchase of the 19-year-old unknown Anthony Martial for £36 million, making him the most expensive teenager in footballing history and a fairly toothless start to the 2015/16 season. This proved to be justified, and United limped to a 5th place finish, losing out on 4th place by goal difference - and, to rub salt in the wound, to arch-rivals Manchester City, but the blow was softened with the club's 12th FA Cup win. Van Gaal was consequently fired
- José 'The Special One' Mourinho was van Gaal's replacement and promptly bought highly-rated Juventus (and former United youth) player Paul Pogba, for a then-world record £89 million, among others. United had a strange season - they went through 25 games unbeaten, but, during this run, were held at home by Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham, Hull, West Brom Stoke and Swansea (as well as Liverpool and Everton), with 15 draws throughout the season, meaning they never seriously threatened the top 4 - however, they won the League Cup and then the Europa League, beating Ajax in the final of the latter, the only major honour to elude United. The final straw was a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool.
- Fan-favourite ex-player Ole Gunnar Solskjær was brought in to dispel the gloom, which he did by being eminently likeable. He was also given the rough GDP of Albania to spend on transfers, bringing in the likes of England centre-back Harry Maguire, mercurial attacking midfielder Bruno Fernandes, talented defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka, young midfielder Donny van de Beek (whom he proceeded to hardly play), experienced centre-back Raphael Varane, highly coveted wing-forward Jadon Sancho, and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo, while also bringing through Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, and coaxing Luke Shaw back into the side. Despite this enviable array of talents, Solskjær's lack of tactical acumen and authority (especially required in a dressing room that full of massive egos) was increasingly shown up, as well as the lowered expectations. For context, Liverpool's injury ridden 2020/21 season was seen as a writeoff and a disaster. They also finished only 5 points behind second-placed United (who were nowhere close to champions Manchester City) and before the season ended, had been closing fast. In the 2021/22 season, after another a massive outlay that brought in Sancho and Ronaldo, this came to a head with several near-misses with embarrassing results (spared only by the intervention of Ronaldo), before Liverpool sauntered to a 5-0 lead at Old Trafford without getting out of third gear (then proceeded to spend the last 40 minutes of the match playing keep-ball), making it the first time that a United team had been 4-0 down at half-time in the Premier League era. Compounding this misery was a casual 2-0 dismissal by Manchester City, and in November, Solskjær was sacked after the players admitted they didn't have a clue what they were doing, following a disastrous 4-1 defeat away to Watford. His (interim) replacement was Ralf Rangnick, a highly influential figure in German football known for his acumen in tactics, man-management and team recruitment, and widely regarded as a "mentor" to mainstay EPL managers like Klopp and Tuchel.
- For the 2022-23 season, United brought in highly-regarded Dutch manager Erik ten Hag, who proceeded to raid the Dutch league for new signings, bringing in Dutch left-back Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord, and Argentine defender Lisandro Martinez and Brazilian winger Antony from his previous club Ajax, along with Danish playmaker Christian Eriksennote and Brazilian defensive-midfielder Casemiro from Real Madrid. After a poor start, losing 2-1 at home to Brighton and 4-0 away to Eriksen's former team Brentford, they then won their subsequent 4 games, including wins over Liverpool, Leicester and Arsenal (with their win over Liverpool being their first in the league since 2018).
- Thanks to their almost total domination of the domestic game from the early-mid 1990s onwards, it seems impossible to be neutral about Man Utd - you're either a fan, or you hate them - though this slackened after Ferguson retired in 2013, following which United haven't won the title. Currently American-owned, which doesn't help; the Glazer family (who also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) bought the club in 2005, several years after an abortive takeover attempt by Rupert Murdoch. In recent years, fans have adopted historic green and gold colours note to protest at the possibly precarious financial situation the owners have put the club in, such as offloading their own personal debts on United (ironically, much of that debt was money they'd borrowed in order to buy United). Cue mocking songs from (green and gold wearing) Norwich fans - "We've come for our scarves, we've come for our scarves... we're Norwich City, we've come for our scarves." The recent influx of absurdly lucrative sponsorship deals has helped to calm the protests - United fans still dislike the Glazer family's ownership of the club, but will accept that they seem to be running the commercial side well (and perhaps more importantly, leaving the football side well alone)...
- Or at least it calmed the protests until United were announced as one of the ESL Six in April 2021. That move destroyed what little goodwill the Glazers had managed to cultivate with the fanbase; after the ESL collapsed, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (a Glazer appointee who'd got the job after advising them on their takeover of the club) resigned, and there were many calls for the Glazers to sell the club.
- Tottenham Hotspur
"Spurs are on their way to Wembley, Tottenham's gonna do it again! They can't stop 'em, the boys from Tottenham, the boys from White Hart Lane!"
- AKA "Spurs" - the nickname is almost universal. White shirts, navy shorts. Home games at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (although that name will change when they sell the naming rights to a sponsor); prior to 2017, they'd played at White Hart Lane. Great rivals with North London neighbours Arsenal. Are considered one of the most entertaining sides in the Premiership, with an expansive style that concedes many goals, but scores many more. For this reason, they are very popular with the neutrals. League Champions twice (most recently 1961), FA Cup winners eight times (most recently 1991), League Cup winners four times (most recently 2008), UEFA Cup winners twice, European Cup Winners' Cup winners once.
- Spurs are notorious for their Chairman, Daniel Levy, being one of the toughest negotiators in football. His ruthlessness has seen Tottenham Hotspur pick up some classy bargains (van der Vaart for £8 million from Real Madrid), recoup losses on expensive flops (Darren Bent sold for the exact amount he was bought for) and sell players for some obscene amounts (Gareth Bale being sold for a then world record transfer fee of £86 million).
- At the end of the 2009-10 season Spurs became the team that broke the "Big Four" (the first since Everton in 2004-05) and gained the chance to qualify for Champions League football. They did well in the Champions League, beating top Italian teams AC Milan and Internazionale, before going out in the quarter-finals to Real Madrid, but failed to qualify again for the next season. They subsequently placed in the Top 4 following the 2010-11 season but due to the almost unprecedented achievement of Chelsea in coming 6th but managing to win the Champions League - Liverpool had come fifth in the 2004-05 season when they won the Champions League. That time, both Liverpool and 4th placed Everton had gone through the qualifying stages of the Champions League, but this time, Tottenham failed to qualify. This made them the first team in Football to place within the Champions League Qualification places but fail to qualify due to a lower-placed side winning the Tournament. The future looks bright for Spurs, with young stars such as Harry Kane and Dele Alli making them the main challengers to Leicester City for much of the latter's surprise 2015-16 championship season.
- The 2016-17 season was seemingly nondescript. Spurs didn't lose any of their first 12 games, but suffered too many draws, and made little impact in the Champions League, in which they played home games at Wembley, losing 2 of them to crash out. However, they than won 19 of their final 23 games in style, including a run of 9 wins on the trot cumulating in a derby win over Arsenal that ensured that Spurs placed above their neighbours, who had still 5 games to play (all of which they won), for the first time since 1995, ending their ultimate bottle. However, they lost to West Ham to hand the title to Chelsea. This was followed by a win over Man U in the final game before White Hart Lane was bulldozed to the ground to be replaced by a new arena that is literally right next to it. They then won their final 2 games, both away from home, with a staggering 13 goals across the two games, 7 from Harry Kane, who got 4 of them against old club Leicester in the first of the 2 games - more than he scored in the 13 games he played for Leicester in 2013! Their 2018-19 season however was far more positive, despite the team's apparent inability to clutch points while down. In fact, they went 28 matchdays without drawing, the first of those coming with a 1-1 in the North London Derby against Arsenal. On the other hand, their Champions League campaign is surely one to remember for the Spurs faithful, as they got out of a fierce group including Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV, and then beat Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City and Ajax on the way to make their first ever Champions League final. The second leg of their semifinal against Ajax in particular has shown Lucas Moura scoring a hat-trick in 45 minutes to make up for their 3-goal deficit: the final goal was scored on literally the last second of the match.
- In April 2021 Spurs were one of the "ESL Six", withdrawing from the project two days after it was announced, along with the other EPL clubs involved.
- It should be noted to the casual observer that Spurs fans' self applied nickname of "Yid Army" is the cause of some controversy. North London has long been well-known for its Jewish population and anti-Semitic chants would be directed at Spurs fans by opposition supporters - including fans of North London rivals Arsenal who have just as many Jewish fans as Tottenham - (including references to Gas Chambers), and in consequence, referring to themselves as the "Yid Army" was seen by fans as a way to support the local Jewish community. However among some in the Jewish community, this is seen now to be belittling, Jewish comedian and Chelsea supporter David Baddiel note being particularly outspoken on TV about this.
- Famous fans include Adele, Alan Sugar (who used to own the club), J. K. Rowling, Marina Sirtis, Hunter Davies (whose 1972 book The Glory Game was the result of nigh-on unlimited access to the inner workings of the club) and Adam Richman.
English clubs that used to be big, and other noteworthy clubs
- Accrington Stanley
- This is the third club of the name, currently in League One after winning League Two in 2018. The other two clubs went bust (the first, Accrington, was one of the founders of the Football League) and the name of the club has long been used for joke purposes, like "He's only good enough to play for Accrington Stanley", most famously in the case of an old milk commercial. At the time the commercial was made, Stanley were a semi-pro team playing in the seventh tier of English football.
- For a long time, Accrington Stanley graffiti was used (especially in comedy) to show that a place was so run down that the graffiti hadn't been cleaned up since the club was playing (the previous club folded in 1962; the current club was formed in 1968 but only reached the Football League in 2006), a joke sometimes lost on today's audiences.
- Aston Villa
"We're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen!"
- AKA "The Villa" or "The Villains". Birmingham-based Premier League side. Formed in 1874, they have seven League titles (last one: 1981), seven FA Cups (last one: 1957) and one European Cup (1982) to their name. Claret (not purple!) shirts with sky-blue sleeves, white shorts (which West Ham copied). American-owned, they play at Villa Park, leading to the clichéd line "Thriller at the Villa".
- There are a lot of fictional Villa fans, including Private Pike from Dad's Army, Godber from Porridge and Nessa from Gavin & Stacey.
- Real-life Villa fans include Prince William note and heavy metal legends like Ozzy Osbourne and Barney Greenway.
