One thing that England is not short of is soccer clubs! The sport is the national passion, and has been for more than one hundred years.
In fact, the professional game in England is now into its third century, with some notable and still-thriving football clubs having been founded in the 1800s. There are ninety-two Premier League and Football League clubs; the top tier of the sport. There are tens of thousands of others in a well-structured pyramid of pro, semi-pro and amateur teams.
The beauty of soccer in England is there are so many world-famous names. Everyone has heard of the giants of Manchester United, for example. Arguably the world’s largest, most loved and well-supported club, the Red Devils are the current Premier League champions. Their history is a glorious one, with the terrible tragedy of the Munich air crash, which decimated a wonderful team in 1958, adding to the depth of affection.
Of course, there are many who subscribe to the A.B.U theory (anyone but United!), with the English love of the underdog ensuring there are plenty of other teams to cheer. Five-times European champions Liverpool dominated English football in the 1970s and 80s, and harbour realistic ambitions of new glory.
However, new money and deep-pocketed owners have meant the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City are also right up there at the English soccer top table. City won the last Premier League but one, and Chelsea, with the return of charismatic boss Jose Mourinho, are sure to challenge again when the new season kicks off in August.
So many clubs in England, so many legends. It would take a year to list them all! But the likes of Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Everton have such evocative names they instantly attract casual fans.
Joy and despair
Talking of underdogs, the unsung Wigan Athletic caused a stir in May when they won the FA Cup, the English game’s most prized domestic cup trophy. They beat Manchester City but still got relegated from the top league a few weeks later, highlighting the romance, joy, despair and excitement of English soccer.