Joe Ledley

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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Crystal Palace

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Crystal Palace are at a crossroads heading into the new Premier League season.

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Sam Allardyce stepped down as boss following a successful relegation battle last season and now the Eagles have plumped for a bright young manager in Frank De Boer, with the Dutch legend experiencing English soccer for the first time. He will be tasked with creating a new playing identity for a young, hungry squad who have been dragged into too many relegation battles for their talent levels over the past few seasons.

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The Eagles have yet to win a major trophy in their 111-year history but backed by American ownership they have big plans to extend Selhurst Park and kick on to become one of London’s big boys. The self-proclaimed “Pride of South London” have a passionate fanbase who generate a fantastic atmosphere down in SE25 and they’re one of the trendier teams to support with the sense of hipster strong.

Can they finally push for a European spot and win a cup competition?

Best, worst case scenario: Everything clicks and Palace push for seventh spot and a place in Europe, but on the other hand if they can’t sort out their defensive issues than they must prepare for another relegation battle.

Best possible XI is…


—– Hennessey —–

—- Ward —- Dann —- Reidewald —- Van Aanholt —-

—- Zaha —- Milivojevic —- Puncheon —- Schlupp —-

—– Cabaye —–

—– Benteke —–


Transfers in: Jairo Riedewald ($10.4 million, Ajax), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Loan, Chelsea)

Transfers out: Steve Mandanda ($3.9 million, Marseille), Mathieu Flamini (Released), Jonathan Benteke (Released), Joe Ledley (Released), Frazier Campbell (Free, Hull City), Zeki Fryers (Free, Barnsley)

Last season
– 14th in the Premier League
– FA Cup 4th round
– EFL Cup 3rd round

Star player: Wilfried Zaha – It may be Christian Benteke who grabs the goals but Zaha epitomizes what Palace is trying to do. The local lad has pace to burn and his direct style of play terrifies opposition defenders, with his crossing and shooting ability improving all the time. He will be handed the keys to Palace’s offense and after signing a new long-term deal, he’s proved he is Palace through and through. Now he needs to add more goals to his game to become the complete package. Don’t be surprised if he floats just behind Benteke rather than spending all of his time out wide this season.

Coaches’ Corner: Frank de Boer enters his first season in England in an interesting predicament. Palace want to become a club who are known for an attractive style of play rather than a club full of good pros battling relegation. The only issue is that most of the defense-minded team put together by Sam Allardyce last season remains and FDB has to mold them subtly into something a little different. It has to be said, he’s not going for an all-out ‘Total Football’ approach and his Ajax teams were at times more robust than many would like to believe, but it will still be tough for the former Ajax, Barcelona and Glasgow Rangers defender to make his mark in the Premier League. After a tricky, and short, spell at Inter Milan last season, de Boer seems ready to prove he had what it takes to succeed. Palace haven’t backed him in the transfer market and the Dutchman will need a fast start to the season.

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PST predicts: Another relegation battle beckons if they don’t get off to a flying start. If they win four of their first five games all will be well and confidence will grow. If not, they have a horrendous run of games coming up in late September (Liverpool, Man City and Man United in a row) which could define their season. The Eagles will be hovering just about the drop zone.

Three things we learned from Man United’s win vs. Crystal Palace

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LONDON — Manchester United beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park on Wednesday as their stars shone.

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A goal and an assist each for the brilliant Paul Pogba and the clinical Zlatan Ibrahimovic did the damage with United making it two wins on the spin to keep themselves in the top four battle.

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Here’s what we learned from a slow-burner in south London as Palace remain in relegation trouble.


STARS SHINE FOR UNITED

This is why you pay them the big bucks. Pogba and Ibrhahimovic were the difference in this game and Pogba was particularly sublime in midfield.

He set up Wayne Rooney with a wonderful dinked pass in the first half and then right on the stroke of half time he finished off a cheeky chest down from Zlatan (which appeared to come off his arm) to put United 1-0 up.

Pogba then provide the game-winning assist with two minutes to play as he slotted in Zlatan but the Swedish striker still had plenty to do as he dinked home across goal to make it 2-1.

Jose Mourinho hailed Ibra after the game, saying he never questioned his character and his quality.

With Zlatan now scoring 14 goals in 24 games since arriving in England, plus Pogba putting in a man of the match display, United are figuring this thing out. Sure, they’re still six points off the top four but you can’t argue with Mourinho when he says their performances have been a lot better for a long time.