- One of the twelve original members of the Football League, Villa were long considered The Artifact of the First Division and subsequently the Premier League, although since the formation of the latter they rarely challenged for the title. Since manager Martin O'Neill's departure in 2010, Villa tended to be lower mid-table and battling relegation. As of 2015/16, they lost that battle, spending the entire season rooted to the bottom of the table. They didn't display enough consistency to look like rebounding immediately, stuck in the middle of the Championship table with no real likelihood of placing in the top six. In 2018, they made the playoff final, but had to capitulate against Fulham; however, under the management of lifelong Villa fan Dean Smith, the side finally punched their ticket back to the Premier League by beating Derby County 2-1 in the playoff final in 2019. Established themselves as a decent side in 2019/2020, before shocking the football world early in 2020/21 by emerging as an early title challenger and destroying the previously imperious reigning champions Liverpool 7-2 at Villa Park, one of only two five-goal league defeats Liverpool have suffered in 60 years. Normality subsequently reasserted itself, though, with a poor run of form dropping Villa into mid table, though still not out of the race for European spots entirely. After a run of losses, Smith was sacked, instantly going to Norwich, and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard came in and pulled off improved results and coup signings, such as his former teammate Phillipe Coutinho. Fierce rivals (in the Second City Derby) with Birmingham City.
- AKA "The Bees". Amber shirts, black shorts. Suburban North London (formerly Hertfordshire) side who became the favourite 'second team' to many after winning the Conference and gaining promotion to the League for the first time in 1991. Have since alternated between League Two and what is now the National League (to which they were most recently relegated in 2018). Well-known for a few things:
- Underhill, their old ground, had a pronounced slope from the North Terrace to the South Stand - the former was 11 feet higher than the latter - which was for a time the maximum slope allowed by the Football League.
- In the early 1990s, disputes between chairman Stan Flashman and manager Barry Fry became legendary - the former sacked and reinstated the latter eight times before Fry finally left for good in 1993.
- The club had a running dispute with the local council in the 2000s over the lease on Underhill which ultimately ended in 2013 with the club moving to a new ground, The Hive, in nearby Edgware.
- Bradley Walsh, presenter of The Chase, played for them when they were a semi-pro side in the late 1970s.
- AKA "The Bees". Amber shirts, black shorts. Suburban North London (formerly Hertfordshire) side who became the favourite 'second team' to many after winning the Conference and gaining promotion to the League for the first time in 1991. Have since alternated between League Two and what is now the National League (to which they were most recently relegated in 2018). Well-known for a few things:
- Birmingham City
"Keep right on to the end of the road, keep right on to the end, if the way be long, let your heart be strong, keep right on round the bend..."
- AKA "The Blues" or "The Bluenoses". Blue shirts, white shorts. Home games at St Andrew's. Have historically alternated between the top two divisions but are currently in the Championship, having been relegated from the Premier League in 2012.
- Despite having little success throughout their history (although arguably two League Cup wins, in 1963 and 2011, is better than most), they were the first English team to ever take part in European competition - and also the first English team ever to reach a European final - the Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup, which became the Europa League) in both 1960 and 1961, although they lost on both occasions. They competed in Europe again in the 2011-12 season after qualifying for the Europa League by way of winning the League Cup for the second time.
- Fierce rivals with Aston Villa in what is known as the Second City Derby. Also rivals with fellow-Midlanders Wolves and West Brom.
- Jasper Carrott is a fan and once served as a club director, and used to mention them (usually in an uncomplimentary manner, reflecting the club's distinct lack of success) in his act.
- Blackburn Rovers
- AKA "The Rovers". Blue and white halved shirts. Home games at Ewood Park. One of the twelve founder members of the Football League and had some success in the early twentieth century, winning the League twice before the First World War.
- Came (back) to prominence when the Premier League was created, thanks largely to a spending spree that included signing Alan Shearer before Newcastle did - they were runners-up in 1994 before winning it the following year. This led Rovers fans to claim that their club was better than Liverpool, Everton and Spurs - although fans of all three teams would strenuously disagree with that!
- Relegated to the Championship in 2012, and almost suffered another relegation in 2013 after being run very well by Indian poultry farmers Venky's. Dropped to League One in 2017 but bounced straight back to the Championship the following year.
- Fierce rivals with near-neighbours Burnley, with whom they contest the East Lancashire Derby.
- Bolton Wanderers
- AKA "The Wanderers" or "The Trotters". White shirts, navy shorts. One of the 12 founder members of the Football League, and the club that's spent the most seasons in the top flight without actually winning it. Home games at the University of Bolton Stadium (formerly the Reebok Stadium). Bolton alternated between the Championship and the Premier League in the 1990s, but had a more sustained run in the Prem in the 2000s under the management of Sam "Big Sam" Allardyce, qualifying for the UEFA Cup in 2005 by virtue of finishing sixth.
- Have experienced severe financial difficulties since 2015, by which time they were back in the Championship; having gone into administration in 2019, the club was on the brink of extinction before being acquired by new owners. Relegated to League Two in 2020.
- Rivals with most other Lancashire clubs - Blackburn Rovers, Bury, Oldham Athletic, etc.
- AFC Bournemouth
- AKA "The Cherries". Red and black striped shirts. South coast side which won the Championship in 2015, achieving promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club's history. Defied expectations of immediate relegation despite major injury problems. Despite a strong start to the (ultimately Covid-extended) 2019-20 season, more injuries and a run of poor form condemned them to the drop, before making an immediate return to the Premier League the following season (though within a few weeks of the new season, they lost 9-0 to Liverpool).
- Regard Southampton as their main rivals, although the rivalry means much less to Southampton fans. Mutual rivalry with Reading. Strongly dislike Leeds United fans, after a Bournemouth v Leeds game on May Bank Holiday weekend 1990 was accompanied by Leeds followers going on the rampage and smashing up the town (Dorset Police would not allow Bournemouth to play any home games on bank holiday weekends for 13 years after).
- AKA "The Bees". Red and white striped shirts, black shorts. West London club which maintains rivalries with near-neighbours Fulham and QPR. Spent much of their existence in the lower two Football League divisions, although they were in the First Division for several seasons ... in the 1930s. For over a century, their home games were at Griffin Park — a ground famous for having a pub on each corner — until their move to the Brentford Community Stadium which was completed in 2020.
- Promoted to the Championship in 2014 (having last graced the second level for a very brief period in the early 1990s), and made the play-offs in their first season in that division. They made the play-offs again in 2020, losing the final to Fulham. The following year, went one better — beating Swansea City in the play-off final to secure promotion to the Premier League.
- Although a bright PL season started to fizzle out in January, the team made headlines by giving a deal to Christian Eriksen, who had been able to return to football after making a full recovery from his horrible on-pitch Cardiac Arrest in Euro 2020, with a fitted cardioinverter device (he left his previous club Inter, as these devices are against Serie A rules, but fellow former Ajax player Daley Blind is another footballer that uses these, due to a heart condition)
- Rock star Rod Stewart trained with the club as a youth but was not given the chance to play even in a reserve team game so opted to concentrate on his music career.
- Brighton & Hove Albion
- AKA "The Seagulls". Blue (sometimes blue and white striped) shirts, white shorts. Enjoyed prominence in the early 1980s, reaching the 1983 FA Cup final (which went to a replay before they lost to Manchester United). Subsequently slid down to the Fourth Division and narrowly avoided liquidation when their owners sold the ground to property developers, which required the club to play their home matches at Gillingham (some 70 miles from Brighton) for two seasons. Have since progressed upwards, winning promotion to the Premier League in 2017 and, against expectations, staying there.
- Briefly attracted attention in the early 1990s for an ill-advised kit experiment with blue and white striped shorts. They didn't catch on.
- Fierce rivals of Crystal Palace, on the grounds that they're the closest half-decent club. Palace fans reciprocate this and tend to regard Brighton as their main rivals, despite having several clubs of similar status much nearer.
- Des Lynam, who grew up in the area and got his first broadcasting job with BBC Radio Brighton, is a fan. So is Fatboy Slim; his label, Skint Records, even sponsored the club during the Noughties.
"Chim chimeny, chim chimeny, chim chim cheroo, we are the bastards in claret and blue!"
- AKA "The Clarets" on account of their claret shirts with sky-blue sleeves. Home games at Turf Moor. One of the 12 founder members of The Football League, which they've won twice (last time: 1960). Notable for a pretty large fall from grace in the 1970s and 1980s, going from top-flight football to narrowly surviving relegation from the Football League.
- Promoted to the Premiership in 2009 after winning the Championship play-offs, but dropped back to the Championship the next season. Stayed there until finishing second in 201314, earning a place in the Prem once again under Sean Dyche. They went straight back down but rebounded again after an unbeaten second half of the season, and survived 2016-17 in the Prem thanks to formidable home form, in a season in which they also became notable for the story of centre forward Andre Gray, who turned from a homophobic nutcase playing non-League football who'd survived a gangland stabbing, to a Premier League striker and a boyfriend of a Little Mix member. Burnley sold Gray to Watford in 2017 for £20 million, in spite of his having scored just ten goals, admittedly for a side which took the fewest shots in the Prem that were not relegated.
- Fierce rivals with fellow-East Lancashire side Blackburn Rovers.
- Famous Burnley fans include England cricketer James Anderson (who's from Burnley), Prince Charles (no, us neither note ) and Alistair Campbell, a key figure in the Blair government who has described Burnley being in the Premier League as an even greater achievement than the electoral landslide he helped Blair win in 1997.
- Turf Moor is the only football ground in England that sells the French liqueur Bénédictine in its bars - a legacy of the First World War, during which soldiers of the East Lancashire Regiment who were stationed in the French town of Fécamp (which is where Bénédictine is made) developed a taste for "Béné and Hot" (basically, Bénédictine mixed with hot water). It's still popular with Burnley fans to this day.
- Coventry City
"Let's all sing together, play up, Sky Blues! While we sing together, we will never lose..."
- AKA "The Sky Blues", on account of their all-sky blue kit. Midlands club, currently in the Championship after winning League One in 2020. Reached the First Division for the first time in the 1960s when Jimmy Hill was the manager (as well as changing the home kit to sky blue, he also wrote the club song - see above). Spent 34 consecutive seasons in the top flight before being relegated in 2001. Their only major honour is the FA Cup, which they won in 1987 by beating favourites Spurs.
- Coventry City used to play at Highfield Road (which became England's first all-seater stadium in 1981) but moved in 2005 to the Ricoh Arena (AKA the City of Coventry Stadium) - although following a protracted dispute over rent they left in 2013, playing their home games in Northampton for a year before returning. Ongoing disputes with the Ricoh's new owners, rugby club Wasps, led City to move out again in 2019. After two seasons ground-sharing with Birmingham City, they reached an agreement with Wasps which allowed them to return to the Ricoh from 2021-22.
- Crystal Palace
- AKA "Palace" or "The Eagles". Red and blue striped shirts. South London club, based at Selhurst Park. Has historically yo-yo'd between the top two divisions, although since getting promoted back to the Premier League in 2013 they've stayed there. Won the Full Members Cup note in 1991 and have twice been FA Cup finalists, losing to Manchester United both times (1990 and 2016). Fierce rivals of Brighton & Hove Albion.
