Pick a Club (Top 10): How Your Philly Fandom Determines Your English Premier League Soccer Allegiance

Pick a Club (Top 10): How Your Philly Fandom Determines Your English Premier League Soccer Allegiance

At left, former Eagles coach Andy Reid and current Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. At center, Everton's Marouane Fellaini. At right, former 76er Andrew Bynum. (AP Photos)

Part 1 of our English Premier League Preview got a lot of great feedback on Thursday. Even the anti-soccer trolls left their dark basements to enjoy the sunshine, because they were nowhere to be found.

Yesterday, we went through the 10 teams likely to finish in the bottom half of the 20-team league. Today we follow the money and tell you the names you might have heard of before.

Again, we'll go in reverse order. Remember that while these 10 teams are battling for a title (technically), many of them are focused on a top-four finish, which means a spot in next year's Champions League, and the HUGE pay day that comes with it.

10. Newcastle United (Northern England) - Black and White (Alternate: Dark Blue)

Cheer for the Magpies If: You're a Phillies or Eagles fan who takes pride in the fact no one likes you. There may be no EPL team that would partner better with the rabid Phillies or Eagles fan than Newcastle. Its fans are dedicated through and through, support a team with one of the longest histories in England (the club dates back to 1877), live in a blue-collar northeast city far from the posh streets of London and are pretty much universally reviled in the rest of the country. Newcastle fans travel amazingly well and routinely fill 52,000-seat St. James' Park, even when the team was in the second tier. Despite their long and storied history, there is a decided lack of trophies (sound like any teams you know?). Newcastle has four league titles, but three came between 1904 and 1910.

Steer Clear If: You have visions of a validating your fandom with a trip to St. James' Park the next time you're in London on business. With a drive time of nearly five hours, the only cities farther from London are in Scotland.

9. Swansea City (South Wales) - Black and White (Alternate: Blue and Yellow)

Cheer for the Swans If: You're un-ironically looking forward to the Chip Kelly-led Eagles in 2013. The Swans won't win the league, they won't shut out opponents, and they likely won't improve on last year's surprising ninth-place finish in their second year in the Premier League. But man, they are fun to watch. Manager Michael Laudrup plays an attractive attacking style, and doesn't really seem to care if his team gives up goals, as long as they score more. Last year they opened with a 5-0 win at Queens Park Rangers and also beat Arsenal on the road. Spaniard Michu (one name only) was one of the best players in the EPL last season and a blast to watch.

Steer Clear: If you ever hope to speak with a native of Swansea and understand what they're saying. Have you ever listened to someone with a Welsh accent?

8. Stoke City (West-Central England - Red and White (Alternate: Black and Yellow)

Cheer for the Potters If: You REALLY like America. Yesterday we gave you Sunderland and American star Jozy Altidore. But with Stoke City, you'll see plenty of familiar faces. The Potters have FOUR Americans on the roster -- defender/midfielder Geoff Cameron, winger Brek Shea, midfielder/defender Maurice Edu and striker Juan Agudelo. Shea is unlikely to start the season after a nasty tackle by the Union's Matt Kassel in a friendly at PPL Park last month, but Cameron saw some time last season and Edu is trying to work his way into the starting 11. Should all four ever start at once, expect English soccer fans' heads to explode, since they don't think we know how to play soccer in America.

Steer Clear If: You enjoy goals and the "beautiful game." While things might be a little better this year under new manager Mark Hughes, Stoke are known as a bruising, physical, grind-it-out kind of team. They are happy to come away with hard-fought draws and the occasional 1-0 win.

7. Everton (Liverpool, England) - Blue and White (Alternate: Blue and Yellow)

Cheer for the Toffees If: You loved Dr. J's afro and this was your favorite part of the Andrew Bynum Experience. Why? Because (at least until Manchester United splashes the cash later this month) Everton's Marouane Fellaini has the best hair in the EPL. Seriously, just look at that salad. I honestly am not sure how he can accurately head a ball with that hair. Oh, and he's really really good (12 goals and seven assists in 2012-13). Just don't get too attached: Rumors are still out there that Manchester United and former Everton manager David Moyes might make a move for Fellaini before the transfer window closes in September. If he leaves, at least you'd still have No. 1 American goalkeeper Tim Howard, who is an Everton institution at this point.

