Within a 10-mile radius of central London, you will find six incredible football teams such as Chelsea, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, West Ham United, Arsenal and Tottenham. Each club was founded in the late-1800s or early 1900s – Fulham (1879), Tottenham (1882), Queens Park Rangers (1882), Arsenal (1886), West Ham (1895), Chelsea (1905) – and each has had their own respective success since their club’s commencement.
The clubs that have bred the most success in the Premier League, as well as in European League competition, have – historically – resulted in Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham, showing their wins when it was needed. In spite of, or maybe even despite each clubs wins and lose records throughout the year, the most anticipated matches are almost always the local London derbies, of which the North London Derby is one of the greatest – and one of the most cutthroat games – throughout the season.
Arsenal’s football ground, Emirates Stadium, is found a little over four miles from Waterloo Station in central London. The football club, currently in 10th place in the English Premier League (as of 4 December 2012) is historically known for great standings by the end of the season, only finishing thirteenth or lower only five times since 1946. Judging by Forbes’ list, the Gunners (or as Tottenham Hotspur fans have so affectionately deemed the Arsenal nickname, the Gooners) are one of the most popular football teams in the world, as they are cited as the 10th most profitable sports team in the world (Forbes List).
Another London team known for its worldwide popularity, and most recently for its coaching trials, is the west London club of Chelsea. After Andres Villas-Boas was released from his managerial duties, interim Italian coach Roberto DiMatteo led the Blues to their first ever UEFA Champions League final and subsequently winning the championship match against the popular German club, Bayern Munich. Chelsea Football Club most recently has gone under new leadership with their manager as Rafael Benitez, who has most recently managed Italian club, Inter, as well as Liverpool before that, has succeeded DiMatteo. Though Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012, the team has been somewhat uninspiring in their Premier League play, yet are still placed third behind both clubs from the north, Manchester City and Manchester United.
A short hop-skip-and-jump away from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge is Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage. Fulham have always had a solid team (mid-table) yet have not ever advanced beyond UEFA’s Europa League to make it to the Champions League. Fulham, whose supporters are known as The Cottagers – as Fulham’s ground is called Craven Cottage – have a loyal following, and are one of two teams who have been popular with American fans because of their propensity of choosing players from the United States to showcase their craft in England. Most recently, now-Tottenham Hotspur player, Clint Dempsey was a fixture in the roster, and a few years back, U.S. international Brian McBride was a popular figure at the Cottage playing from 2004-2008.
Just up the road from these other west London teams is Queens Park Rangers, sometimes better known as QPR. Throughout their history the squad has seen its share of relegation and promotion within the top three leagues in England, whether it has been the Premiership, Championship (Division One) or Division Two (third-tier). QPR, though they have been pushing for success in the Premier League, has not come across the recognition they want, as they are in last place – as of 4 December 2012 – in the Premier League. However, with this grim news, Queens Park Rangers have a newly appointed manager in recently-successful-at-Tottenham (Spurs finished fourth and were a sliver away from UEFA Champions League play), Harry Redknapp, as he will take the helm and look to project QPR up the table past the relegation stage. With all of QPR’s storied history and shaky table results, it’s hard not to cheer for them to do well – or at least not be relegated to the Championship.
Across town you’ll find an understated football club with decades of history, West Ham United. West Ham has consistently been an up-and-down team, especially in more recent years, as the Hammers have moved back and forth between the Premier League and the Championship. In the 1960s through most of the 1970s, West Ham was a regular team in the mid-table. Within those years, the highest West Ham finished was 6th out of 22 teams (West Ham Standings). One name that most people recognize, even if they don’t know about West Ham, is the great Bobby Moore – England captain and a legend of the beautiful game because of the defender leading England to win the 1966 World Cup.
Rounding out your tour of London clubs is Tottenham Hotspur. The Lilywhites (so penned because of the whites of the team kit) are a favorite club in London. The 1960s and 70s were the hay-day decades for the Spurs, and have more recently come back to better league form as they have finished eighth or better since 2008. Many Hotspur fan favorites have also been country favorites including Bill Nicholson, Glenn Hoddle , now-football commentator Gary Lineker, current U.S. Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, Paul Gascoigne, as well as newly-retired (final season was 2011-2012) and former club captain, Ledley King (see some highlights – especially the tackle at 1:58 – here: ). Two disadvantages Tottenham have had already in the 2012-2013 season is their inability to finish a game with a clean sheet as well as the late-game draws or losses, despite having tremendous players such as Gareth Bale, Moussa Dembele, and Kyle Walker. But then again, Tottenham does have players like them as well as new signings from the summer transfer window, Clint Dempsey, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and the aforementioned Dembele.
Each London club comes with fiercely loyal supporters and rightly so. And there is a forewarning that comes with being a fan of any of these teams: heartbreak and joy, frustrations and praise. But you already knew that because otherwise you wouldn’t love soccer.