Now, United is finally get the results their performances deserve. That has a lot to do with Zlatan and Pogba stepping up to show their star quality when it mattered most.


KEY DECISIONS INCORRECT

There were four pivotal moments in this game which referee Craig Pawson got wrong. Very wrong.

After the game Palace’s manager Alan Pardew felt hard done by and Mourinho didn’t want to say anything apart from applaud Pawson. Would he have been doing that had United not grabbed the late winner their dominance deserved? Probably not.

Anyway, for United’s first goal, right on half time, Zlatan looked to have handled and Pogba was offside as he finished. Pawson needed help from his assistants but the referee didn’t get any. He did get plenty of stick from the home fans in the first half as he let tough tackles go from United.

That brings us to the second incident: Marcos Rojo‘s lunging tackle.

Now, Mourinho may say he is “playing phenomenally and is a very clean player” but the evidence suggests otherwise. In United’s 1-1 draw with Everton 10 days ago Rojo was lucky to stay on the pitch after a lunging tackle. He did exactly the same in the first half against Palace as he lunged in with both sets of studs showing on Wilfried Zaha. He should’ve been sent off. Pawson missed it and gave him just a yellow.

Then came two more moments of controversy in the second half as first Joe Ledley blatently handled in the box but no penalty kick was given and then Rojo headed down for Juan Mata to slot home but the offside flag went up.

You can clearly argue all four decisions were wrong and in the end they canceled each other out. Still, not a vintage display from a young, promising referee.


PALACE PUNISHED FOR TIMIDNESS

We know Pardew’s Palace have been struggling for a while, but the way he set his team up spoke volumes of their limitations. They only wanted a draw. Nothing more.

With Mathieu Flamini handed his first start of the season, the Frenchman sat in during the first half and so did the rest of his teammates. Palace barely got out of their own half in the first half which frustrated the home fans and something had to change.

Ledley was brought on at the break which livened up the game and when James McArthur equalized it got interesting for a while. But, yet again, Palace retreated when they were level and United deservedly won.

Heading into the busy festive period Palace now have Chelsea and Arsenal in their next three games. With just 15 points on the board and confidence clearly at an all-time low under Pardew, the Eagles won’t be soaring anywhere other than towards the drop zone as 2016 comes to a close.

It has been a truly dreadful 2016 for the Eagles who have just six wins in the Premier League over the last 12 months. Fresh impetus is needed at Selhurst Park as Wednesday’s lack of belief proved. Is Pardew the man to get the best out of this talented, yet top-heavy, squad?

Sunderland 2-3 Crystal Palace: Benteke strikes late to bury Black Cats

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  • Sunderland dead last in PL
  • Benteke’s 90th min goal does the trick
  • Defoe nets two

Christian Benteke‘s late goal gave Crystal Palace another win, at the expense of snake-bitten David Moyes and Sunderland.

James McArthur and Joe Ledley also scored for Palace, who rises to 8th with 10 points with a 3-2 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Jermain Defoe scored both of Sunderland’s goal, as Moyes felt more misery after blowing a two-goal lead. The Black Cats are 20th, with one point.

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The first half-hour and beyond was not much to behold, and of course it was Defoe who opened things up.

Not without help from Joe Ledley, whose giveaway under pressure allowed the sure-footed Englishman to bury a chance and give Sunderland a rare lead.

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The sleepy first half gave way to a wide awake second, as Defoe increased Sunderland’s lead from penalty distance.

Then Ledley made amends for his error by answering Defoe’s second with Palace’s first. The Welshman’s shot from outside the 18 took a big deflection Off Patrick Van Aanholt in near own-goal fashion.

But McArthur piled misery on the hosts with a 74th minute equalizer, and Benteke darted in to wrest a winner in the 90th minute.

Crystal Palace sign free agent Flamini to bolster midfield

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Mathieu Flamini is staying in the Premier League.

The veteran French midfielder, 32, saw his contract at Arsenal expire over the summer and there have so far been no takers. Until now.

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Crystal Palace announced on Thursday that they’ve signed Flamini on a one-year contract and Alan Pardew‘s side have added an experienced leader who will give them extra options in the engine room.

Speaking to Palace’s website about the move, Flamini is happy to take on a veteran role in the team and claimed Pardew was a key factor in him moving to south London.