- Derby County
- AKA "The Rams". White shirts, black shorts. East Midlands club, based at Pride Park on the outskirts of Derby. One of the twelve founder members of the Football League. Champions twice in the 1970s (the first under Brian Clough, the second under ex-player Dave Mackay). To date, their last season in the Premier League was in 2007-08 when they managed just one win all season and were relegated with the Prem's lowest-ever points total. Long-standing rivals of Clough's other club, Nottingham Forest. Relegated to League One in 2022 after a chaotic season spent mostly staring into the abyss, with money issues meaning they were unable to either sign new players or pay the ones they had, but played well enough under the management of England legend Wayne Rooney that they would've survived had they not been deducted 21 points (equivalent to 7 wins) as punishment for their financial mismanagement.
- Forest Green Rovers
- AKA "Forest", "The Green" or "FGR". Lime green and black striped shirts. Gloucestershire team playing in League Two note since being promoted to the Football League for the first time ever in 2017. Based in the small rural town of Nailsworth which, with with a population of just under 6,000, is the smallest place in England to hold a Football League match.
- Under the ownership of green energy industrialist Dale Vince, FGR has attracted international attention for being the greenest football club in the world, having become the first carbon-neutral football club to be certified as such under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) initiative Climate Neutral Now. The pitch - which is certified organic thanks to the use of horse manure as a fertiliser - is cut using a solar-powered lawn-mower. The kit is made from made from a composite material consisting of recycled plastic and coffee grounds. The entire match-day menu is vegan (quite radical, given that meat pies have long been the most popular food item among football fans) and their players are encouraged to go vegetarian. Rivals with Cheltenham Town, a derby which is nicknamed "El Glosico" note .
- AKA "The Cottagers" or "The Whites". White shirts, black shorts. Their home ground is Craven Cottage (hence the nickname note ) by the banks of the Thames. Historically a club of mixed fortunes, with periods of time in the top flight alternating between time spent in the lower divisions. No major honours, having been beaten finalists in the FA Cup (1975) and the Europa League (2010). Currently yo-yoing between the top two levels, having been promoted to the Premier League in 2020 but dropping right back to the Championship in 2021, only to be promoted back up to the Premier League for the 2022/23 season.
- Wolfie Smith, of Citizen Smith fame, was a fan and was often shown wearing a Fulham scarf.
- Formerly owned by tycoon Mohamed Al-Fayed, who commissioned a 7.5-ft statue of Michael Jackson which stood at Craven Cottage until 2013, when Al-Fayed sold the club and the new owners had it removed note .
- Speaking of those new owners, they're Pakistan-born American auto parts billionaire Shahid Khan and his son Tony. The Khans also own the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as All Elite Wrestling (the latter run day-to-day by Tony).
- Hartlepool United
- AKA "The Pools" or "The Monkey Hangers" note . All blue kit. No major honours, although they did make the League One play-off final in 2005. Dropped into non-league football in 2017, won promotion back to League Two in 2021. Well known by viewers of Soccer Saturday as being the team that Jeff Stelling supports ... sometimes, quite vocally. Meat Loaf, Jannick Gers from Iron Maiden and Ridley Scott are also fans.
- Hereford United
- AKA "The Bulls". Came to national attention in 1972 for the most famous act of giant-killing in the history of the The FA Cup when they beat Newcastle United 2-1 in a third round replay. At the time, Newcastle were in the First Division and Hereford were non-league. Ronnie Radford, scorer of Hereford's first goal (which levelled the scores, forcing the match into extra time) still gets interviewed every January when the cup's third round matches are played. Hereford subsequently got elected to the League and spent 19 years in the Fourth Division before going down to the Conference; after a brief stint back in the League in the mid-2000s, the club was dissolved in 2014.
- Huddersfield Town
- AKA "The Terriers". Blue and white striped shirts. Yorkshire side who were the dominant team in English football ... in the 1920s, when they became the first side ever to win the League three times in a row. Flitted between the top two divisions in the 1950s and 1960s, during which they were managed by a pre-Liverpool Bill Shankly and were Denis Law's first club (the sale of him to Manchester City paid for their ground's first floodlights). Following relegation in 1972, Huddersfield bounced between the lower three divisions before winning the Championship play-offs in 2017, giving them Premier League status; they lasted two seasons before being relegated. Notable for being only the second team (after Blackpool) to win the play-offs for all three Football League divisions.
- Famous fans over the years have included Harold Wilson (who was from Huddersfield) and Patrick Stewart (who's from nearby Mirfield).
- Ipswich Town
- AKA "The Blues" or "The Tractor Boys". All blue kit. A team from the largely rural county of Suffolk (hence the latter nickname) who enjoyed two brief periods of success, one in the early 1960s (they won the League in 1962), the other in the late 1970s and early 1980s (winning the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1981). This is not unrelated to the fact that England's two most successful national managers - Sir Alf Ramsey (who won the World Cup in 1966) and Sir Bobby Robson (who reached the World Cup semi-finals in 1990) - both began their managerial careers at Ipswich. Fierce rivals with Norwich City, with whom they contest the East Anglia Derby.
- Also noted for the fact that several of their players appeared in Escape to Victory.
- More ignominiously, Ipswich are the joint-record holders (along with Southampton and Bournemouth) of the worst defeat in the Premier League (9-0), having been beaten by Alex Ferguson's Manchester United by that score in 1995.
- In 2021, local megastar Ed Sheeran, who had sometimes evoked the town and its local A-road in his songs, even doing so during his opening verse in an Eminem collaboration, sponsored the team, with his tour sponsoring their shirts, and did promotions at Portman Road.
- Leeds United
"Marching on together! We're gonna see you win! We are so proud, we shout it out loud, we love you Leeds! Leeds! LEEDS!"
- AKA "The Whites" due to their all-white kit. One of the powerhouses of English football in the 1960s and 1970s (albeit with a very bad reputation for foul play) under Don Revie. Their all-white kit dates back to his tenure; he had the kit changed in emulation of Real Madrid, the leading club in Europe at the time. Under Revie, Leeds won the League twice, the Fairs Cup twice note and the FA and League Cups once each, but were also League runners-up five times and FA Cup finalist twice. After Revie's departure they reached the European Cup final but lost thanks to what Leeds fans still see as dubious refereeing (they had two penalty appeals turned down and a goal disallowed), with subsequent rioting by fans leading to the club being banned from European competitions for several years.
- More recently, Leeds won the League in 1992 (the last season before the Premier League began), but some overambitious financial planning in the early 2000s almost ruined the club completely and saw most of the best players leave; building up large debts in an attempt to invest heavily and suffering financial meltdown as a result is now known as "Doing a Leeds" as a result of this. Leeds have started to climb back up the leagues after briefly playing in the third tier.
- Although they were separated by one or two divisions from 2004 to 2020, Leeds holds a strong historical rivalry with Manchester United, dating back from the days when Man U was still Newton Heath and Leeds was a new football team in a rugby town. This rivalry is very unique in English football as it is not based on territorial affiliation or club success but on a historical basis: Manchester United represents Lancashire and plays in a red kit, while Leeds represents Yorkshire and wears white, an allusion to a particular conflict in British history involving the ruling noble families of the two England counties fighting for the Throne.
- Despite this gap, they still consider themselves as arch-rivals with Manchester United and Liverpool. Younger fans of both teams are generally left puzzled as to who Leeds actually are. Older fans and the better informed, meanwhile, think that it's hilarious, though Liverpool fans gained something of a grudging respect for Leeds early in the 2020-21 season when the newly promoted side came to Anfield and played with an astonishing lack of a fear for a newly promoted team visiting the defending champions in a stadium they hadn't lost in for over three years - a record that Leeds then nearly broke.
- In 2018, after a poor start to the calendar year derailed their promotion hopes, they attracted derision for the Epic Fail of a bizarre centenary badge with a fan doing the "Leeds Salute", which involves beating the chest, which was reconsidered a few hours after being unveiled. Despite this, and the sacking of their manager Paul Heckingbottom, the club surprised everyone by signing Marcelo Bielsa, who led Athletic Bilbao to the 2012 Europa League final. Thanks to Bielsa's charismatic leadership, Leeds went through a blistering start to their 2018-19 season, which culminated in a playoff spot finish. However, they lost their chances to promotion after faltering 4-2 at home against Derby County in the playoff semi-finals. That setback only made Bielsa and the Peacocks more determined, though, as they dominated the Championship for the entirety of 2019-20 season to finally punch their ticket back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence. Their attacking flair and complete lack of fear has made them a neutrals' favourite.
- The Damned United depicts the brief 44-day period in 1974 where the club was managed by legendary coach Brian Clough (who had had previous success with Derby and would go onto subsequent success at Nottingham Forest).
- Luton Town
"Bring me sunshine, in your smile, bring me laughter, all the while..."
- AKA "The Hatters". Orange shirts, navy shorts (although they have sometimes worn white shirts as their home kit). Home games at Kenilworth Road. Bedfordshire club which had its most successful period in the 1980s when they got promoted to the First Division in 1982 and won the League Cup in 1988. At that time, though, Luton became infamous for banning away fans from Kenilworth Road following a riot that broke out at an FA Cup tie against Millwall; for the home fans, chairman David Evans brought in a membership scheme under which they would only be allowed into the ground if they were carrying a membership card (something which the Thatcher government attempted to impose nationwide as a way of combatting football hooliganism). Although the away fan ban was successful from a policing point of view, it was dropped in 1990.
- From 2006 onwards, financial difficulties caused the Hatters to fall from the Championship to the Conference, non-league status being assured after they were docked 30 points for financial irregularities in 2008-09, guaranteeing that they finished the season at the bottom of League Two. Luton thereafter spent five seasons in non-league football, during which they performed a bona fide act of giant-killing in the FA Cup by knocking out Premier League Norwich City in in 2013. Luton won the Conference in 201314, securing promotion back into the Football League. More success followed, with Luton winning successive promotions in 201718 and 201819, sending them back to the Championship.
- Eric Morecambe was a fan, at one point serving as a club director.
- Bitter rivals of Watford; games between the two sides - which have been rare in recent years due to the clubs being in different divisions - rarely pass without incident.
- AKA "The Boro". Red shirts, white shorts. Home games at the Riverside Stadium. North Yorkshire club, currently playing in the Championship. League Cup winners in 2004 - their only major honour, although they've also been FA Cup and UEFA Cup finalists (in 1997 and 2006, respectively). Have tended to alternate between the top two divisions, coming to national attention for several high-profile foreign signings in the mid-1990s when they were managed by former England captain Bryan Robson - a period which saw them reach both major cup finals and get relegated in the same season. Last graced the Premier League in 2016-17.
"No-one likes us, no-one likes us, no-one likes us, we don't care..."
