An A-to-Zed Guide to the EPL
With its 21st season under way, here's a highly selective, wholly subjective refresher guide to the English Premier League, from A to Zed:
A -- Abu Dhabi, Abou Diaby: The former is a state in the United Arab Emirates ruled by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nayan, the boundlessly rich owner of Manchester City; the latter is an oft-injured Arsenal midfielder from France.
B -- Barclays: A British bank that pays $62.6 million a year to sponsor the Barclays Premier League but can't seem to afford a possessive apostrophe.
C -- Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer: One of the many exotic products to grace the advertising hoardings of English football grounds in the last 20 seasons. (See also Pukka Pies, Bargain Booze).
D -- DayGlo: Also called Hi-Viz, it's the color of the jackets and vests worn by stadium security guards who steam in to separate supporters from goal-celebrating players in the manner of boxing referees or high school dance chaperones.
E -- England: A country that, at the current rate of attrition, will no longer have players in the English Premier League by 2034. According to The Guardian, 34% of starters in last weekend's opening day matches were English nationals, down from 73% in the league's first season.
F -- FFP: Shorthand for Financial Fair Play, a system of rules designed to curb unsustainable cash outlays by spendthrift billionaire owners; FFP is not to be confused with FFC (the letters on the badge of Fulham Football Club) or FFS (the abbreviated expletive "For F--- Sake", often uttered by supporters of teams whose owners were outspent by others flouting the FFP rules.)
G -- Giggsy: His former manager Sir Alex Ferguson once said: "I remember the first time I saw him. He was 13 and just floated over the ground like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind." Now 39, and still playing for Manchester United, Ryan Giggs is the only man to have played in all 20 seasons of Premier League history.
H -- Habib Beye: A former Newcastle and Aston Villa defender of whom supporters sang (to the theme from "Happy Days"): "Sunday, Monday, Habib Beye. Tuesday, Wednesday, Habib Beye . . . "
I -- Italy: One of several European nations -- Spain and Germany are two others -- that do not have their own domestic soccer leagues, to judge by the outsized attention devoted to the Premiership.
J -- Jack Wolfskin: A new Nicolas Cage movie? Cockney rhyming slang for aspirin? Or the German supplier of outdoor gear whose ubiquitous billboards are the backdrop to every throw-in at Liverpool and Fulham?
K -- Kun: Nickname of striker Sergio Agüero, who comes from Argentina, plays in Manchester and got his handle from a Japanese cartoon character. Naturally, then, "Kun Agüero" is tattooed on his right arm not in Spanish or English or Japanese but in -- what else? -- Elvish. All of which makes him a quintessential player in the world's most cosmopolitan sports league.
L -- LLLLLLLLLLLLLLL: Visual representation of the Premier League record fifteen consecutive losses suffered by Sunderland during the 2002-03 season, after which they were relegated. The team was promoted in 2005-06 and lost the first five games of that season, giving them a total of 20 consecutive Premier League losses.
M -- Michelin Man: Mascot of the French tire manufacturer and frequent description of Arsene Wenger in the winter months, when the embattled Arsenal manager withdraws into a pillowy parka -- like a sleeved sleeping bag -- that grows more capacious with every passing season.
N -- N'Zogbia: Charles N'Zogbia is a midfielder for Aston Villa whom former Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear once referred to as "Charles Insomnia" in a post-match interview. It was not taken as praise.
O -- Oh dear: Exclamation beloved of English announcers to caption any on-screen embarrassment, from a badly taken penalty kick to a fan invading the pitch to the untimely arrival of the Apocalypse.
P -- Phillips: At 40, Kevin Phillips is the oldest outfield player in the Premier League. His extra-time penalty in May's Football League Championship playoff final earned Crystal Palace promotion over Watford, one of his former teams. For second oldest outfield player in the Premier League, see Giggsy.
Q -- Queen Elizabeth II: Her Majesty is reportedly an Arsenal fan of longstanding and has a large cash reserve that she doesn't ever spend.
R -- Running Man: On Arsenal's pre-season tour of Asia, a Vietnamese man in Hanoi ran alongside the team bus for several miles, after which the Gunners invited him on board. The ensuing viral video of the so-called Running Man reinforced the Premier League's bottomless popularity in Asia, which is why Swansea have Chinese characters on their shirts, Everton are sponsored by a Thai beer and Cardiff City simply wear the word "Malaysia".
S -- Squeaky Bum Time: Distinct from Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), SBT was coined by Sir Alex Ferguson to describe the tense final days of a close championship race.
T -- Trouser: Verb that means "to pocket," as in "Robin van Persie will trouser £250,000 a week this season."
U -- Umlaut. Diacritical mark that has appeared in many names in Premier League history, most remarkably in the surname of West Ham keeper Jussi Jääskeläinen, which achieves a rare umlaut hat trick, one more even than Mötley Crüe.
V -- van Wolfswinkel: Majestic surname of Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, majestically arcing armpit-to-armpit across the back of his canary shirt.
W -- Wonga: Newcastle United's controversial shirt sponsor is not an eccentric candy magnate who puts golden tickets in his chocolate bars, but rather a payday loan company that charges exorbitant interest to short-term borrowers.
X -- Xavier: In 2002, Abel Xavier played for Everton against Liverpool and then -- after being sold across town -- for Liverpool against Everton, the only player ever to play for both teams in both Liverpool derby games in the same season.
Y -- Yanks: Seldom complimentary metonym for American owners of Premier League teams, which now include Arsenal, Aston Villa, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester United and Sunderland. Also an American baseball team that co-owns, with Manchester City, the forthcoming NYCFC expansion franchise in Major League Soccer, which the English like to call "The MLS."
Z -- Zed: British mispronunciation of the last letter in the alphabet, as in: "Oh dear, he kicked that one into Row Zed."