Saturday, August 19, 2006

English Football 101

As promised, here you go. In honor of opening day in the premiership, here is all I know about the questions you have.

Ok- Before we get started allow me to state the following:

“I am not a soccer expert”. I may be the closest to one that is in this conversation, but I do not claim to have all of the right answers. I have been following World Soccer for several years now, but not enough to know everything. With that said, I do read a lot, watch a lot, and discuss a lot of the items covered, so I think you can reasonably assume I am not making up answers to your questions on the beautiful game.

Also, a few items at the top. I really only follow the English Premiership. Why? Because it is most accessible to me. It is covered in English (very important) and it has many, many games on television.

I am a fan of the famous club, Liverpool. Why? And how do you select your team? read my lengthy discussion on that from May of 2005 here

I strongly recommend if you want to give this a go that you select your favorite team. But one word of caution. There are 3 groups in the English top division. Group 1 has 4 teams: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. This group has nearly all of their games televised. They also win nearly every trophy of substance. They also buy nearly every player of substance. If you want a team that you will enjoy following, Group 1 is for you.

Group 2 includes middle of the road clubs: Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Bolton, Blackburn, Charlton, Everton, Fulham, Tottenham, and Middlesbrough. These clubs will get you more respect from the English guy if you pick them, but only some of their games are televised, and they have virtually no chance of winning the league or the FA Cup (I’ll explain later). When they get good players, they will ultimately lose them to the big clubs (Wayne Rooney from Everton to Manchester United is one example) and while they always stay in the top division, they will frustrate you more often than not.

And, finally Group 3. This group has Reading, Wigan, Sheffield, Watford, Portsmouth, and West Ham (who might need to be in group 2). These are teams you should not make your favorites unless you enjoy the Rangers and you want your soccer team to remind you of them. They will try real hard, but they have no chance. Their only goal all season long will be to avoid relegation. That means they are trying to finish at least 17th out of 20 so they can remain in the top division. And it will take every ounce of strength to do that. There are a number of other teams that also belong in this group, but since those other teams are in the Coca-Cola Championship right now (division two), they will not even be mentioned in this space. Avoid these teams at all cost.

Again, I strongly recommend you select a team, and get to know the players and rivals, and so forth, otherwise the enormity of World Football will swallow you up. Focus on your team and their situation and I assure you will enjoy this.

Now, rather than writing it all here, allow me to ramble on as we answer your actual emails that I have received leading up to today’s opening of the new season:

Alright Bob, I am hooked on soccer. I've always liked it, but now that I am 23, have TiVO, Fox Soccer and the girlfriend is leaving soon for a 3 month trip through Italy I have the time. She will be putting you new theory where 5 days enough for vacation to the test.

Back to soccer. I understand the EPL, but this Champions League and FA Cup stuff has given my tired head. I have read the UEFA site for the Champions League, but I think they have over explained it thus confusing me. If you get some time could you either explain it to me or do a blog entry?

Thanks Bob
Shawn in Grapevine

Thank you, Shawn. Ok. Let’s discuss the competitions.

Every season, there are as many as 5 different trophies your team can win (although you could not win all 5 during the same year). For instance, my club, Liverpool has not won the Premiership since 1990. But, in 2005, they won the European Cup, and in 2006 they won the FA Cup. So, while not winning the league, they have added to their hardware and have celebrated as champions. Here are the 5 competitions each season:

#1 – Premiership Title
This goes to the team who demonstrates the dominance in the ultimate marathon, a trip through the entire 10 month marathon. It takes 38 games (all 19 opponents, home and away) and is considered as good a test to determine the team with the best quality as any. Chelsea has won the Premiership title the last 2 years, Arsenal before them, and the Manchester United owner the decade of the 1990’s more than the Cowboys did.

#2 – FA Cup
The oldest football tournament in the world, this trophy is won by advancing through an amazing field much like the NCAA tournament. Except that there is open admission. Last season, that meant 687 teams make the tournament. Imagine the NCAA basketball tournament, except that any city league team may enter the tournament, too. The big teams don’t join the tournament for 2 rounds, thus generally bouncing the ridiculous entries first, but every team that wants in can be in. This is a knockout tournament but without brackets. Instead, after each round, there is a new random draw. It sets up amazing drama and the players seem to act like this is the Super Bowl.

#3 – European Cup (The UEFA Champions League)
This is possibly the biggest championship of them all, but because it is so rare, it is almost the impossible dream for most clubs and they don’t even consider it. The best teams of each of the European Leagues play in a full fledged 32-team tournament every year. Last year, Barcelona beat Arsenal in the Final, the year before Liverpool beat AC Milan. It is an amazing tournament matching the best teams from Spain, Italy, Germany, England, Holland, France and beyond against each other in clashes that are almost all played at night in mid-week.

