Along with David Wild I imagined the parallels between the worlds of Westeros and the Premier League…
As the Premier League continues to enthral millions across the world, so HBO’s serialisation of George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ has captivated a loyal, steadfast and ever-growing audience. Here, The False Nine draws analogies between the two worlds; from the intimidating Britannia Stadium to the formidable Iron Islands, no stone is left unturned. Who will win in the Premier League Game of Thrones?
Manchester United – House Baratheon
“Ours is the Fury”
It takes an iron will, a stout heart and the strength of an ox to overthrow a tyranny. In Robert Baratheon and Sir Alex Ferguson we see a common theme; knocking their foes, the Targaryens and Liverpool, ‘off their perch’ in a glorious display of youthful exuberant force.
Both revolutionaries love the finer things in life; while Sir Alex never quite matched Robert Baratheon’s descent into drunken wretchedness he is famous for his love of a post-match glass of red.
Following their respective demises the House has been plunged into uncertainty, with many outsiders questioning the credentials and suitability of young Joffrey or Moyes. Only time will tell whether their successors will make anywhere near the same impact.
Chelsea – House Lannister
“Hear me Roar”
A Lannister always pays his debts and since Roman Abramovic rode onto the scene in the style of a young Tywin Lannister, Chelsea have not had a single debt to their name. Lavishing millions on the team from his bottomless coffers has allowed Abramovic to see his lion’s sigil emblazoned on the Premier League trophy for a sizeable part of the last decade and their house has become a feared and reputable name throughout world football.
For the wit and nous of Tyrion see the soon to return Jose Mourinho. Both banished for a short period to return with strength and knowledge aplenty, they bring a formidable edge to their banner.
The Lannisters are a fearsome proposition in the Kingdom of Westeros and perhaps in the best position to mount a sustained challenge for, and domination of, the Iron Throne. Chelsea themselves could also yet translate the next few years into a period of their own dominance.
Manchester City – The Golden Company
“Beneath the gold, the bitter steel”
The largest, most famous and expensive company of sellswords and mercenaries in the Premier Lea… the Free Cities. Famously they keep their wealth on them at all times and show it in an ostentatious manner. For Mario Balotelli’s financial passenger seat and camouflage cars read jewelled swords, inlaid armour, heavy torcs, and fine silks instead.
Yet beneath the nouveaux riche exterior there is plenty of dreaded steel to be seen. The likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero are capable of striking fear into the hearts of any opposing team in much the same way as the largest company of sellswords would an army of Westeros.
While they are yet to prove that their Premier League promise is ‘as good as gold’ they are well on their way to becoming an established power player in the world, as three trophies in three seasons suggests.
Liverpool – House Targaryen
“Fire and Blood”
A Targaryen likes nothing more than to tell you how it was in the good old days when they ruled over land and sea. Liverpool, once imperious rulers of England and Europe, today lie a mere spectre of their former glory.
An ancient line that conquered and unified the seven kingdoms for centuries before descending into chaos and ruin. For Mad King Aerys, see King Kenny Dalglish and the year of big bucks madness paid for Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing.
The line lingers on, but as a pale shadow of the former legend and glory that continues to inspire iconography and reverence throughout the land. For Baelor the Blessed and Aegon the Conqueror see Bob Paisley and Bill Shankley.
As Liverpool fans always testify ‘next year is our year’, so George R. R. Martin’s next book will be the Targaryens’ book.
Newcastle United – House Stark
“Winter is Coming”
Proud. Honourable. Naive. Northern.
Still mourning the controversial execution of their liege lord Kevin Keeg… Ned Stark, all the way back in Series 1, their thousands of disciples continue to keep the faith, despite a significant downturn in fortunes. Despite constantly telling themselves that Winter is Coming they still refuse to put on a coat, or sometimes even a T-shirt.
Winterfell, the once great citadel of the North, has been ransacked and burnt; the line is scattered and weak. Newcastle’s own home has likewise been plundered and its future hopes placed on the shoulders of Alan Pardrew.
Telling a Geordie to trust in Pardew would be akin to placing the future of the Stark household on a boy cripple and a child whose dialogue could be transcribed on the back of a napkin… Oh.
Arsenal – House Martell
“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”
Arsenal like the Martells were once a major player in the region, yet have recently fallen on much harder times and few see them as a threat to the Iron Throne. The Martells are still a respected name in Westeros, but at the same time they are desperately trying to rekindle their former power and influence.
The only club to resist the dragon like fire and might of the conquering force that was Manchester United in the late nineties, Arsenal and the Martells are the great survivors, staying consistently, if not spectacularly in power.
