Football fans rejoice: the 2015/16 Premier League season is set to kick off on 8 August 2015! If you’re new to London or you just don’t have a football team yet, don’t worry – I’m going to help you pick a local club to support.
After living in London for a number of years, I couldn’t help but fall in love with English culture: the colorful and creative use of language, complaining about the weather, the unique sense of humour, the pubs, and, of course, the football.
There’s really nothing quite like it. The passion, drama, rivalries and intense competition make English football more akin to a religion than a mere sport, and mark it as an essential experience for anyone planning to travel to Blighty for an extended period.
But I didn’t always feel that way. When I first arrived in England, fresh off the boat, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I couldn’t stand football. Like any good Kiwi, rugby was my religion and football was just some foreign tongue that I could not understand, let alone speak.
But that all changed when I was invited to join a fantasy football competition with my London co-workers. I soon became infatuated with the English Premier League, the country’s top-flight competition. My love affair with football had begun.
London Premier League football clubs
For the full English breakfast… oops, I mean experience, you first have to choose a team to support. Now, this is trickier than it may sound. For one thing, if your mates are all Millwall fans, then you’re better off supporting any Premier League team other than West Ham (see below). Meanwhile, you’re better off choosing a local football club – so you can actually go to a match.
Soon after moving to East Putney, Fulham (London’s oldest professional football club) became my team of choice – mostly because I could easily walk to Craven Cottage from my house. It was a great choice for about six years or so, until they were eventually relegated to the Championship (the grade below the top tier) after 13 years in the Premier League.
The less said about that the better 🙁
Still, I reckon my logic in picking a Premier League team was sound. London is currently home to five of the 20 teams that make up the Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, and West Ham.
In addition to those teams, newly promoted Watford is based in Hertfordshire (not far from London), and sometimes Fulham and QPR make the cut – just not this year.
Arsenal Football Club
One of the “big four” English Premier League teams, Arsenal has been in the Premier League since the very beginning. It’s based in north London, has a rivalry with Tottenham, and has won a bunch of honours over the years.
Although Arsenal haven’t won the Premier League since 2003/04, you can expect them to figure in the top four on any given year. For what it’s worth, I like this club. It’s my Premier League team of choice when Fulham isn’t in the top tier competition.
Chelsea Football Club
Chelsea is based in Fulham, southwest London, though its fans come from all over. The club is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, whose wealth ensures its continued success. Chelsea won the Premier League in 2014-15, 2009-10, and 2004-05.
For what it’s worth, I loathe Chelsea Football Club – but that’s mostly down to me being a Fulham fan, and we’re supposed to hate our west London rivals.
Crystal Palace Football Club
There’s a lot to like about Crystal Palace, the battlers from South Norwood. Definitely not one of the richer clubs, the boys from the Palace definitely fit the tag of scrappy underdogs. Unlike Chelsea, this team’s fans are mostly locals (and I don’t hate this club to my very core).
Crystal Palace returned to the Premier League in the 2013-14 season after eight years in the grade below.
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
It seems like a lot of neutral fans and visitors to London have been jumping on the Tottenham Hotspur FC bandwagon of late, especially since the club’s 2005-06 revival when it finished fifth two seasons in a row. Since then, this north London club has finished fourth twice.
A bunch of my mates support this football club, so I’ll fight the urge to give it too much shit. Besides, I’m a Fulham fan (“people who live in glass houses…” and all that). You could do worse than support Tottenham; you could support Chelsea, for instance.
West Ham United Football Club
“The Hammers” are based in east London, and although the team has never won the Premier League, it’s a fairly famous club with a long list of rivalries with other London clubs.
West Ham’s oldest and fiercest rivalry is arguably with Championship side Millwall FC, and matches between these two sides have been marred with fan violence over the years. It’s no wonder, then, that West Ham has been one of the London football clubs most associated with hooliganism throughout the years.
West Ham wouldn’t be my first pick, but if you’re looking for the full live football experience in London, then you could do far worse than venture out to Upton Park. It’ll certainly be lively – especially if you attend a west London derby (hope you survive!).