#4 – League Cup or Carling Cup
This is very similar to the NIT. It is inferior to the FA Cup, and there are years when some teams don’t even try to put their best effort out in games of this tournament. They will almost lose on purpose so that they can preserve their team for the competitions they deem more important. Unlike the FA Cup, it is limited to only the 96 teams that make up the English Football Association (All 5 divisions). The Championship is played in Early March, and often thought of as a consolation prize for a big team, or a huge victory for a little guy. The only problem with my NCAA/NIT comparison is that you can be in both tournaments at the same time.

#5 – UEFA Cup
This is the NIT of the Champions League. In England, the top 4 teams go to the Champions League, and I believe the next 4 teams go to the 32-team UEFA Cup. Playing in Europe is very presitgous to all clubs, and for many teams in Group 2 or 3, just playing in the UEFA Cup is thought of as a pretty huge deal. Of course, if Manchester United is in this tournament, they are pretty embarrassed. But, it does happen, and it is better than nothing.

There you go. Now, to really make your head spin, all of these competitions are going on at the same time. It is not uncommon to play your Premiership game on Saturday, a Champions League game on Tuesday, The FA Cup on Saturday, and another Prem game on Monday. This is where you need lots of depth on your club, because no player can sustain a schedule like that.

Hi Bob. Thanks for directing me to the English Premire Leauge. My wife thinks I'm crazy for watching re runs of matches played last season and getting excited about them. What is the deal with the multiple leagues? FA Cup, CL etc. I noticed that EPL teams are playing games against other leagues. Do all teams have to play lets say...FC Barcelona and if they dont, how does it figure into final point count, or is it just based on EPL head to head matches. I am getting geeked up for the first season of watching them for the first time this week. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Also, what is your prediction who will come out ontop in the EPL? I know Chelsea loaded up on talent and Mancester United lost Van Nieltrooy, what do you think?


Chris- None of the competitions affect point totals in your home league. But, they do get your players injured and thus affects the entire big picture. But, I did not mention the incentive to be in these competitions earlier besides trophies. Any Guess?

Money. Money is how everything works in World Football. There is no draft. There are no trades. Only Cash. The more you have, the better players you buy. The better players, the more you win. The more you win, the more money you earn, and so the cycle continues. The rich get richer. This sport is all about results. And the results are all about cash. So, you win the European Cup you get $20 million pounds, I believe. With that, you can purchase many decent players or 1 great player. It is really one big game of monopoly.

As for my pick to win the Premiership…It has to be Chelsea. They have a super team that is much like the Yankees. Superstars at every spot on the field. Then, Liverpool, ManU and Arsenal 4th. But Chelsea should win again. I hope I am wrong.


Thanks to you and a good friend of mine I'm starting to get into British Premier League Soccer. I have to have a team or two to root for throughout the season to keep me into it. I know you've adopted Liverpool, any particular reason? Any other teams you like?

What else can you tell me to look out for as MLS and World Cup semi-fan new to English football? Thanks.

Matt in Valley Ranch

Please read the essay linked at the top for the full Liverpool story. I also enjoy Arsenal and Portsmouth. I cannot stand Manchester United (largest bandwagon in the world) or Chelsea.

What else to look out for? I get a kick out of noticing how almost no fans are not in their seats at all times. I don’t think anyone leaves their seat during the game. It is shocking to see perfect attendance after watching Mavericks games at the AAC early in the 3rd Quarter.

Also, I am quite sure you will enjoy the 1 hour, 45 minute sporting event. It never goes over 2 hours in league play. Never.

Over the past two years I have been getting in to soccer more and more. I am really starting to love the game. Keep up your efforts in making reference to it from time to time. I have to work during most of your show but I have heard enough to know that you talk about it a little. My kid played on a team named The Arsenal and that is what got me going. I started following them and learning about the English Premier League. I loved the World Cup and look forward to more soccer in my life

Is that Nike commercial with Ronaldinho kicking the ball into the crossbar four times in a row real? I have heard many different opinions and I wondered what you thought.
David McFarland

I love the guy. Ronaldinho is my new hero. But, there is no way that is real. I want to believe it, but there is no way. Kind of like the commercial where Lebron is making 10 full court shots in a row. No way.

Here is on explanation:


I need some help…I am trying to get into ELP this year. And I need a website that can give me a preview of the teams with predictions. I am not ready to do a Simmons and declare a team, but I need some info and get rid of my chick level knowledge of players, teams rivalries and traditions.