- AKA "The Lions". Blue shirts, white shorts. Modestly successful Championship side, famous mostly for their rowdy fanbase and extremely violent hooligan firm, the Bushwhackers, fictionalized in films like Green Street and The Football Factory. Their biggest successes were a two-year spell in the top flight back in the 1980s and reaching the FA Cup Final in 2004, losing comfortably to Manchester United. They currently play in the Championship after winning the 2016-17 League One play-off.
- In recent years, the traditional "violent Millwall fan" image has begun to become a bit stale, as violence has largely decreased. Frustration at media demonization led to the club's famous chant (see above, sung to the tune of "Sailing").
- Newcastle United
"All the lads and lasses there, all with smilin' faces, gannin' along the Scotswood Road to see the Blaydon Races!"
- AKA "The Magpies", for their black-and-white striped shirts. Perennial underachievers - always looking good on paper but never ''quite'' translating it to success on the pitch. Vocal and passionate support in sufficient numbers (their fans are known as "The Toon Army") to still describe themselves as a "big club", even though their last major honours consist of the Intertoto Cup in 2006 note and before that the Texaco Cup in 1975 note , and some would say that's stretching it. They won the Fairs Cup (forerunner of the Europa League) in 1969, but last won the League in 1927 and the FA Cup in 1955. They came close to winning the League again in the mid-1990s under Kevin Keegan, coming second in 1995-96 (despite having a 12-point lead at Christmas) and 1996-97. Nevertheless, despite a long period of not winning anything, they still maintain the seventh largest club stadium in the UK: Americans, imagine a stadium slightly bigger than that of the New York Yankees! Which is consistently packed out every season. Put simply, in Newcastle you can't be considered a true Geordie unless you support the team. Well-known fans include Tony Blair, Mark Knopfler, Brian Johnson, Sting, WillNE and - venturing into the realms of fiction - Sid the Sexist.
- Until recently the club was owned by Mike Ashley, a London businessman who did not turn up to matches on the reasonable grounds that the fans hated him and would quite happily lynch him. Officially renaming St James' Park "The Sports Direct Arena" was not calculated to go down well. That said, it didn't seem to matter, since even the BBC quickly stopped bothering to call it that and usually referred to it as St James' Park. This all changed in October 2021, when the club was officially bought by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, a deal that made them overnight the richest club in the world by a considerable marginnote but was also the source of considerable controversy due to the Saudi government's numerous human rights violations. The general consensus among Newcastle fans is that while the PIF share similar controversies and are just as shady as most other bank-rolling club owners, the situation around the club became so dire under Ashley that they would have accepted any offer just to get him out.
- Playing wise, they are - or were - considered a dark horse team and incredibly strong at home. In 2008-09 season their manager quit seemingly over the notably miserly transfer policy. Despite a valiant effort by former player Alan Shearer, who managed them for the last eight games of the season, they were relegated on the last day. Under new management (although not new owners), they are now back in the top flight and lurking in the bottom half of the table, much to the displeasure of their fans.
- Norwich City
"On the ball, City, never mind the danger!"
- AKA "The Canaries". Yellow shirts, green shorts. Home games at Carrow Road since 1935. The only professional football team in the county of Norfolk, Norwich City have only spent one season outside the top two tiers since 1960 but the only major competition they've won is the League Cup in 1962 (when none of the big teams entered) and 1985 (when they and defeated finalists Sunderland were both relegated). The club had the misfortune to have their most successful period in the late 1980s and early 1990s when English clubs were banned from European competition (any article on Norwich in Europe inevitably includes a list of the seasons they should have qualified), but did manage a single season in the UEFA Cup in 1993-94, where they had the satisfaction of knocking out German giants Bayern Munich (who had bemused everyone by dubbing Norwich a small village of mustard farmers). The club's anthem, "On the Ball City", is considered the oldest football anthem still in use. Have a fierce local rivalry with Ipswich Town from the neighbouring county. The fact that Norwich's local rivals are 45 miles away gives an indication of how isolated the city is.
- Entered popular culture by playing a supporting role in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager, although the scenes set in Norwich were filmed nowhere near the city, to the locals' annoyance.
- Norwich City has a surprisingly high number of celebrity board members. The majority shareholder since 1996 is Delia Smith, and Stephen Fry was a director for a time. Between 2015 and 2018, the club's chairman was Ed Balls. If American readers don't realise how weird that is, imagine the running mate of the defeated presidential candidate quitting politics to run a sports team in his home town with a celebrity chef and a comedian.
- Norwich were the first team to top the Premier League, beating Arsenal 4-2 on the opening weekend of the 1992/93 season after being 2-0 down at half-time. It isn't just a quirk of history either: They were also the first team to be top at Christmas, and were still title contenders at the end of March, only to lose 3-1 to eventual champions Manchester United. They ultimately finished 3rd (still their highest league place) and qualified for the UEFA Cup. Since then, they have been relegated from the Premier League six times, most recently in 2022. Their status as a yo-yo team between the Premier League and Championship is underlined by their having been either promoted or relegated in each of the last four seasons.
- Nottingham Forest
- AKA "Forest" or "The Reds". Red shirts, white shorts. Enjoyed a few years of success in the late 1970s and early 1980s, winning the League (once) and the European Cup (twice) under the inspirational leadership of Brian Clough. Relegated in the 1990s, and have since yo-yoed between the second and third tiers, before getting promoted back to the Premier League in 2022, where they then broke a record for signing the most players in one transfer window (22). Notable for being the only club to have won the European Cup more often than their own national league, and also for being the only European Cup winners to have been relegated to their country's third tier.
- Fierce rivals with fellow-East Midlanders Derby County.
- Notts County
- The oldest professional club in the world, formed in 1862. Despite repeatedly being relegated to the bottom League division (now League Two), the club had never been non-league until 2019. Nicknamed "The Magpies" due to their black and white striped home kit (often abbreviated to 'The Pies', which distinguishes it from Newcastle United, who also have "The Magpies" as their nickname). Notts County have accumulated a large amount of trivia over their 150-year existence:
- Famous Italian club Juventus were gifted a set of old Notts County shirts when their old (pink!) shirts faded: Juve have played in black-and-white stripes ever since.
- The stadium at which Notts play their home games, Meadow Lane, is the shortest distance in the English League (though not in the UK) from another stadium, the other being The City Ground, home of Nottingham Forest.
- County fans like to sing about being "the only football team in Nottingham," since rivals Nottingham Forest's City Ground lies outside the city's boundaries, in the neighbouring borough of Rushcliffe.
- Notts County have changed divisions within the English League more times than any other league club, most recently getting relegated back to League Two during the 2014-15 season.
- Most recently the club shocked the football world by hiring former England Manager Sven-Göran Eriksson as Director of Football as well as signing England defender Sol Campbell having seemingly been taken over by a group of wealthy investors from the Middle East; however, this turned out to be a fraud on a large scale and the club was sold to current owner Ray Trew for a nominal fee in late 2009. Police fraud investigations continue into these affairs. However, Trew has thankfully since been able to bring spiralling debt under control, avoid administration, attain promotion and relative stability, as well as some notable cup runs.
- Alas, in 2017 Trew sold the club to Alan Hardy, under whose eventful stewardship they were relegated from League Two in 2019, becoming a non-league side for the first time since they were founded over 150 years ago.
- The oldest professional club in the world, formed in 1862. Despite repeatedly being relegated to the bottom League division (now League Two), the club had never been non-league until 2019. Nicknamed "The Magpies" due to their black and white striped home kit (often abbreviated to 'The Pies', which distinguishes it from Newcastle United, who also have "The Magpies" as their nickname). Notts County have accumulated a large amount of trivia over their 150-year existence:
- Oxford United
"We all live in a yellow submarine..."
- AKA "The U's". Yellow shirts and blue shorts. Play their home games at the Kassam Stadium, having moved there from their previous home, the Manor Ground, in 2001. Elected to the Football League in 1962 as replacements for Accrington Stanley, they began a steady rise through the divisions that saw them spend two seasons in the top flight during the 1980s. It was followed by a steady fall through the divisions that saw them relegated from the Football League in 2006 to be replaced by...Accrington Stanley. They regained their league status in 2010 and currently play in the third tier.
- During their relatively short stay in the First Division, they won the League Cup in 1986. Their chairman during this period was Robert Maxwell. Yes, THAT Robert Maxwell. This made them the first winner of a major English trophy to be relegated to non-league.
- Since they're the only league team in Oxfordshire, their main rivalries are with teams that border it to the south, notably Swindon Town (Wiltshire) and Reading (Berkshire).
- AKA "Pompey". Blue shirts, white shorts, red socks. Home games at Fratton Park. Had a strong spell in the early post-war years, winning the League in 1949 and 1950. They faded away until the mid-2000s, when they reached the Premier League, quickly establishing themselves before winning the FA Cup in 2008, qualifying for Europe for the first time. Severe financial problems set in the following year, however, with Portsmouth's ownership becoming chaotic and often-changing (at one point being bought by Ali Al-Faraj, a mysterious man who may not even exist) and the clubultimately ended up sliding down the divisions until they reached League Two in 2013-14, spending four seasons there before rebounding. Currently owned by controversial former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. Strong rivalry with Southampton.
- Preston North End
- AKA "The Lillywhites". White shirts, navy shorts. Founder members of the Football League and the first Champions ... and, since they won the FA Cup in the same season (1888-89), the first club to do the "Double". Their last major success was winning the FA Cup in 1938, and they haven't graced the top division since 1961. Deepdale, their ground, used to be the home of the National Football Museum (which moved to Manchester in 2012). Its most famous ex-player is Sir Tom Finney, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest-ever footballers; in 2004, a statue of him called "The Splash" was unveiled outside Deepdale note . Bill Shankly, a team-mate of Finney's at Preston before he went on to manage Liverpool, once said of him that he "would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age - even if he had been wearing an overcoat".
- Queens Park Rangers
- AKA "The Hoops" or "The Super Hoops", almost universally known as "QPR". Blue and white hooped shirts. West London club, currently playing in the Championship at Loftus Road - which since 2019 has been named the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in honour of a charity which aims to combat knife crime and youth violence; Kiyan Prince was a promising youth team prospect at QPR who was fatally stabbed in 2006, aged 15. League Cup winners in 1967. Rivals with the three other West London clubs - Brentford, Chelsea and Fulham (of which, QPR fans regard Chelsea as their "main" rivals). Have tended to go back and forth between the top two divisions, last gracing the Premier League in 2014-15.
- Salford City
- AKA "The Ammies". Red shirts, white shorts. Lower-league Manchester club, noted for being taken over by several former Manchester United players (David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary and Phil Neville, Paul Scholes) in 2014; as a result, the club featured prominently in the BBC documentary Class of 92: Out of Their League. Won promotion to the Football League for the first time in 2019.