Steer Clear: If you don't want to risk a major letdown in your first season on the bandwagon. Moyes was widely considered one of the top managers in the game after years of overachieving at Everton without the financial backing of the teams above him in the table. But now he's at Manchester United, and has been replaced by former Wigan manager Roberto Martinez, himself a respected coach who did more with Wigan than anyone could've reasonably expected. I think Everton will be fine, but there's a chance the bottom could fall out if the club starts slowly.

6. Liverpool (Liverpool, England) - Red and White (Alternate: White, Blue, Red & Horrendous)

Cheer for the Reds If: You are still loyal to Ryan Howard. Like Howard, Liverpool is not far removed from its glory days. The club has more European trophies (11) than any English team, to go along with 18 league titles, seven FA Cups and eight league cups. Just eight years ago, the Reds pulled off what is arguably the greatest comeback in history to eventually win the 2005 Champions League final over AC Milan in Istanbul. But, like Howard, the Reds are a shell of their former selves. The team teetered in the lower half of the league early last season before climbing back up, and now seem to be content to hang around the top 5. And if you need one more baseball connection, Liverpool is owned by the same group that owns the Boston Red Sox (LeBron James also owns a small piece of the club).

Steer Clear If: You feel a need to actually like the personalities of your favorite players. Liverpool Luis Suarez is, by all accounts, a certifiable scumbag. A scumbag who, while playing in The Netherlands in 2010, was suspended seven games for biting an opponent; suspended eight games for racial abuse in 2011; and suspended 10 games last year for ... wait for it ... BITING ANOTHER PLAYER. Also, if you pick based on uniforms, steer clear of Liverpool, as their second and third jerseys this season look they were lifted from a bad MC Hammer video.

5. Tottenham Hotspur (London) - White and Navy Blue (Alternate: Powder Blue)

Cheer for Spurs If: You enjoyed watching the Philadelphia Union sell and/or trade all of their best players in 2011 and 2012. American Clint Dempsey had a solid season for Spurs in 2012, but did not seem to be part of the team's plans this year, necessitating Dempsey's surprise move back to Major League Soccer. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for Spurs fans, as all-world star Gareth Bale is likely on his way out the door in the next month, with a move to Real Madrid in the works. Just Thursday, Tottenham admitted that a banged-up Bale won't be ready this weekend. The team is trying to block a move, but like all of these transfers, money talks and Bale seems intent on leaving. So have fun with that, Spurs fans.

Steer Clear If: You don't laugh at this, which was posted by commenter db21 yesterday after I linked to the full version at the bottom of yesterday's post.

4. Arsenal (London) - Red and White (Alternate: Blue and Yellow)

Cheer for the Gunners If: Andy Reid was your favorite coach of all time. The similarities between the current Arsenal situation and the Reid era with the Eagles are eerie. French manager Arsene Wenger has been in charge at Arsenal since 1996. Unlike Reid, he did win trophies early on (including an amazing unbeaten season in 2003-04) but the Gunners have not won a single piece of silverware in more than eight years, and Wenger has remained in charge anyway. In the quick-trigger world of English soccer, where walking with a shoelace untied is reason enough to be fired, Wenger's reign continues in North London. The similarities don't end there, as Wenger's press conferences are notoriously dull (How do you say "Time's Yours" in French?), and the team traded in an intimidating old stadium (Highbury) for a generic, sterile, money-making building with a sponsor name (The Emirates) in 2006. They have not won a trophy since moving there.

Steer Clear If: You aren't happy with fourth place. Last season, Wenger famously said that, "The first trophy is to finish in the top four" and earn a spot in the Champions League. The team has struck out on rumored transfers this season (including a bid for Luis Suarez) and made headlines last year when the cheapest season ticket was revealed to be nearly $1,600.

3. Manchester United (Manchester, England) - Red and White (Alternate: Black and Navy)

Cheer for the Red Devils If: You have a Yankees hat next to your Lakers jersey and a Cowboys sticker on your bumper (and live nowhere near New York, Los Angeles or Dallas). There are a few legitimate Man United fans out there, but most would fit in nicely in the usually empty seats behind the plate at the new Yankee Stadium. The money flies around, the trophies pile up and the bandwagon fills to capacity at Old Trafford, while the team's players, its now-retired legendary manager and its fans seemingly embrace the fact that they are reviled by 90 percent of the world's soccer fans. Manchester United is now publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the club sells so many jerseys worldwide that Chevrolet -- yes, the one that the government bailed out because they were poor -- recently paid nearly $600 million just to put its logo on the front starting in 2014. So, by all means, go out and get one of those shirts and wear it to the bar the next time you order a PBR. You'll fit right in.