Thanks in advance

My favorite website for English soccer is …Also, is good, too.


I have been inspired by your love of soccer to try to become of fan of the English Premier League. Two questions if you have time. Is there a blog or website that you use to keep in touch with the league. Also I have never been out of the country so this may be a stupid question but I was trying to register for a newsletter from one of the teams and it asks for a phone number. Trying every way I could think of the form would not accept my phone number and I was unable to find a site that shows me how to enter an international phone number. You may not be able to answer that but since you are a world traveler I figured there was a chance you could.


Damon McMurdo

Damon, I am not sure, but maybe someone can leave a phone number hint in the comments section. As for your first inquiry, please use the above websites from my last answer, as well as my favorite English Sports Page Guardian Unlimited …Reading a sports page can help you along quickly, and that is the easiest one to enjoy…

Dearest of all Bobs,

I am in dire need of finding my premiership needs via an online outlet, as I am too cheap to purchase satellite. Do you know of a site that I can watch live games, or a way to stream selected matches to my magic box? Also have you become Soccer Geek enough to enjoy the greatness of Subbuteo? If so consider yourself challenged. Mini Man U shall defeat Mini Arsenal any day on any pitch. Thanks for any help you can provide.

P1 1/2 Dave

Dave, again, we are at the mercy of the comments below to find answers for you since I am clueless. But, this is a good time to discuss television, because without the tv, we have no reason to follow.

For English Football, you now need 2 channels to get everything. And, I need everything. Those channels are Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports. This is new in 2006, and there is good news and bad news here. The good news is that there is no longer Pay Per View. This should save me big time, because last season, PPV cost me $269 for the year.

The bad news is that Setanta is to my knowledge only on Directv, and also costs $11 a month to get it. One more reason that you must have Directv. Have I mentioned Dish Direct at 888-834-1999?

Now, once you have these two channels (613 and 615 on Directv) you will have more English Football than you can shake a stick at.

This Weekend you will see:

6:30am – Liverpool at Sheffield United Setanta
8:30am – Aston Villa at Arsenal Setanta
9:00am – Wigan at Newcastle Fox
11:00am – Tottenham at Bolton Fox
1:15pm – Reading at Middlesbrough Fox (delayed)
1:30pm – Charlton at West Ham Setanta (delayed)

7:30am – Fulham at Manchester United Setanta
10:00am – Manchester City at Chelsea Fox

So, 8 of the 10 games are on tv in the USA. That is very impressive, and you can expect at least 6 every weekend. But, there is no basis for who is on what channel, so expect frustration if you want to see your team each week but you don’t have both channels.

The best website for knowing what channel your team is on is

Sturminator, enjoy your work. Too bad you can’t work in more soccer on the show. Enjoy the blog, especially “Communist” Chelsea!

Question: I see where Premiership teams (the good ones anyway) play all of these games outside their regular schedule. I think I have a handle on the FA Cup – it looks like our US Open Cup, where teams from different leagues compete for one trophy.

But last spring I saw where the UEFA Cup and the Champions League final were played like a week apart with 4 different teams. I am assuming that the top 4 or 5 teams in each European domestic “Division 1” league compete in the Champions League Tournament (laid out like the World Cup with round robin play and “eliminators”).

But I don’t know where the UEFA Cup teams come from. Please shed some light on this cumbersome situation. Looking forward to the beginning of the Premiership season on Saturday.

Bob Sax CEBS

Sure, Bob. The UEFA Cup is made up of each domestic leagues “almost top” teams after the “top” teams have gone to the Champions League. To make matters even more confusing, 8 teams that are eliminated from the Champions League group stages are then inserted into the UEFA Cup. Like I said, it is nowhere near the prestige, much like the NIT tournament.

Well, I hope this has been reasonably informative. I am more than happy to spread the word about this sports gold. It has turned boring Saturday Mornings filled with waiting for US Sports to start into great sporting competition. I love it.

Please bookmark the various links, as they can be a valuable resource for you.

Also, check out this column from the great writer, Bill Simmons as he joined the party last month, too.

The 10 month journey begins today!

Go Reds!!


Anonymous said...

Up the Gunners!!!!

Anonymous said...

Vince Young is golden. He doesn't play gay football, but rather plays football of the American version. With a helmet. He also played highschool American football. The guy created an awesome nickname for the word "degree". That puts him up there with other great people. Almost on the level of a Deity. Not quite though, as I've yet to sort out the list. Aggy will fail as always.