- Sheffield United
- AKA "The Blades". Red and white striped shirts, black shorts. Home games at Brammall Lane. This Yorkshire team have played in all four divisions and are one of just four clubs to have actually finished top of all four of them (their one League Championship came back in 1898). Gained promotion back to the Premier League in 2019 after a twelve-year absence. Fierce rivals with Sheffield Wednesday with whom they contest the Steel City Derby. As of the end of 2018-19 - the last time the two sides were in the same division - United have won 46 of these encounters, to Wednesday's 42 (with 43 draws).
- Famous fans include Michael Palin and Sean Bean. The latter, who was briefly a director of the club in the 2000s, actually got to play a Sheffield United player in the 1996 movie When Saturday Comes; not only did his character not die, it was the only one of his films in which he did not have to cover up the "100% Blade" tattoo on his left shoulder.
- Sheffield Wednesday
- AKA "The Owls". Blue and white striped shirts. Formed as an off-shoot of a local cricket club which played its games mid-week, hence the name. Home games at Hillsborough in the Owlerton district of Sheffield (hence the nickname). Honours include four League titles (although the last of those was in 1930), three FA Cups (the last one in 1935) and one League Cup (1991, the last time a club from outside the top flight won a major trophy). Haven't been in the Premier League since 2000, and the club's very existence came under threat in 2010 due to its perilous financial position (a fate narrowly averted by most clubs outside the Premier League in the early years of the 21st century). Began the 2020-21 season with -12 points (later reduced to -6 on appeal) after they were found guilty of breaching Football League spending rules. Fierce locals rivals with Sheffield United.
"Oh when the Saints, go marching in..." note
- AKA "The Saints". Red and white striped shirts. Home games at St Mary's Stadium. FA Cup winners once (in 1976). Most recently promoted back to the Premier League in 2012, having previously been relegated in 2005 after spending 27 years in the top division. Fierce rivals with Portsmouth, with whom they contest the South Coast Derby. Their best known ex-player of recent times is Matthew le Tissier, famous for spending his entire professional career with the club; many fans believe that he would have gained more England caps than the eight he did had he played for a more glamorous club. Famous fans include musician Craig David and TV presenter Chris Packham.
- Along with Ipswich and Bournemouth, have the unwanted record of having suffered the worst defeat in Premier League history (9-0), with the further ignominy of having suffered it twice in successive seasons, at home to Leicester in 2019 and away at Manchester United in 2021.
- Stoke City
- AKA "The Potters". Red and white striped shirts. Home games at what is now known as the Bet 365 Stadium, an out-of-town location to which the club moved in 1997 (originally the Britannia Stadium, it's known as the Stoke Ground by UEFA due to regulations on ground sponsorships). Stoke City were one of the 12 founder members of The Football League, and are well-known for being the main club of the first-ever Ballon d'Or winner note , Sir Stanley Matthews who had two spells at the club (1932-47 and 1961-65; he retired just after turning 50, although he later felt he could have probably played for another two years). Their only major honour is the League Cup that they won in 1972.
- Today, Stoke are known as the Premier League's mid-table 'unfashionable' physical side. This is partly due to media Flanderization, as for several seasons the club's defining characteristic was the long throw-ins of Rory Delap. He has since retired, and they've partly shaken off the reputation for violent, old fashioned long ball football. Partly. It is still a Running Gag among English football fans to ask if a flair player like Lionel Messi "could do it on a wet Tuesday evening in Stoke". Stoke reached the FA Cup final in 2011, losing 1-0 to Manchester City.
- In 2015, they baffled the footballing world by somehow acquiring former Barcelona winger and Dutch international Ibrahim Affelay, and former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star Xherdan Shaqiri, the then-23-year-old star of the Swiss national team, adding them to a team that already included highly rated former Barcelona striker Bojan Krkić. Shaqiri is particularly notable not just because he was perennially linked to the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal, but because he's 5'6" and nicknamed 'the Magic Dwarf'. A more incongruous player for a team of Stoke's reputation could not be imagined.
- Stoke did well, establishing themselves as an entertaining mid-table threat to the rest of the league on their day, until losing many of the players who got them there in the 2017 close season (Krkić foremost among them). Defensive problems led to a string of heavy defeats and subsequently the sacking of manager Mark Hughes. The new manager Paul Lambert improved the defence, but the attack faltered, leading to their relegation. Shaqiri left for Liverpool in 2018.
- AKA "The Black Cats". Red and white striped shirts. Known for being a "yo-yo team", meaning they tend to keep getting promoted and relegated, being too good for one division and not quite good enough for the next. Their proudest moment was winning the FA Cup as underdogs against the then-powerhouse Leeds United in 1973, although they have won the League six times (all pre-war). Fierce rivals with nearby Newcastle. Narrowly stayed in the top flight in 2015-16, while their rivals went down, but their luck would run out, as Sam Allardyce left for his ill-fated England job, David Moyes assembled a team made up mostly of players he worked with at Everton and Manchester United that were past their best or unable to fulfil their potential, and they were relegated easily, with a month to spare. It got worse - in the Championship, they didn't win a home game until just before Christmas and suffered a second consecutive relegation. In League One, they made the play-offs but lost out to Charlton Athletic. Strong rivals of Newcastle United.
- Sunderland's first two seasons in League One are chronicled in the Netflix documentary series Sunderland 'Til I Die.
"I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind, that I put down in words, how wonderful life is when you're in the world."
- AKA "The Hornets". Yellow shirts, black shorts. Home games at Vicarage Road. Hertfordshire club which has had its fair share of ups and downs but has never actually won anything significant. Its most famous fan (by some considerable distance) is Elton John, who supported Watford as a child and invested heavily in the club from the mid-1970s onwards, becoming chairman and appointing a promising young manager called Graham Taylor. As a result, for a time during the 1980s Watford rose to the top of English football with a simple, yet effective long ball strategy. They finished second in the League in 1983 and reached the FA Cup final for the first time a year later (they lost to Everton). Off the pitch, Elton and GT worked hard to promote Watford as a family-friendly club ... several years before anyone else thought of encouraging families to go to football matches.
- Recently, they've been moving between the Premiership and the Championship after being bought by the Pozzo family, who successfully bussed in foreign players from the two other clubs they own - Italy's Udinese and Spain's Granada, turning Watford into a winning team. The flip-side of this has been an extremely high turnover of managers in recent years. Since the Pozzos took over in 2012, there have been eighteen of them. Watford won promotion to the Premier League in 2015 (after an eight-year absence from the top flight) and made it to a second FA Cup final in 2019 — only to be comprehensively blown away by Manchester City (6-0). The Hornets were relegated back to the Championship the following year but won promotion back to the Premier League in 2021, before being relegated yet again in 2022.
- Watford have a distinctly unfriendly rivalry with Luton Town, on the grounds that they're the closest half-decent club for miles. Although the rivalry dates back to the 1880s (when both clubs were founded), the animosity intensified in the 1960s and reached a peak in the 1980s, when they were both in the old First Division. From the late 1990s onwards, though, the clubs didn't play each other for several years due to being in different divisions (with Watford trying to get into the Premier League while Luton were wallowing in the lower divisions and even the Conference for a few years); in the 2020-21 season, they found themselves in the same division for the first time in fourteen years. Watford won the Vicarage Road fixture 1-0, with Luton returning the favour with the same scoreline at Kenilworth Road.
- West Bromwich Albion
"The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want. He makes me down to lie in pastures green; he leadeth me the quiet waters by."
- AKA "West Brom" or "The Baggies". Navy and white striped shirts. Currently a mid-table Premiership side. A former great, they last won a major trophy (the FA Cup for the fifth time) in 1968 and then spent 1986 to 2002 out of the top flight. Were one of the twelve founding members of the football league (along with several other Midlands clubs, including arch-rivals Wolves) but have only won the league once, in 1920. Like Sunderland, they have a reputation as somewhat of a "yo-yo team" - in the nine seasons from 2001-02 to 2008-09, seven resulted in either promotion or relegation, the other two being a defeat in the play-off final and a survival so improbable it was dubbed "The Great Escape".
- Statistically, West Brom has the most intelligent fans... no, seriously. Among said fans are Frank Skinner (of Fantasy Football League fame), Eric Clapton and Liam Payne.note
- West Ham United
"I'm forever blowing bubbles! Pretty bubbles in the air!"
- AKA "The Hammers" or "The Irons". Claret shirts with sky-blue sleeves, white shorts. An East London club, based at the London Stadium (formerly known as the Olympic Stadium, it having been built to be the main stadium for the London 2012 Olympics) in Stratford. Mostly hang around the middle of the Premiership table, but occasionally slip down a division (they last played in the Championship in 2011-12). FA Cup winners three times, European Cup Winners Cup winners in 1965. Known as "The Academy of Football" as it's been the starting place for a number of famous footballers, including Geoff Hurst (who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup Final) Bobby Moore (who captained the 1966 side), Trevor Brooking and Rio Ferdinand.
- The Hammers have one of the most die-hard fanbases in the UK; games at their old Upton Park ground were considered some of the most highly charged and atmospheric in the League. They also have one of the most well-known club anthems, a lustily sung version of the old ditty "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", the 'fortune's always hiding' line being something of a club motif, for the fans are proud of their underdog status.
- Recently got new owners, one of whom made his money in porn. This is considered better than being owned by a bunch of creditors.
- Their hooligan "firm" the Inter City Firm (ICF) was especially notorious - and features heavily in the movie Green Street (Green Street Hooligans in the USA) and consequently claim Elijah Wood as a celebrity fan. Another famous fan of the team is Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, who has a bass with a sticker of the team's crest on it (which he commonly plays live with).
- Harry Potter character Dean Thomas is another fan of the team. This was done in tribute to a Real Life friend of J. K. Rowling - it is in her honour that West Ham is the only football team identified by name in the Harry Potter series.
- AKA "The Dons" or "The Crazy Gang". A South London team, playing in all-navy, which came to prominence in the 1980s with a rapid rise up the divisions combined with the newsworthy antics of their players, who included Vinnie Jones. Won the FA Cup in 1988 against the all-conquering Liverpool, but had to abandon its Plough Lane ground in 1991 due to new safety rules. After sharing a ground with neighbours Crystal Palace for a time, the owners began to consider moving the team out of London. Eventually they settled on the new town of Milton Keynes, 50 miles north of London. While understandably incredibly unpopular with Wimbledon fans, this move was also criticised by fans of many other clubs who were disturbed at the prospect of American-style "franchises" that moved cities to go where the money was. The move was eventually allowed, on the understanding that the team would be renamed and would not officially retain the history and honours of Wimbledon FC. This leads us to...