Steer Clear If: You want to be my friend.

2. Chelsea (London) - Blue and White (Alternate: White or Black)

Cheer for the Blues If: Larry Brown was your favorite Philly coach of all time. Chelsea will be managed for the second time by the nomadic and arrogant Jose Mourinho, who literally gave himself the nickname, "The Special One." Like Brown, Mourinho makes no secret about his inability to sit still for very long. He has coached six teams since the year 2000, and this will be his second time at Chelsea. But, like Brown, Mourinho gets the best out of his players, and is not afraid to tell you about it. In his last stint at Chelsea, he led the Blues to their best point total ever and their first title in 50 years. With some of the world's top talent on the roster again in 2013, expect Chelsea to be right there at the end.

Steer Clear If: You didn't connect with the free-spending Phillies of the last decade. Chelsea sits in one of the wealthier neighborhoods of London, but actually had a pretty conservative approach for many years. That is until Russian bazillionaire Roman Abramovich bought the team in 2003 and put together the best team(s) money could buy. In the 10 years since, Abramovich has spent an estimated $3.1 BILLION (billion, with a "B") on players, managers, and, I assume, diamond-crusted toilet seats for the owner's box.

1. Manchester City (Manchester, England) - Sky Blue and White (Alternate: Black and Gray)

Cheer for the Sky Blues If: You're awesome, handsome, beautiful, a gentleman and a scholar (can you tell yet which team I support?). Seriously though, as much as it pains me to say it, latching onto Manchester City now is similar to being a Phillies @FanSince09. My love of City began in college over a game of FIFA 02 and continued even when City came dangerously close to relegation in 2005-06. Things changed in 2008 when the club was purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group, meaning I now assure people "I rooted for City before the rich Sheiks came around!" Those of us who were around before the money poured in take great pride in it, much in the same way Phillies fans wear their 10,000-plus losses like a badge of honor.

Steer Clear If: You don't like fun, or a team that wins the most dramatic championship in the history of the English game.

[nbcsports_video src=//www.youtube.com/embed/26Wfs4RG_DM service=youtube width=590 height=332]

Thanks for sticking it out through these two posts, and in all honesty, you should give the game a chance, whether it's Saturday morning on TV or with a seat at PPL Park. Soccer fans can be snobby and intimidating at times, but those of us who love the game don't like those people anyway.

Set that alarm now.

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

NFL Notes: Luck has successful right shoulder surgery, owner says

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has undergone surgery on the right shoulder that's bothered him the past two seasons.

Colts owner Jim Irsay announced Thursday on Twitter that Luck was recovering from successful outpatient surgery. Irsay says Luck will be ready for the 2017 season.

Luck was listed on the Colts injury report throughout this season and missed several practices, with coach Chuck Pagano saying the team had a plan for keeping Luck healthy while he dealt with a sore throwing shoulder.

Luck missed two games early in the 2015 season because of the shoulder injury. He threw for 4,240 yards and 31 touchdowns this past season after signing a six-year, $140 million contract in June.

Roethlisberger chasing Brady 
PITTSBURGH -- Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible.

Their brief exchange before Brady and the New England Patriots visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in October provided a snapshot into a rivalry that never was. They bro-hugged. They lamented the left knee injury that forced Roethlisberger out the lineup on that warm late fall afternoon.

And then Roethlisberger made an uncharacteristic request : a signed Brady jersey to hang on the wall in Roethlisberger's home office next to Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

"I consider him one, if not the best of all-time," Roethlisberger said.

A group Roethlisberger does not include himself in.

Not even with as many championships as Brady's longtime friend and occasional foil Peyton Manning (two). Not even with a spot in the top 10 in just about every major statistical category out there on Roethlisberger's still growing resume. Not even with a bust in Canton one day alongside Brady and the rest of the guys whose jerseys adorn the walls of his home almost assured regardless of what happens in Sunday's AFC title game.

The reason is simple: rings. Brady has four, including two he earned while carving a path through the playoffs that included victories in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2004. Roethlisberger has two, neither of which required Roethlisberger or the Steelers to take out Brady along the way.

It's why Roethlisberger just shakes his head when asked if he's part of the "gold standard" label that he so eagerly attaches to Brady.

"Not as (his) level," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, with all the Super Bowls he has."