Anonymous said...

Very nice Bob! Thanks a ton...

Anonymous said...

Forget about the UEFA Cup. Why try to explain what it is three different times when it is worth nothing anymore.

There used to be a time when only the "Champion" of each league played in the Champions League, which meant that 4 of the top 5 teams of every country every year would play for the UEFA Cup. But to make more money they now let 3 or 4 teams of the top leagues play in the Champions League, which makes the UEFA Cup a joke.

Anonymous said...

The best way to watch games on the internet is It's a huge messageboard site and has sections for just about every team in Europe, and alot of times they will have links to streams of games. They're usually in Arabic or Japanese, but what the hell right?

Anonymous said...

1. L'Pool (if that Kuyt is any good)
2. Chelsea
3. Tottenham
4. Arsenal

F.A. Cup
Arsenal (best team to watch in EPL)

Champions League
Real Madrid (proper coach for a change)

Anonymous said...

Everything you need to watch live soccer on your PC.
All the Applications and schedule.
My Fav is PPstream

Anonymous said...

Dear sweet, clean, filthy holy God. If ANYONE, thinks that any club other than Chelski is going to win they league, then they are mostly delusional. Have you not seen the last two seasons? There was never even a THREAT to their title run, and now they're deeper than ever. There are only two things that can keep Chelski from winning. One is Chelski; the ther is a Chelski charter crash. The rest of the league is just looking to keep it close until at least late April at best.

So, I guess, I'll give my two cents:

1. Chelski
2. United...again.
3. Scousers
4. Arsenal
5. Spurs

Where the real excitement is...

18. Fulham
19. Sheffield United
20. Watford.

F.A. Cup: United

Carling Cup: Spurs

UEFA Cup: who gives a f#$%?

Champions League: With no real Italian opposition this year, it should be wide open. Chelski or Barca to repeat.

I'm tired, now.

F-Every team out there not named Manchester United. said...

After all these years, I think I've finally decyphered Bob. Bob doesn't know that much about the major sports in the US, football, basketball and baseball. Or at least he doesn't know any more than the average yokel about those sports. He certainly doesn't know more about college football, outside of Wisconsinin football perhaps, than the average Ticket listener. And he doesn't know much at all about two sports that are major in these parts, high school football and NASCAR.

If Bob focused on talking about those sports, he couldn't legitimately carry the nicknames "I'm Sports Sturm" and The Sports Bully, and he wouldn't be able to write, as he does in today's blog, that he may not be the expert but he sure as heck knows more than you (classic!).

So, what does Bob do? He focuses on sports that are highly obscure in these parts, like hockey and English soccer. Never mind that if you dropped Bob into a bar in Toronto or a pub in Liverpool, every single person in the joint would know more than Bob about hockey or soccer, respectively. What matters is that Bob can talk over the heads of North Texans about two sports that most North Texans don't care much about, basically sending the message "I've already so mastered the puny local sports scene that I have gone on to meatier challenges involving foreign sports about which none of you peons know anything." Hence, he cements his sports genius reputation.

Gotta hand it to you, Bob. That is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

^ ^ ^ ^ ^
What a dick.

Anonymous said...

where do the supporters of these clubs get together to watch games in the dfw area? i know the tip has the liverpool supporters, but what other pubs carry the games?

Anonymous said...

that was a bogus penalty for Liverpool...still dropped two points they will desperatly need later----- Man U to kick the sh*t out of Chelski and all other challangers this year. Owen Hargraves in a Red Devil jersey is going to look superb.

Sturminator said...

Garbage Time-

Sounds like a challenge. You know where to find me for this "Does Bob know anything about Sports?" test that you have ready.

I am ready to be impressed by your vast knowledge that could no doubt put me out of a job.

I also thank you for allowing me to earn a living and not taking my job yet.



Anonymous said...

Ah, Bob. Don't stoop to his level. We all know who the REAL Sports Bully is.

Just a note: Arsenal fans meet at Trinity Hall pub @ Mockingbird Station. Also, fans of other clubs could meet their as well--they'll have Setanta games all season long. It'll save me the $12/mo.

We started out at the Londoner in Addison, this morning but they weren't serving any food. In fact, they were still mopping the floors from last night. I do like the atmostphere. I feel like I'm in someone's home.

At the half, we went over to Trinity and had an Irish Breakfast. Plus, I had a Smithwicks Ale at 10:30AM which is always a bit odd on the ole taste buds.

If I weren't an Arsenal fan, I'd be a Tottenham fan. North London little buddies. Always a threat to break into that Group 1 that Bob's talking about.