- Milton Keynes Dons
- The team created by the move of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes. The name "Dons" is a reference to Wimbledon's old nickname, but most other fans call them "Franchise FC" due to the manner of their creation. In an attempt to appease hostile sentiment among other fans, they do not claim the history of Wimbledon FC but bill themselves as a new club formed in 2004. Taking over Wimbledon's old position in the third tier of the league, they were swiftly relegated to the fourth, but bounced back to the second tier in 2015-16, picking up a minor trophy along the way. However, their stay in the second tier only lasted that season. It got worse for them in 201718, as they dropped back to League Two. And There Was Much Rejoicing among football fans throughout England (with the exception of Milton Keynes itself), as it meant that for the first time they were in a lower league than...
- AFC Wimbledon
- (A Fans' Club) Feeling alienated by all of the above, a group of Wimbledon fans founded their own team, starting in the amateur London leagues. The club was rapidly promoted through the regional leagues and gained entry to the Football League in 2011, only nine years after the club was founded. Although the club does not officially claim to be a continuation of the old Wimbledon FC, it is regarded by its own fans and most neutrals as its Spiritual Successor - Vinnie Jones even gave the club his 1988 FA Cup winner's medal. Crowd turnout at their home games tends to be significantly higher than both home crowd turnout for other clubs in their division and MK Dons' average turnout. They also hold the record for the longest unbeaten run in any league, at 78 games! After five seasons in League Two, they won the 2016 promotion playoff, placing them in the same division as MK Dons for the first time. And then during the 201718 season, they got approval for a new stadium a stone's throw from Wimbledon FC's old ground, and ended the season in mid-table while seeing MK Dons suffer the drop. The 201819 season was mostly a disaster for AFCW, as they were in relegation trouble throughout and survived the drop only on goal difference. Meanwhile, back in League Two, MK Dons finished third, sending them back to League One to rejoin AFCW for another season. Both teams struggled to survive the drop in the 201920 season, cut short due to COVID-19; they finished in the last two safe spots of 19th (MKD) and 20th (AFCW). The new ground opened in November 2020.
- John Green of the VlogBrothers plays a virtual version of AFC Wimbledon on the somewhat confusingly names "hankgames" channel on YouTube, which has evolved into the VlogBrothers as a whole sponsoring AFC Wimbledon's shorts and a stand on the old Kingsmeadow ground.
- Wolverhampton Wanderers
"We'd live the life we choose, we'd fight and never lose, for we're the Wolves, oh yes we are the Wolves!"
- Universally known as "Wolves" in the same way that everyone calls Tottenham Hotspur "Spurs". 'Old Gold' (not yellow, not amber) shirts, back shorts. Home games at Molineux. Founded in 1877, Wolves were one of the founding members of the Football League. Currently playing in the Premier League, Wolves had a successful spell in the 1950s, during which they won the League three times under Stan Cullis. At that time, they were one of the first British clubs to install floodlights at their ground, and were dubbed "Champions of the World" due to their success at beating top foreign sides, although these were friendlies as official European competition was not established at the time.
- Since then, they've been considered to be the archetypal 'Sleeping Giants' of English football, having some success in the 1970s but dropping as low as the Fourth Division for one season in the mid-1980s. Briefly in the Premier League between 2009 and 2012, they returned there in 2018 and finished seventh in their first season back, earning them a place in the Europa League.
- Their vice president is Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
- In 2015, they opened up a new marketing slogan: "Supporting Wolves isn't always easy. But it's never dull. #EnjoyTheRide"
Fictional English football teamsDue to football's place in English culture, there have been many fictional English football teams over the years. The best-known are...
- Barnstoneworth United. Perennially unsuccessful Yorkshire team, as featured in the Ripping Yarns episode "Golden Gordon". It's also the name of the titular Gordon's son, as he's such an obsessive fan that it was the only name he could think of.
- Fulchester United. As featured in the Viz comic strip Billy the Fish. Billy — half man, half fish — is the team's goalkeeper. Very much a parody of Melchester Rovers (see below).
- Harchester United. The featured team of the Sky One soap opera Dream Team. The club spent most of the programme's run in the EPL.
- Melchester Rovers. The team of Roy Race, star of the comic strip Roy of the Rovers which first appeared in the Tiger comic in 1954 before giving its name to a football-related comic which ran until the mid-1990s. Rovers — led by Roy, who served as the club's star striker, captain and (in later years) player-manager — invariably competed for the top honours domestically and in Europe, although in some years they were involved in relegation dog-fights instead. Off the pitch, Roy and his team-mates were frequently involved in high drama including sabotage attempts, kidnappings, shootings, natural disasters and — ultimately — a helicopter crash which ended Roy's playing career. There were also several celebrity cameos; although the Rovers played in a fictional universe made up of invented teams, real-life players like Emlyn Hughes and Bob Wilson occasionally turned out for them, and they were briefly managed by Sir Alf Ramsey. Football writers and fans still use the phrase "real/proper Roy of the Rovers stuff" to describe displays of great skill and surprising results achieved against the odds.
- Neasden. Perennial under-achievers in the "North Circular Relegation League" who used to appear in Private Eye. Reports of their doings by "E.I. Addio" note told of their latest misfortune, a spoof of a recent real-life football news item. Match reports involved them playing unlikely-sounding teams (usually named for something in the news, ie. "Taliban FC") which they invariably lost by a large margin, thanks mainly to an epic amount of own goals by veteran defender "Baldy" Pevsner and the fact that their goalkeeper, Wally Foot, only had one leg. Their manager, "ashen-faced" Ron Knee, has been described as "pre-emptive satire" due to the way in which real-life managers like Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce have been compared to him.
- Richmond, AKA "The Greyhounds". The ailing London-based Premier League side that Ted Lasso takes over. Unlike Melchester Rovers, their universe consists of real-life teams — in the first series, they play Everton (beating them away for the first time in 60 years) and Manchester City (the club they got Jamie Tartt on loan from), among others. Based on Crystal Palace (given their location, club colours and historic lack of success), although Palace do exist within the show's universe.
- Walford Town. The local football team in Eastenders, mentioned on the rare occasions that involve characters having a conversation about football (although, given that the show is set in East London, West Ham can also be used in this context). Presumably fierce rivals of Weatherfield County, which fulfils the same role in Coronation Street.
The Old FirmIt's no exaggeration to say that Scottish football (and the media coverage of it) is almost totally dominated by two teams from Glasgow, Rangers and Celtic, collectively known as the Old Firm - to the immense frustration of many Scottish fans who support other clubs. Since the formation of the Scottish Football League there have only been 18 instances where a side outside of these two have won the title, and the last of those was in 1985. The history between the clubs goes far beyond the usual sporting rivalry, encompassing religious and socio-economic issues in Ireland as well as Scotland that predate the existence of either side. The Old Firm rivalry is often associated with The Troubles; to this day, Rangers are seen as the team of Protestant Unionists in Scotland and Northern Ireland, while Celtic are the club of the Catholic population of Scotland - and elsewhere - and of Irish Republicans. This got to the point where legendary war correspondent Kate Adie remarked in her autobiography that riots and protests in Northern Ireland tended to end in time for an Old Firm match. It has been (half-seriously) suggested that Scottish football could be improved by transferring the Old Firm clubs to the English Premier League - to which English fans (half-jokingly) responded by saying that if that were to happen, both sides would be nailed-on favourites for relegation.
- Formed in 1872, Rangers are the older of the two. They play in blue shirts and white shorts, and play out of Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow's southside. The most successful side in Scottish football, Rangers have won a record 55 league championships (including nine straight championships from 1989 and 1997), 34 Scottish Cups and 27 League Cups. They also achieved European success in the form of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1972, and finished runner-up in the 2008 UEFA Cup and 2022 UEFA Europa League. The 'Gers once had an informal "no Catholics" signing policy, but this was abolished in the 1980s to kick-start the nation-wide anti-Sectarianism campaign with the extremely controversial (and that's putting it mildly) signing of former Celtic player Mo Johnston.
- Rangers went into liquidation (bankruptcy) in 2012, which saw them relegated to Scottish League Two. The team went on to win both League Two and League One, putting them in the Scottish Championship for 201415, where they remained for two seasons until winning the 201516 title and punching their ticket back to the Scottish Premiership. In 2021, they won that for the first time in ten years, the cause of much celebrating in the blue half of Glasgow, with the celebrations becoming all the greater when they finished with an unbeaten league season - made sweeter by denying Celtic a record-breaking tenth championship in a row. That run earned their manager Steven Gerrard the gig at Aston Villa. Former 'Gers player Giovanni van Bronckhorst came in to replace Gerrard, and while they finished a close second to Celtic in 202122, they did claim the Scottish Cup and lost on penalties to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final.
- Celtic (pronounced seltik, not keltik) hail from the east end of Glasgow and were formed in 1887 as a means of raising money for the poor Irish communities in the city. Their home at Celtic Park is, after a reconstruction in the late 1990s, the largest in Scotland and the third-largest in the UK. The first British side to win the European Cup in 1967 with the "Lisbon Lions", they reached the finals of the 1970 European Cup and the 2003 UEFA Cup. The record Scottish Cup winners (40 times winners, most recently in 2020) they also have 52 League titles (including nine consecutive victories between 1966 and 1974, a feat they repeated between 2011 and 2020 when Rangers were spending time in the lower divisions) and 20 League Cups (most recently in 2022). The club is also the only one in Scotland to complete two and three consecutive domestic "Trebles", including an undefeated domestic season in 2016-17. Celtic's green and white hooped shirts are known the world over, and the club boasts a sizeable support among expat Irish Catholic communities in North America and Australia.
The best of the rest, and other noteworthy Scottish clubs
- Perhaps the most successful non-Glaswegian side are Aberdeen, who found fantastic success under the guidance of one Alex Ferguson in the 1980s. One half of the so-called "New Firm" of that decade, they are to date the last non-Old Firm side to win the League (in 1985), as well as being the only Scottish side to win two European trophies: the Cup Winners Cup in 1983 (beating Real Madrid in the final) and the European Super Cup that same year (this makes them the last Scottish side to win a European trophy). They have won a total of four League titles, seven Scottish Cups and five League Cups. Nicknamed "The Dons", they play in an all-red kit at Pittodrie Stadium.
- Airdrieonians is a story worth discussing. The first Airdrieonians were founded in 1878 and were a fixture of the Scottish Leagues for decades. However in the late nineties/early 21st century the club faced financial trouble and was ultimately liquidated in 2002. Fans of the club rallied around a newly formed successor, Airdrie United, but United failed in their application to join the League (their place was given to Gretna). In desperation, Airdrie United owner Jim Ballantyne bought out the crumbling League side Clydebank FC, moved them to Airdrie and renamed them Airdrie United, thus bringing League football back to the town. Official records thus list Airdrie's foundation date as 1965, when Clydebank were formed. Most people nonetheless considered Airdrie United a continuation of Airdrieonians, while Clydebank supporters formed a Spiritual Successor in the Junior leagues for 2003/04 season. United changed their name to Airdrieonians in 2013 with the Scottish FA's blessing. The club is also notable for benefiting in league division placements three times in the 20082012 period due to misfortunes of other clubs.