This weekend provides Roethlisberger his best - and maybe his last - chance to do to Brady what Brady has done to so many others over the last 16 years. Even if the last thing Roethlisberger wants to do is get pulled into the "star quarterback vs. star quarterback" narrative that fueled so many showdowns between Brady and Manning through the years.

"It's obviously bigger than the two of us," Roethlisberger said. "I know he is used to it, with the Peyton Manning and Tom thing. This is two football teams that have won championships. Us going against each other is more than just one man. We aren't playing tennis. We are going out there to play a football game with 11 guys at a time."

Salute to service award finalists
HOUSTON -- Falcons coach Dan Quinn and Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva are the finalists for the NFL's Salute to Service Award.

The winner of the honor, presented by USAA, the official military appreciation sponsor of the league, will be announced during NFL Honors the night before the Super Bowl. Both Quinn's and Villanueva's teams, of course, are still in the running to play in that game on Feb. 5.

Quinn and Villanueva were selected for their exceptional efforts to honor and support members of the military community.

Last spring, Quinn hosted a "Rookie Club Olympics" for which he invited 100 military members from Fort Benning, Georgia to the Falcons' training facility to participate. He created the event as a way for NFL players and the military community to unite and work together as a team.

"The military represents team on the highest level," says Quinn, who in his second year as Atlanta's coach and has it hosting the NFC championship game Sunday against Green Bay. "It's an honor to be up for this award that recognizes the standard of excellence set by our nation's military and encourages our community to give back and support service members and their families who serve our nation."

Quinn also stages a military day at training camp and hosts 20 military members at each Falcons home game throughout the season. He also provided an opportunity for families of fallen soldiers with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) to attend the Falcons' Salute to Service game on Nov. 27. All 63 families attending were given a VIP visit at practice and were provided a one-night hotel stay in Atlanta courtesy of Quinn. Each player wore the initials of a fallen hero on his helmet during the game and during practice; the families were given a replica helmet of that player with a personalized note in honor of their hero.

Last offseason, Quinn led four Falcons players on a weeklong USO tour through the Pacific.

Villanueva grew up as a military child, living in the United States and Europe, where he played high school football. He then attended West Point, where he was a tight end, and was commissioned in the Army in 2010.

Promoted to captain in 2014, Villanueva was deployed three times. He received the Bronze Star Medal and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor for heroism in combat.

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

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AP

For the first time, NBC Sports regional networks add live, local Major League Baseball streaming

STAMFORD, Conn. – January 19, 2017 – NBC Sports Regional Networks today announced an agreement with MLBAM to stream local market MLB games, as well as pre- and postgame shows, beginning with the 2017 regular season. This new streaming offering is available at no additional cost to authenticated pay TV subscribers of NBC Sports Group’s CSN regional sports networks (RSNs). This local initiative advances NBCUniversal’s implementation of “TV Everywhere,” which strives to make quality content available to authenticated customers both in and out of the home, and on multiple platforms.

CSN’s local streaming allows authenticated viewers in their respective markets to live stream games and related programming that is carried by their pay TV provider of the Chicago Cubs (CSN Chicago), Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago), Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia), Oakland Athletics (CSN California) and San Francisco Giants (CSN Bay Area). Game broadcast schedules will be announced at a later date.

“This is a home run for our local sports fans,” said David Preschlack, President, NBC Sports Regional Networks, and NBC Sports Group Platform and Content Strategy. “We are constantly looking for ways to better serve our fans and provide comprehensive coverage of their favorite teams. With the addition of MLB in-market streaming rights, they don’t have to miss a pitch.”

The addition of MLB authenticated in-market streaming completes the local streaming portfolio for the NBC Sports Regional Networks, which also includes local NBA and NHL live streaming. The RSNs first introduced NBA streaming in 2014 and last fall announced the addition of NHL in-market streaming, beginning with the 2016-17 season. 

The NBC Sports Regional Networks now have partnerships for in-market streaming of the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s (CSN Bay Area/CSN California); Chicago Bulls, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox (CSN Chicago); Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals (CSN Mid-Atlantic); Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers and Philadelphia Phillies (CSN Philadelphia); and Boston Celtics (CSN New England).

Authenticated CSN subscribers can access live MLB, NBA and NHL games, as well as other sports programming, anywhere in the United States.  During the 2017 MLB season, all in-market MLB games will be streamed on the respective local CSN regional network site on PCs as well as on the NBC Sports app—NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets and connected TVs. The NBC Sports app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire.