Football season began this morning at 4:30 a.m. Pacific time.
English football isn't widely followed in the United States, where the sport is known as soccer, but three members from the lowly FC Saints have developed an interest in the game.
I only had a passing interest in the EPL until I watched the Everton/Arsenal game last October in which the Toffees managed to end the stronger side's twenty-game unbeaten streak. Sixteen-year-old Wayne Rooney fired home a bullet from the top of the area and that was enough to hook me (listen to the goal: 255k mp3). Since then I've maintained a passing interest in the team. This year I plan to follow Everton from start to finish.
Rich spent the summer trying to decide which team he'd support. As he says:
I have settled on a team to follow this year...Chelsea. As you might have remembered, I whittled my list of possible teams to follow down to three: Liverpool, Newcastle [I like Newcastle, too—j.d.], and Chelsea. I started reading about them daily in the UK papers and other websites, and then with all the attention paid to Chelsea due to their wild spending spree, I realized one day I had just been reading about Chelsea for a few weeks. Chelsea have snapped up some good younger talent (most notably Joe Cole and Damien Duff) mixed in with some others. Plus, they are in the Champions League, so it should be a fun year.
So: Mart's going to support Arsenal, Rich is going to support Chelsea, and I'm going to support Everton. Realistically, Arsenal will fill first or second, Chelsea between third and fifth, and Everton sixth or seventh.
As if to foster our new rivalries, opening day featured a match between Everton and Arsenal.
Arsenal is surely the better team, but Everton plays with heart and is beginning to show some strength. Unfortunately, my team has suffered from a recent bout of injuries. Manager David Moyes, is working the transfer market, trying to find two or three players that can play immediately in order to patch the holes, but it's left our side a bit weak for now. And "a bit weak" is not a good state to be in when facing Arsenal. (Also, there's been a bit too much hype regarding Everton's "wonder boy", Wayne Rooney. He's a good player, but they hype is going to kill him, and create unattainable expectations in the fans.)
Today's match began with neither side able to control the tempo on the pitch. Arsenal had more chances early, but Everton had better. Then, in the second fifteen minutes, Everton seemed to gain control, taking the action to the Gunners goal. In the 22nd minute, Arsenal defender Sol Campbell was sent off for fouling Everton's Thomas Gravesen as the striker had a free path to the goal. Things looked well; my team was up eleven men to ten. For the next five minutes, Everton pressed the attack but the lads could not score. Instead, a judicious substitution for Arsenal changed the flow of the match, and the home side found the back of the net in the 35th minute.
Arsenal controlled the game in the second half, too, scoring a second goal in the 58th minute. Things looked bleak for Everton supporters. As the half wound down, though, Arsenal seemed to become more intent on complaining than playing football. This cost them as Everton striker Tomasz Radzinski was able to score in the 84th minute. The goal sparked the visitors, and Everton played the final ten minutes of the match at a feverish pace. To no avail: Arsenal hung on to a 2-1 victory.
It's a long season, and it's going to be fun.
Though I realize those who care already know this, and those who don't care don't want to know this, here are some basics regarding the English Premier League.
The English Premier League comprises twenty teams. Each team plays two games against every other team: one game at home, one game away. Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw. After thirty-eight games have been played, the team with the most points is declared the league champion. Over the past decade, that team has generally been Manchester United.
The bottom three teams are relegated: they are moved to the First Division, which is the next-lower league. In turn, the top three First Division teams are promoted to the Premier League. (The bottom teams in the First Division are relegated to the Second Division, and the bottom teams in the Second Division are relegated to the Third Division. There are a lot of English football teams. I think of it as similar to baseball in the United States. Imagine if the top AAA teams each year were promoted to Major League status, and the Detroits and Montreals of MLB were relegated to AAA. Fun, huh?)
Throughout the season there are various other competitions called cups. For example, the most important cup in the UK is the FA Cup. For the FA Cup, all of the teams in English professional football are placed in a pool and paired for matches according to some system with which I am unfamiliar. In the first round, a Third Division side might face Manchester United, for example. The winners in each round advance to the next. This makes for some excitement when some lowly Second Division team manages to advance deep into the competition.
There's a lot more to love about English football (and European football in general): Champions League, transfer speculation, footie managers on your home computer, etc. I'm just learning the game. I hope to sustain a friendly rivalry with Mart and Rich for years to come.
On this day at foldedspace.org
2005 — Hot Water When we bought our first house, we had problems with the water heater almost immediately. It was small, and it was pathologically incapable of producing truly hot water. [Audio version available.]
2004 — Guest Blog: Conservatives and Gay Marriage At the risk of starting a flame war on JD's blog, I wanted to post something about the gay marriage issues that have been cropping up.