Over and out.

Sturminator said...

You are right, Phil. Even if I am not better than that, i should aspire to be.


Anonymous said...

"If I weren't an Arsenal fan, I'd be a Tottenham fan."

That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen. If I weren't a Cowboy's fan, I'd support the Redskins, or maybe the Eagles.

Anonymous said...

this is a nice read bob-o...gotta say i disagree with not wanting to latch on to group 2 or 3 team though....i think it makes watchin the games a bit more interesting...its easy to root for the big dogs, sometimes you gotta go for the lil guys..reading should gain new supporters having 2 americans in the starting lineup..not to mention this is their first yr in the big league...80 yrs! stevie g is still an absolute genius on the ball and top 3 players in the world

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

looks like setanta is having a freeview today and tomorrow, if anyone cares.

Observer said...

Absolutely first-rate summary, Bob. I've been watching for a year, following Tottenham and Manchester United (because I like Rooney and am too beaten down to just root for Tottenham all the time).

I can't see how anyone will beat Chelsea. They got two new superstars this year while Man U lost van Nistlerooy (and may lose Ronaldo?) and replaced him with two lesser Euros. Arsenal and Liverpool also seemingly just made sideways moves.

Tottenham will likely get worse this year because they didn't really do anything for their depth and now they're playing UEFA football. More matches will wear them down. Either that, or they'll just bail on the UEFA cup. They'll be lucky to finish top six again.

I was really surprised to see the England team do so poorly in the World Cup given that half the team was Chelsea and the rest were Rooney, Ronaldo, Ferdinand, Crouch and a few other Premier League all-stars.

Anonymous said...

I think we can all forgive Sweet Soccer Bob for going overboard in response to the poster known as Filthy AIDSy Garbage Time. I would be bitter too if some internet spare called me out on a day when my beloved Reds were strugg-a-ling against the mighty Sheffield United.

Anyone see the Middlesborough-Reading game? Ugly goals but what a game.

Campo's goal against Tottenham HotSPARE (bicycle horn drop)was greatness though.

Let's all pray for a Chelsea upset and/or horribe male grooming product injury to Crissy Ronaldo tomorrow. You'll never walk alone Sports Sturm.

Anonymous said...

I'm like one of the emailers who has been watching "Premier League Classics" for the last month trying to learn about the Premiership. So today was a very exciting day. I have gotten to like two teams, Spurs and Liverpool, so watching Spurs play today was horrendous and L'Pool had a crap game as well. It seems as though most of Liverpool's games will probably be on Setenta so I won't be able to watch. Today was a great day, second only to the Sunday when all the NFL starts. What a great time to be a sports fan after so many horrendous months. Go Sporrrrrts...

Anonymous said...

We do have an English Soccer section on the Bob & Dan Nerd Forum.

Anonymous said...

5-1 over a crap Fulham team. Now THAT is how you open a season!

Take notice Scouser, Gunner and Spurs scum.

Now, off to watch Chelksi win 10-0 or so. I better enjoy our 2-hour reign at the top of the table.

F-the Top 5

Anonymous said...

I don't watch English football, but I caught the movie "Green Street Hooligans" this weekend, about the "firm" that protected the reputation of West Ham supporters. A newbie American joined the group (played by the guy who would be picked dead f**king last if we were to choose an emmisary: Elijah Wood), and learned how to get your ass kicked over nothing at all.

Terrible movie.

Anonymous said...


Soccer is still gay.

Chance said...

Liverpool? Tsk tsk. You Yankee Wanker. Me? I am a proud Gooner, Arsenal Red through and through and have been for almost two weeks. I may not know which end of the ball they kick but Arsenal is my team.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bob! Yea Norm!

When will you breakdown the 5A division for Texas Highschool Football? That way your readers can actually enjoy your blog!

Anonymous said...

im an american looking for some information on online soccer betting. I like to participate in all sorts of online sports betting, but i am particularly excited when i bet on football - played either with or without helmets!

Anonymous said...

Should there be a Salary Cap in Football?
Personally I think there should be! It’s just getting to be stupid money in football at the top of the premiership!
It’s always the same teams at the top proving that football success is based purely on money which ruins the idea of it being a sport! They’ve done it in rugby, basketball, hockey and American football and it makes the sports more competitive and better to watch!
I do a little Spread Betting (or more precisely Football Spread Betting) from time to time and most matches don’t hold much surprise who is going to win, its boring! I want to see a team at the bottom pulling off an amazing season beating last seasons winners in a close fought battle!
Make things fair! It shouldn’t be about money!