- The other half of the "New Firm" note are Dundee United, AKA "The Tangerines" (due to the colour of their shirts) or "The Arabs". Founded as Dundee Hibernian in 1909, theyve only won the League once (in 1982-83) and have won both Cups twice each. They also reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1984 and the UEFA Cup final in 1987. They dropped to the Championship after finishing bottom of the Premiership table in 2015/16. They were promoted back to the Premiership in 2020, following a season left unfinished due to the COVID 19 Pandemic; however they were so far ahead of the second place side that it was unlikely they would have been overtaken had the season been played to a conclusion. Their ground, Tannadice Park, is literally just down the road from...
- Dundee, AKA "The Dee", are currently in the country's second level, the Scottish Championship. Less successful than their near-neighbours, they play in dark blue and play at Dens Park which is a mere 200 yards from Dundee United's Tannadice Park - making them the closest senior football grounds in the UK. Dundee's golden age was in the 1960s when they won their only League title (1961-62) and reached the European Cup semi-finals the next season. However, after their last significant trophy (1974 League Cup), they have had little success, and nearly went bankrupt twice in the new millennium. They were a late entry into the 201213 Premiership after Rangers' bankruptcy, and suffered an immediate drop. They bounced back to win the 201314 Championship, returning to the Prem, until the 2018/19 season.
- Being located very close to the Border, Gretna used to play in the lower regions of the English league system. When Airdrieonians collapsed in 2002, Gretna applied to join the Scottish League and were successful. Under the ownership of grass-roots football philanthropist Brooks Mileson, Gretna raced up the Leagues, getting to compete in the UEFA Cup (by virtue of losing the Scottish Cup final in 2006 - the winners, Hearts, having already qualified for the Champions League) before being promoted to the SPL in 2007. Sadly, Mileson's death in 2008 removed his financial support and plunged the club into administration. Players and staff were made redundant, and just 400 people turned up to see them get relegated. The club was dissolved that summer. A Spiritual Successor was subsequently founded; they play in the (non-League) Lowland League.
- Hamilton Academical, known as "The Accies" and playing at New Douglas Park. Founded in 1874, they wear red and white hoops and have no major honours. Returned to the Prem by winning the promotion/relegation play-offs at the end of the 201314 season.
- Heart of Midlothian (universally known as "Hearts", sometimes nicknamed "The Jam Tarts" or just "The Jambos" thanks to rhyming slang) are one of Edinburgh's two major teams. Maroon shirts, white shorts. Named for the historic county of Midlothian - originally, the 'Heart of Midlothian' was the nickname for Edinburgh's Old Tolbooth prison which gave its name to a Walter Scott novel as well as the pavement mosaic on the Royal Mile which marks the location of the jail's entrance. Hearts are considered to be Edinburgh's "Protestant" team, although the sectarianism has never been anywhere near as overt as it is in Glasgow. Hearts are among the most successful non-Glaswegian sides in Scotland with 7 Scottish Cups, 4 League Cups and 4 League titles (the last of which came way back in 1960, but they came famously close in 1986 before losing it to Celtic on the last day). Playing out of Tynecastle Stadium in the Gorgie area of the city, the club were owned by eccentric Lithuanian businessman Vladimir Romanov from 2005 to 2013, when his business empire went under and pushed Hearts into bankruptcy and eventual relegation to the Championship at the end of the 201314 season. The next season, they blew away the Championship field (including Rangers) to secure a return to the Prem for 201516. They were controversially relegated in 2020 despite the season being unfinished due to Covid-19. Fierce rivals with...
- Hibernian. Wearing green and known simply as "Hibs" (or "The Hibees"), Hibernian's home at Easter Road is based in the Leith district of Edinburgh. Won their fourth (and so far last) League title in 1952, they have also won the League Cup three times and the Scottish Cup three times (most recently in 2016, ending a 114-year wait for the trophy that was formerly a source of mocking for Hearts fans). Sharing Celtic's Irish roots (but predating the Glaswegian side) Hibs were a Catholics-only club in the early years but have long since moved away from their sectarian/political roots. Also relegated to the Championship at the end of the 201314 season, but managed to return to the Prem in 2017 under Neil Lennon.
- The Proclaimers are fans. Yes, the guys behind "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)". No, they don't play it at Easter Road, but they do play "Sunshine on Leith" after a home win.
- The Hearts-Hibs rivalry got a shout-out in the Succession episode "Dundee", when Roman buys Hearts under the impression that it was the team Logan supported as a child — only to find that he's actually a Hibs fan. In real life, Brian Cox (who plays Logan) is from Dundee but has been somewhat cagey about which football club he supports.
- The youngest side in the SPFL is Highlands club Inverness Caledonian Thistle (known as "Caley" or "ICT"). Founded in 1994, the club joined the SFL and soon gained a reputation as giant-killers after a famous victory over Celtic in a 1999 Scottish Cup match note . However, ICT would have to wait to pick up a major trophy until 2015, when they won the Scottish Cup. This made them the first Highland club ever to win a major Scottish football trophy. They were most recently in the Premiership from 2010 to 2017, but dropped to the Championship after a last-place finish in the Prem. Their home ground, the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium, is situated beside the Moray Firth and they wear royal blue and red.
- Kilmarnock are the oldest club side playing in the Premiership, formed in 1869. "Killie" however have only won a single top-flight title (in 1964-65 season) and three Scottish Cups (the last of which came in 1997). The Ayrshire side play at Rugby Park, wear blue and white stripes and are famous for the quality of their matchday pies.
- Livingston are one of the newer clubs now playing in the Premiership. Originally based in Edinburgh, they formed in 1943 as the works team of now-defunct engineering term Ferranti, first as Ferranti Amateurs and a few years later Ferranti Thistle. They became Meadowbank Thistle in 1974 when they joined the SFL. In 1995, they controversially moved from Edinburgh to the new town of Livingston, 15 miles west of Edinburgh, adopting the town's name at that time. They have had a turbulent history in their current home, making the SPL in 2001 but going through administration twice in that decade, but eventually clawing their way back from the bottom professional level to return to the Premiership by winning the 2018 promotion/relegation play-off. "Livi", or "The Lions", play at Almondvale Park - also known as Tony Macaroni Arena (yes, really) for sponsorship reasons - and wear amber and black, currently all-amber at home and all-black away.
- North Lanarkshire side Motherwell play in claret and amber and were formed in 1886. Known as "The Well" or "The Steelmen", Motherwell are based at Fir Park Stadium and share a geography-based rivalry with Hamilton Academical. Winning their solitary title in 1932, The Well also have won a League Cup and two Scottish Cups (the most famous of which was in 1991). Tragedy struck the club in December 2007 when club captain and fan-favourite Phil O'Donnell (who scored in that 1991 victory) died of a left ventricular failure on the pitch.
- Partick Thistle, one of the Glasgow clubs outside the Old Firm, are now in the Championship after having lost to Livingston in the 2018 promotion/relegation play-off. They had most recently been promoted to the top flight in 2013. Founded in 1876, they have played at Firhill Stadium in Maryhill since 1909, but retain their "Partick" name. "The Jags" wear yellow and red stripes and have won the Scottish Cup once.
- Queen of the South are well-known for being humorously cited as the only professional football club (in Britain, at least) to be mentioned in The Bible note . The club itself lampshades this with its anthem, "The Only Team in the Bible", which is played before the players emerge from the tunnel at home games. The good behaviour of their fans has often been commented on. Their unusual name derives from their home town of Dumfries, which has been nicknamed the 'Queen of the South' (of Scotland) since the nineteenth century. They play in an all-blue kit at Palmerston Park. Nothing to do with the TV series. Reported to be the fictional character Donald "Ducky" Mallard's (from NCIS) favourite team.
- Queen's Park are a League Two (fourth division) side based in Glasgow. They are notable for a number of reasons: firstly, they play out of 52,000 seater stadium Hampden Park (Scotland's national stadium) and are the oldest club in Scotland (founded in 1867). Until 2019, they were also the only amateur side left in the senior Scottish game, a long-standing tradition dating back to their opposition to professionalisation in the late 19th century (their motto is "Ludere Causa Ludendi" to play for the sake of playing). They are the only Scottish club to have played in the (English) FA Cup Final (in 1884 and 1885), own the oldest football-related structure in existence (a farmhouse that's used as the pavilion at Lesser Hampden, their training ground), won the first televised game involving a Scottish side in 1951 and are the third most successful side in the Scottish Cup, winning the trophy ten times - although the last was in 1893! The appearance of Rangers in League Two in the 2012/13 season inadvertently led to a revival of the "Original Glasgow Derby", Rangers and Queen's Park having first played each other in 1877, eleven years before the first Old Firm match. Nicknamed "The Spiders", they play in black and white hooped shirts.
- Raith Rovers are best-known for two reasons which have nothing to do with their on-the-pitch performances. The first is that there isn't actually a place called Raith - they're based in Kirkcaldy. Ignorance of this once led a BBC commentator to famously declare that fans would be "dancing in the streets of Raith" following a victory note . The second reason is that Gordon Brown note is a fan. So's John Rebus, who gets this from his creator, Ian Rankin. On the pitch, "The Rovers" (who play in navy shirts and white shorts) briefly graced the top division in the mid-1990s, the same time they won their only major honour - the 1995 Scottish League Cup.
- St Johnstone - one of several clubs known as "The Saints" - were formed in 1884 and call McDiarmid Park their home. Something of a "yo-yo" team between the top two divisions, they hail from Perth and wear blue shirts and white shorts. They had no major honours to their name prior to winning the Scottish Cup in 2014.
- St Mirren is Paisley's only representative in top-flight football, having returned to the Premiership after winning the 201718 Championship crown. Formed in 1877 the club are based out of St Mirren Park, originally at Love Street (which the stadium was commonly known as) before moving to a new home in 2009. Nicknamed "The Saints" or "The Buddies", they play in black and white striped shirts and have won the Scottish Cup on three occasions (most recently in 1987) and the Scottish League Cup once (in 2013). Fierce rivals with Greenock Morton.
Welsh club football doesn't get much publicity because Rugby Union is much more popular as a spectator sport in Wales, and for those who do prefer football the (English) Premier League is a big draw. Although it has its own league structure, the situation is complicated by the fact that five clubs, including the biggest two in the country by some distance, play in the English league system. Also, some clubs based in England play in the Welsh system. Furthermore, Wales actually didn't even have a national league system prior to 1992 — just unrelated semi-pro leagues in the north and south of the country note , the top levels of which were merged to form a semi-pro league covering the whole country. Initially called the League of Wales, it has since been rebranded twice — as the Welsh Premier League (2002) and the Cymru Premier (since 2019). The FA Cup equivalent, the Welsh Cup, used to be open to the Welsh clubs playing in the English leagues and even to English clubs located in border areas note but this is no longer the case.