Flamini played 246 times for Arsenal across two spells and won three FA Cups and played in a UEFA Champions League final for the Gunners. His tireless work rate is his main hallmark and his reading of the game and ability to connect short, sharp passes is often underrated.

With a five-year stint at AC Milan sandwiched in-between his two spells with Arsenal, Flamini brings plenty of nous at the elite level and you often wonder what might have been if injuries had been kinder to him during his time with Milan.

That said, Palace already has Joe Ledley, James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye in the central midfield areas so Flamini may have to bide his time for a regular spot but there’s no doubting this is an excellent pick up to add to the signings of Loic Remy, Christian Benteke, James Tomkins and Steve Mandanda over the summer.

Palace’s spine is definitely stronger than it was last season and now they have to start to put their horrendous record of just two wins in their last 24 Premier League games right.

The new fan’s 2016-17 guide to finding a favorite Premier League club

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Must read preface: For several years on my own site and then on a Western New York soccer blog, I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. In no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. And as time goes on, this is less and less a necessity. We are talking about the biggest league in the world, after all.

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But the fact remains that people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery. And now ‘they’ have got to twice watch their beloved club, massive as it is, flub its way to the second tier. Again, just what I’ve heard from ‘them’.

I almost always advocate choosing a club that isn’t already a giant because that’s my background as a proud Buffalonian, but do what feels right. Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cowboys fan who enjoys feeding off the hate of others. By all means, continue onward!

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2016-17 beginners guide to selecting a Premier League team. For each team, we’ll let you know which Americans are on their team — if any — who their fans tend to hate, and give a very loose comparison to American professional teams.

1. Arsenal
Last championship: 2003-04
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Gunners
Location: London
American players: Gedion Zelalem
Biggest rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Comparison: New York Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

The good news, if you choose Arsenal, is that you’ll have so much company. Arsenal is the most-supported team in these here United States of America, and their passionate fan base is almost impossible to miss.

They have a massive celebrity supporter base, too, from Idris Elba to Prince Harry, Steve Earle to Jay-Z, there’s a bountiful group of shiny fans. There’s some magic to the club, for sure. French manager Arsene Wenger fashions players who play the game with flair and the club has begun to spend again after paying off a great deal of debt. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are incredible talents, and Santi Cazorla could be among the more unheralded out-and-out superstars of all-time.

For a big club, they provide their fans a fair bit of misery. They’ve won two of the last three FA Cups, but haven’t seen a Premier League title since 2004. Their club is massive, has gobs of money, and their manager still talks like he’s running a not-for-profit.

2. Bournemouth
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 2/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Cherries
Location: Bournemouth, Dorset
American players: Emerson Hyndman
Biggest rivals: Southampton
Comparisons: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Lightning

What young, promising manager Eddie Howe has done with this club to get them to the Premier League and keep them there is amazing. Chairman Jeff Mostyn kept the team from administration with his own money, and engineered one of the biggest rises in English soccer history. Now they’re investing in the club, and have a promising squad.

Their crest is a man heading the ball incorrectly, unless of course the Cherries player is clearing the ball from danger. We’ll be rooting for the upstarts this season.

3. Burnley
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 3/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Clarets
Location: Burnley, Lancashire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End
Comparisons: Pittsburgh Pirates, Calgary Flames

Manager Sean Dyche looks like he eats wood for breakfast, thinks condiments are for lesser weaklings, and gets in bar fights as a hobby. He expects his small market club to play in a similar fashion, and likes to use the same lineup as often as possible. SportsWorld’s Joe Posnanski wrote a story on Burnley the last time they were promoted. It was called “David and Goliath and Burnley”. Read it.

4. Chelsea
Last championship: 2014/15
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Blues
Location: London
American players: Matt Miazga
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, Millwall
Comparison: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Redskins

A simply massive club with loads of accolades and glory — not to mention a deep-pocketed owner in a big, big city — Chelsea took a step back last season when their players seemingly quit on their abrasive but brilliant coach Jose Mourinho (now with the Manchester United). Given the huge support for Arsenal in America, it seems lots of folks hate Chelsea. New manager Antonio Conte won’t have a problem with that, nor will current forward Diego Costa and center back John Terry, two of the more detested but respected players in the world.

5. Crystal Palace
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 9/25
Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon
Comparisons: Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals

Palace is a truly intriguing option due to incredible fans and their manager, Alan Pardew, who is at best a goofball and at worst a lunatic. Palace is a real working-class London club, and the Eagles have flair and work rate in their club. I love their modern crest, though they aren’t new jacks. Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend are very good, exciting players, and both Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak bring the steel.

6. Everton
Last championship: 1986-87
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Toffees, The School of Science
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
Comparison: Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos

Everton gives you the ability to back a team with proud history, and a team involved in one of the best rivalries in sports (The Merseyside Derby with Liverpool). The club has had two of America’s biggest players in Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, and has a classy color scheme and simple crest/kit. With new investment coming and a good manager in Ronald Koeman, Everton is one of my top prospects for new Premier League fans.

7. Hull City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 5/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Hull, Yorkshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Sheffield United, Leeds United
Comparisons: Sacramento Kings, Cincinnati Bengals

Hull City is back in the Premier League, but respected manager Steve Bruce quit before the season because — many believe — he was frustrated at the lack of investment in the club (which is for sale). Great nickname, colors, and “bounce-back-ability” here, and no one will accuse you of jumping on a bandwagon. You can never count out Hull, but in a sense you’d also be silly to count on them. Here’s hoping the Tigers surprise us this year.

8. Leicester City
Last championship: Last season!!!
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Foxes
Location: Leicester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Comparison: Seattle Seahawks, New Jersey Devils

You could hate sports, and you’d have heard of Leicester City’s last season. The most unlikely championship story in history, with castaway players and a forgotten manager rising up to claim the Premier League crown from the richest of the rich. I can’t tell you not to root for the Foxes, though I also wouldn’t bet on them repeating the glory. That said, they’ve proven me horribly wrong before!

Foxes is a great nickname, blue is a solid color, and who doesn’t love the silky skill set of Riyad Mahrez?

9. Liverpool
Last championship: 1989-90
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Reds
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Everton, Manchester United
Comparison: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Flyers

Superstar players? Check. Intense, fascinating manager? Check. Title-winning history you can brag (and brag and brag) about? Check. Still plenty of misery to feel like you’re somehow an underdog? Check.

No wonder American fans have seemingly flocked to the Anfield set.

10. Manchester City
Last championship: 2013/14
Years in Premier League: 20/25
Nickname: Citizens
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Manchester United
Comparison: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Angels

Some folks will tell you that you can’t support Man City because they’re a club that’s done all their recent winning on the backs of incredible investment from deep-pocketed owners, but as time goes on we’re learning they were an early-adopter. Still, City has spent crazy money, most recently to bring one of the most brilliant managers in the world in Pep Guardiola. Plus, you’ll love the same team as Noel and Liam Gallagher, and their banter game is, generally speaking, top notch.

11. Manchester United
Last championship: 2012-13
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Red Devils
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City
Comparison: New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, New England Patriots

A little shine came off United when it struggled to keep up legendary manager Alex Ferguson’s lofty standards once the Scottish coach left the team. But United has spent almost as much money as any club on Earth and should never, ever be considered anything but a favorite with the biggest financial influence in the game. Now with vilified but brilliant manager Jose Mourinho and the fanciest attack this side of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United can get back to seriously contending for any trophy in the world. And you can sort of feel like you aren’t jumping on any sort of bandwagon.

12. Middlesbrough
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 15/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: The Boro, Smoggies
Location: Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
American players: Brad Guzan
Biggest rivals: Sunderland, Newcastle United
Comparisons: Buffalo Bills, New Jersey Devils

There is no American club that would be considered the third-biggest club in its market, is there? Here’s the good news, it may not be that way for long. With Newcastle laboring in the Championship for at least a season and Sunderland a consistent struggler, The Boro is taking advantage of its return to the top flight by bringing players aboard who can help keep it in the Premier League. Boro also made an unlikely run to the League Cup in 2004, and thrived in the Europa League (going all the way to the final before losing). They embraced a nickname, Smoggies, which was once foisted on the club by dissenting opposition fans. I respect the heck out of that.

13. Southampton
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 18/25
Nickname: Saints
Location: Southampton
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Comparison: St. Louis Blues, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Vikings

Saints have a whole lot of “Moneyball” to their program, and chairman Ralph Krueger literally wrote books on leadership. The ex-NHL coach is an incredibly impressive man, and the way Southampton has replaced assets with cheaper assets is admirable. With one of the best young programs in the world, pound-for-pound, and a certain bit of magic around St Mary’s (their home ground) you could do worse than Southampton.

