Screw The Big Six:
Trip Report, Part 2
At the very heart of this entire enterprise of mine lies a certain tension. On the one hand is the whole dynamic of interest that drives most Americans towards English soccer -- namely, the desire to see the best and most famous.
This is why all the media focuses on the so-called Big Six of Man U, Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool. They win all the trophies and have all the big-name players. And a big part of my business is helping people see those clubs play.
The tension lies in the fact that my goal, my passion and my hope all lie in enjoying lower-league games and encouraging others to check them out as well. Sure, I've seen some cracking big-time games, and I understand that if you can only get over there once you want to see the Big Boys. But it's no exaggeration to say that I would much rather see a rivalry match in the Championship than just about anything that happens in the Premier League. I would rather stand on the terraces at a League One club than sit in a padded VIP seat at a giant stadium.
In fact, I have argued on my blog and in my book that the second-tier Championship is a much funner league to watch than the Premier League. And it's a hell of a lot more affordable!
Along these lines, my report from Part 2 of my most recent trip should basically be titled "Screw The Top Six." The second weekend I made new friends in Birmingham and visited one of the classiest stadiums in the country; enjoyed totally affordable hospitality at perhaps the greatest old stadium left in England; and then got to see 5,000 or so rowdy as hell Yorkshire folk celebrate their team taking over the league's top position.
Here is that report.
Groundhop 1 (and 2) Update
"Groundhop 1," my first-ever soccer tour of England, is taking shape. We've got crews of folks going to Tottenham on December 29 (after taking the stadium tour at Arsenal), Crystal Palace on December 30, and Manchester City (against Liverpool!) on January 3.
There's still room for all these games, and more. Of course, owing to the situation I described above, nobody seems nearly as fired up as I am for Leyton Orient's rivalry match with Dagenham and Redbridge (January 1), Huddersfield Town v Burnley (January 2), or whatever the FA Cup serves up January 5 and 6. But that's cool.
Groundhop 2 is just starting to take shape. It will happen the weekends of March 9 and 16 -- Groundhop 2A and 2B, perhaps I'll call it -- with European games the week between. The first weekend will probably involve Portsmouth and their legion of fans visiting Charlton in London, plus a Premier League game or two. The second weekend may be up north with the Leeds-Sheffield United game as the anchor. Just respond to this email if you're interested.