Welsh clubs that play in the English league system
- Cardiff City
- AKA "The Bluebirds". Blue shirts, white shorts. The only non-English side to have won the FA Cup (in 1927) and got to the 2008 final, where they were beaten by Portsmouth. Won the Championship title in 2013, earning them a spot in the Premiership for 201314 ... but dropped back to the Championship at the end of that season. They eventually made it back to the Prem for 201819, but once again immediately suffered the drop.
- In 2012, the club controversially changed its kit to red, a move pushed by Malaysian owner Vincent Tan in an rebranding attempt. After strong opposition from fans, the club reverted to the traditional blue in 2015.
- Fierce rivals with Swansea City; matches between the two still produce crowd trouble on a regular basis.
- Swansea City
- AKA "The Swans" or "The Jacks". White shirts, black shorts (although they've sometimes gone for an all-white kit). Reached the old First Division in 1981 after three successive promotions, but by 1986 they were back in the Fourth Division. In 2003 they narrowly avoided being relegated to the Conference, and subsequently climbed up through the divisions again, winning the four-team Championship promotion playoff in 2011 to earn promotion to the Premier League (making them the first Welsh team in the Prem's history note ) - as chronicled in the 2014 documentary film Jack to a King: The Swansea Story. Won the League Cup, in 2013, giving them a spot in the 201314 Europa League. Established themselves as a solid mid-table side until a disastrous 201718 season sent them packing to the Championship.
- In one of the most high-profile examples of the involvement of a supporters' trust in the running of a football club, 20% of Swansea City is owned by the Swansea City Supporters Society Ltd, with the rest being owned by a US consortium which includes former US international Landon Donovan (once of Everton) and Mindy Kaling.
- Fierce rivals with Cardiff City; matches between the two still produce crowd trouble on a regular basis.
- AKA "The Dragons". Red shirts, white shorts. The oldest football club in Wales (founded in 1864), playing at the Racecourse Ground (which is the oldest international football stadium in the world, having hosted Wales's first home fixture back in 1877 and is still occasionally used by the Welsh national team). Welsh Cup winners a record 23 times, and performed a notable upset in the FA Cup in 1992 when they knocked Arsenal (at the time, the reigning League Champions) out in the third round. Currently playing in the National League, having dropped out of the Football League in 2008.
- Ryan Reynolds (yes, that guy) and Rob McElhenney have owned the club (through their company, RR McReynolds Company LLC) since 2020, with their purchase and ownership of the team being chronicled in the documentary series Welcome To Wrexham. As a result, Wrexham featured on FIFA 22 as part of the "Rest of the World" section, the first non-League club to be thus featured (they'd previously been in FIFA 07 prior to their relegation from League Two).
- Wrexham fans consider their main rivals to be Chester (the successor club of Chester City), with whom they contest the Cross-Border Derby; the legendary former Liverpool and Wales striker Ian Rush, who played on both sides, has described the rivalry as "as intense as they come" and "like Wales v England really".
- In addition to those three, Newport County and Merthyr Town also play in the English league system. Chester, the successor club to the now-defunct Chester City, are an odd anomaly, as their ground, the Deva Stadium, straddles the English-Welsh border — the pitch itself is in Wales, but the offices (and therefore the club's official address) are in England; due to the latter, they are to all intents and purposes an English club — although immediately prior to being wound up in 2010, Chester City did make an unsuccessful application to join the Welsh Premier League. The city of Chester, from where the team draws most of its support, is also in England (although some of its western suburbs do stray over the border).
Clubs that play in the Welsh league system
- Airbus UK Broughton
- Originated as the works team of the aerospace factory in Broughton, Flintshire (historically known as Vickers-Armstrong, de Havillands, British Aerospace, etc). Nicknamed "The Wingmakers", their ground is unusual for having three retracting floodlights owing to its close proximity to an operational runway. Earned promotion to the top level in Welsh football in 2004, and were runners-up twice before being relegated to the Cymru Alliance (later renamed Cymru North) in 2017.
- Bangor City
- Founder members of the League of Wales (which they won three times), having previously played in the English non-League system. Relegated in 2018 due to financial irregularities and narrowly avoided being wound up by HM Revenue & Customs. In 2019 the club was taken over by the Italian musician and producer Domenico Serafino, who also owned the lower-division Italian club A.S. Sambenedettese; both clubs quickly became the subject of reports about players and staff not being paid note . This led Bangor to be suspended from all football activity by the FAW in late 2021.
- Barry Town
- Dominated Welsh football from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, winning the League seven times and the Welsh Cup five times (adding to the one they won back in the 1950s). Traditionally played in green but switched to red in the early 1990s, only to adopt their "lucky" yellow change kit as the home kit after the team wore it for their famous Welsh Cup final win over Cardiff City in 1994. Yellow thus became indelibly associated with the club's greatest period of success; the club's subsequent sharp decline in fortunes coincided with a short and ill-advised switch to fluorescent lime which was apparently ordered in error.
- Cefn Druids
- The result of several mergers — one of its parent clubs, Druids, was founded in 1872 which makes "The Ancients", who are based near Wrexham, one of the oldest football clubs in Wales. Black and white striped shirts, black shorts.
- Connah's Quay Nomads
- The club that ended The New Saints' 2010s dominance of Cymru Premier (Welsh Premier League), winning the title in both 2020 and 2021. Located in Flintshire near the English border, they were founded as a youth club in 1946 and fielded their first senior side in 1948, returning senior football to the town after the failure of two previous clubs. Play in all-red at home and all-black away.
- The New Saints
- Originally known as Llansantffraid, this is probably the best-known Cymru Premier club due to a 1990s sponsorship deal with a local computer company which resulted in "The Saints" (as they were nicknamed) becoming the first British football club to rename itself after its sponsor, Total Network Solutions. This in turn became famous thanks to Jeff Stelling joking about fans "dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions" whenever they won note . The name changed to the present one in 2006, keeping the initials by which the club had become known while reflecting its old nickname. Stelling continues with the gag to this day, using "The New Saints" instead.
- TNS, who've won the Welsh League a record 14 times (most recently in 2022, with eight consecutive titles between 2012 and 2019) actually play their home games in England — they absorbed Oswestry Town (a nearby English club that played in the Welsh leagues) when the latter club folded in 2003, and chose to play at Park Hall, Oswestry's larger home ground. Almost immediately, the club distanced itself from its Llansantffraid heritage and created a new identity as an Oswestry-based club (officially, the club's full name is "The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club"). Disaffected fans in Llansantffraid formed their own club, Llansantffraid Village, in 2007; based at TNS's old ground, they currently play in the East Division of the Mid Wales Football League which is three divisions below the Cymru Premier.
The Big TwoJust as Scottish football is dominated by the Old Firm, Northern Irish football is dominated by the Big Two - Linfield and Glentoran, both based in Belfast. Unlike the Old Firm, there is no sectarianism to this rivalry; both teams' fanbases are mostly Protestant. That said, other sides are more likely to get a look-in in terms of major silverware than their Scottish counterparts.
- Linfield is the most successful Northern Irish club. Widely regarded as a Protestant club, they wear blue shirts and white shorts (like Rangers) and play at Windsor Park in Belfast. They've won the Irish League 54 times and the Irish Cup 43 times. Historically, their biggest rivals were Belfast Celtic - but since they dissolved in 1949 that place has been taken by...
- Glentoran (green shirts, black shorts) have won the Irish League and the Irish Cup 23 times each - although the last time they won the former was in 2008. Their fierce rivalry with Linfield includes the annual Boxing Day fixture which is the most high-profile domestic football match in Northern Ireland. The 1995 fixture was played out on a snow-covered pitch with an orange ball; when that burst and no replacement could be found, they continued with a regular white ball ... an incident which reached a much wider-than-usual audience due to footage of it being used as a "What Happened Next?" question on A Question of Sport.
- George Best was a fan growing up; he tried out for them, but they rejected him for being "too small and light". Shortly afterwards, he was scouted by Manchester United ... and the rest is history.
- Ballymena United have a rich history of success in the Irish Cup, having won it six times although the last one came in 1989, at the end of the most successful period in the club's history. Nicknamed "The Sky Blues" due to the colour of their shirts, their main rivals are the bigger and more successful Coleraine. The annual Boxing Day fixture between the two attracts large crowds and is one of the high-profile fixtures in the Northern Irish football league calendar outside of the Big Two.
- Founded in 1879, Cliftonville is the oldest football club in Ireland. Based in the North Belfast suburb of that name, they play in all-red and are fierce local rivals of Crusaders. The Reds' fanbase is mostly Catholic, giving a sectarian edge to their matches with teams with mainly Protestant support.
- Coleraine play in blue and white stripes; they've won the Irish League once (in 1974) and the Irish cup six times, most recently in 2018.
- Crusaders (red and black halved shirts) of North Belfast have overcome recent financial hardship and can boast one of the highest average attendances in Northern Ireland - in 2015/16, it was second only to Linfield. Champions in 2018.
- Lurgan-based Glenavon was the first club from outside Belfast to win the League (back in 1952). Bitter rivals of Portadown, with whom they contest the "Mid-Ulster Derby".
- Newry City was called Newry Town prior to Newry - five miles north of the border with the Republic - being given city status in 2004. Legendary Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings played for them in the early 1960s before moving to England (initially to Watford, although he would go on to play for Spurs and Arsenal). Dissolved in 2012 after losing a lawsuit for unfair dismissal brought by a former manager and being unable to pay the damages. A club of the same name was formed a year later - although it claims to have no connection with the old club, it plays in the same colours at the same ground and is very much seen as its Spiritual Successor. Currently plays in the Championship.
- Portadown was initially formed as a junior side, but has won the Irish League four times, most recently in 2002.
Former IFA sidesTwo predominantly Catholic Northern Irish sides left the IFA due to sectarian difficulties; one of them now plays in the League of (the Republic of) Ireland.
- Belfast Celtic was one of the most successful clubs in Northern Ireland until it left the Irish League in 1949 following a particularly violent encounter with main rivals Linfield. It was dissolved shortly afterwards.
- The name was revived in 2019 when lower-division Sport & Leisure Swifts changed their name and adopted the old side's green and white hooped shirts.
- Derry City left the Irish League in the 1970s because of The Troubles and now play in the League of Ireland. They've won the latter twice, which makes them the only side in the British Isles to have won domestic leagues in more than one country, as the won the former once in the 1960s.
- Notably, their jersey appears in the music video for The Undertones' mid-sized punk hit, "My Perfect Cousin" in the very early 80s, as well as on the single sleeve, probably due to the Undertones hailing from the same city and a a reference to Subbuteo midway the song.