14. Stoke City
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 9/25 (Return 2008-09)
Nickname: Potters
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
American players: Geoff Cameron
Biggest rivals: Port Vale
Comparison: Green Bay Packers (without the titles), Portland Trailblazers

There’s a bit of “How are they doing this?” to Stoke City’s continued improvement, and manager Mark Hughes has brought a real strong mentality to the squad. Stoke has one of the most unheralded American stars in history when it comes to Geoff Cameron, and the Potters are a true underdog that has found a way to bring and keep tremendous talent to a smaller market.

15. Sunderland
Last championship: 1935-36
Years in Premier League: 16/25
Nickname: Mackems, Black Cats
Location: Sunderland, Tyne-upon-Wear
American players: Lynden Gooch
Biggest rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s decent tradition in Sunderland to go with new manager David Moyes, who many think has gotten a bum rap from his last few managerial stops, but the club has seen a series of seasons that include hanging out near the bottom of the league before surviving by the skin of its teeth. It’s incredible that they even survived their moribund last three seasons to remain in the top flight. Sunderland is owned by an American and has a relationship with DC United of Major League Soccer. Another fun fact: their nickname isn’t an actual word (Mackem is short for Make Them, abbreviated).

16. Swansea City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 6/25
Nickname: The Swans, The Jacks
Location: Wales
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Cardiff City
Comparison: Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Suns

A big time rugby area, Swansea is also a travelers dream: friends have told me it’s a gorgeous place to visit. They flirted with relegation last season and have watched a lot of assets go, but there’s no debating that Swans are a group that grind for their fans and city. The Welsh side has made some head-turning signings in Mike Van der Hoorn and Borja Baston, but also let mainstay Ashley Williams and star striker Andre Ayew leave town.

17. Tottenham Hotspur
Last championship: 1960-61
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Spurs
Location: London
American players: DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron Carter-Vickers
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham
Comparison: Washington Capitals, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Cowboys

Spurs are a good team to pick. They have an awesome name, an inventive manager and a cool-albeit-goofy logo. They also play in London, so visiting them is an A-plus idea. Tottenham hates Arsenal, so it’s a good bet for vitriol as well.

Spurs also have a ton of extremely likable and/or exciting players, and have surged into the UEFA Champions League. The players are strong and deep, with superstar striker Harry Kane, young flash Dele Alli, and midfield general Moussa Dembele. There’s also terrific French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There’s really a terrific tradition at the North London club and perhaps they’ve moved from being “so close” to being truly elite again.

18. Watford
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Hornets
Location: Hertfordshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Luton Town
Comparisons: Arizona Coyotes

The Hornets finally made it to the Premier League without being instantly relegated. The club questionably cut ties with manager Quique Flores, and will be counting on star forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to do a lot of heavy lifting this year. Sir Elton John’s favorite club, this is a side that once gave USMNT star Jay DeMerit a shot… and he ended up their captain.

19. West Bromwich Albion
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Baggies, West Brom
Location: West Midlands
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton
Comparison: Milwaukee Brewers, Indiana Pacers

I’ll let Wikipedia show you why I have respect for the fans of this club:

“Albion have always enjoyed loyal and passionate support… Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting “Boing Boing”. This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion’s fans were voted the best in the Premier League by their peers, while in the BBC’s 2002 “national intelligence test” Test the Nation, they were found to be ‘more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138′.”

That said, until they cut ties with manager Tony Pulis, they will not be playing a style of football I’d enjoy watching on a week-to-week basis. Their fans pride themselves on enjoying beautiful football, and Pulis has not been bringing that.

20. West Ham United
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 21/25
Nickname: Hammers, the Irons
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Millwall, Leyton Orient
Comparison: Brooklyn Nets, Oakland Raiders

West Ham United has a lot of money, a new stadium, and an incredibly deep team given its relative lack of big stage success in recent years. There is every reason to believe West Ham is primed to surge into annual contention for UEFA Champions League places and, given their city and backing, you could be getting on board with a next level club while they’re still an underdog story (of sorts).

The focus of some hard-nosed supporter stories — the film “Green Street Hooligans” was penned about fictional West Ham fans — the Hammers have plenty of grit on the pitch as well.