No AFL! Then who do I support in the EPL?
With the 2011/12 Premier League season fast approaching, there’s no better time for AFL supporters to learn a bit more about the London based clubs and weigh up their options of who to support.
THERE’S no better way for newly arrived Australians to curry favour with their new English friends or co-workers than by having a bit of knowledge about the upcoming football season. Be warned however, as this water cooler banter will be followed by the inevitable question: “who do you support?” For Australians who have grown up on a steady diet of Sherrin footies and torpedo punts, this can prove to be a difficult and confusing decision.
Since 2003, this South London club has been the play thing of Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich. The owner’s obsession with winning the Champions League has seen him personally invest in excess of £600 million and recently appoint the club’s 9th manager in as many years.
2011/12 prospects? Runners up to Manchester United last season in the Premier League, Chelsea are likely to challenge for top spot once again. Newly appointed manager Andre Villas Boas will be hoping that the record £50 million January signing Fernando Torres has settled in at Chelsea and can return to his scoring ways while crossing his fingers that aging stars Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard have enough miles in their legs for one more crack at the title.
Good for… Collingwood supporters: Clearly the most successful London club in recent history, Chelsea fans expectation to win every game should match those of Pies supporters. While we mightn’t see Abramovich in front of the camera quite as much as Eddie McGuire, Collingwood supporters should feel right at home amongst The Blue Army.
The oldest professional football team in London is enjoying one of its most successful periods in recent history. Runners up in the inaugural UEFA Europa League in 2009/10, Fulham again qualified for the Europe competition through the FIFA fair play ranking system as well as finishing a respectable 8th in Premier League last season.
2011/12 prospects? With talisman striker Bobby Zamora having an uninterrupted preseason, Fulham’s prospects again look strong for the long stretch ahead. Provided they have a deep enough list to support their Europe campaign, Fulham will again be challenging for a top half finish.
Good for… Hawthorn supporters: Everybody’s second team. Like the Hawks, Fulham is considered “the Family Club” and offers a more realistic and affordable option for those looking to attend regular fixtures. With Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer providing a patriotic incentive to support the club, there has never been a better time to become a Fulham supporter.
Queens Park Rangers
Owned by Formula One tycoons Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, “The Hoops” presence in the Premier League this year makes for a very crowded South London as far as football clubs are concerned. Having gained promotion last season, QPR have looked to strengthen their list in preparation for the step up this year.
2011/12 prospects? The primary aim of the newly promoted Rangers will be survival. Having already acquired Kieron Dyer and Jay Bothroyd to accompany the attacking midfield threat of Adel Taarabt, QPR will hope to avoid relegation this season and look to build for the future should they survive.
Good for… Gold Coast supporters: QPR are the new kids on the Premier League block and just like the Suns, will be aiming to come away from their first season with the respect of the other clubs as well as a few wins.
“To Dare is To Do”. The motto of Spurs has never been more evident then in the attacking style of play Harry Redknapp has encouraged from his players in the last two years. Tottenham’s amazing run to the quarter finals of the Champions League on debut last season has made the rest of Europe sit up and take notice of this exciting team.
2011/12 prospects? Despite finishing 5th last season and missing out on a Champions League spot, Tottenham will still be pushing for European glory alongside Fulham in the UEFA Europa League as well as shooting for a top 4 finish in the Premier League.
Good for… Carlton supporters: In Gareth Bale, Tottenham has its own Chris Judd. A dynamic player who can turn a match on its head in the blink of an eye, Spurs supporters will be hoping Bale remains injury free. Many AFL pundits believe Carlton can not win the AFL premiership without a key tall forward, and it is the same hurdle standing in Tottenham’s way with the absence of a clinical finisher in front of goal negating the potent midfield attack.
Managed by the aptly named Arsene Wegner, the Gunners are the third most valuable football club in the world worth an estimated £764 million. Many believe that Arsenal offer one of the most entertaining brands of football in the Premier League however it is this style that some suggest has cost them results in the last few years.
2011/12 prospects? With other clubs throughout Europe attempting to steal many of Arsenal’s marquee players, much of Arsenal’s success will depend on who they can hold onto during the transfer period. If captain and midfield superstar Cesc Fabregas returns to his native Barcelona, Arsenal may find his creative flair too great a loss.
Good for… St Kilda supporters: Saints supporters will be able to sympathise with the pain and lack of silverware Arsenal has had to endure of late. With all the necessary attacking power to win the Premier League, Arsenal’s inability to capitalise on opportunities has mirrored St Kilda’s own premiership aspirations.
Despite being relegated to the second tier Championship Division this season, West Ham have made all the off season moves of a club intent on returning to the Premier League as soon as possible. Oh, and don’t forget – West Ham’s rivalry with Millwall F.C. is one of the most notorious in the world of football hooliganism
2011/12 prospects? With so many players wanting to part ways with the club to remain in the Premier League, West Ham’s needs to convince those want-away players that their spell in the Championship division will be a short one. With new management and some terrific signings already on board, The Hammers should be back in the Premier League next season.
Good for… Western Bulldogs supporters: Like the Doggies, West Ham is a blue collar club. Comparisons can be made with hard working West Ham midfielder Scott Parker and former Bulldogs on-baller Scott West. Both old fashioned honest players who never shirk the tough stuff. Starved of success of late, West Ham should give their supporters plenty to cheer about this season as they fight to return to the top division.
Who is your favourite team and why? Post your comments below.