Their increasingly isolationist policy strikes a chord with Arsene Wenger and his continued mellowing, but with power-bases around them beginning to crumble, there is a chance that a return to power could soon be on the cards.
Tottenham Hotspur – House Tyrell
Tottenham Hotspur, as the Tyrell’s house words suggest, are indeed ‘growing strong’. They have long been the obvious contender to break into the Champions League spots. Yet despite their obvious pedigree and strength they seem unable to grow strong enough to cement a regular top four spot.
Tottenham’s own Knight of the Flowers, Gareth Bale, is considered one of the finest in the land at his craft. Yet much like the Knight of the Flowers, Bale’s own potential at Spurs could be hampered by temptation. Real Madrid are an attractive suitor.
Lustful for attention with their distinctive brand of attacking football Spurs also flutter their eyelashes towards any and all watchers and potential signings who would listen to their perfumed words. Despite this posturing they ultimately and unfortunately seem to be consigned to scratching against the windowpane of power.
Everton – The Night’s Watch
“I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls“
An ancient order with a rich history and once one of the most important orders in the land, Everton have long since been gripped by decay. Unlike their glorious past in the 80s their current setup is short on resources and numbers, and relatively resembles a ramshackle assortment of bastards, deviants and outcasts.
Yet despite this the noble order holds on and performs its duty against great odds. A shoestring budget and questionable recruits are marshalled excellently by their valiant and noble leadership.
Yet much like Jeor Mormont’s recent demise perhaps signalling danger for the Night’s Watch, Everton have recently lost their finest leader in David Moyes; perhaps an omen of troubling times on the horizon. Their watch continues.
Aston Villa – House Arryn
“As High as Honour”
Aston Villa, former European champions no less, have embraced a new-found low profile. With little money to spend they’re in no danger of upsetting the apple-cart anytime soon, nor encountering any interest from outside the M6.
A once noble house featuring prominently in the region, Aston Villa like House Arryn, now lie self-ostracised from the rest of the power brokering houses of Westeros and the Premier League. Isolated in the Vale/Midlands they enjoy a self-imposed exile after becoming paranoid and concerned with internal financial protection rather than external politics.
They’re just glad that since they got rid of Alex McLeish they can no longer be compared to the Freys. The M6 Toll was a mighty close comparison to the Twins.
Swansea City – House Tully
“Family, Duty, Honour”
As befitting a team that espouses family and duty, Swansea and the Tullys seem a firm link. Swansea are a predominantly fan run club and a determination to look after their own drives many of the clubs executive decisions. Nothing is more important to the Tullys or Swansea’s Board than family.
Their beautiful style of passing football also brings to mind the picturesque landscapes of Riverrun, whilst Michael Laudrup is a leader of men in the mould of the Black Fish Brynden Tully, comanding a high level of respect amongst all who meet him.
West Ham United – The Dothraki
“A prince is riding. I’ve heard the thunder of his hooves. Swift as the wind he rides. His enemies will cower before him… and their wives will weep tears of blood… the Stallion Who Mounts the World.“
A spiritual and superstitious race, the Horselords are a culture of nomadic warriors in the East known to worship the horse as a God. Their people are known for their fierce savagery in battle and their direct, almost blunt at times, approach. With roots in East London, West Ham are led from the front by their eminent Khal, Andy Carroll, and spiritual leader Sam Allardyce
Carroll Drogo, as he is affectionately known by the boss, was beaten in battle on the site of Liverpool and as such had to cut his once flourishing pony tail. Nevertheless he is fiercely regarded in football as a brutish and fierce warrior, ready and willing to jump into any battle, no matter the odds (as seen here in a recent duel with David De Gea). There is great hope that he will perhaps be the prophesied Stallion Who Mounts the World.
Sunderland – House Clegane
House Clegane are a house determined to intimidate their opponents before they have even set foot into battle. Best personified by the brothers, the Mountain and the Hound, House Clegane are short on love and admiration, much like Sunderland. Gregor is famous for his short temper, cutting the head off his own horse at a tournament when losing a joust, and his anger can be best seen channelled through his North-Eastern vassal, Lee Cattermole; always quick to pick up his sword.
Infamously Gregor Clegan shoved the face of his own brother into a raging fire, scarring him for life. Yet even the brute savagery of Gregor is given a run for its money by Cattermole, whose record of 34 yellow cards and 5 reds in 87 appearances would have the Mountain purring with admiration.
Also despite Leige Lord Paolo Di Canio’s recent pledge to deliver swift, attractive attacking football, Sunderland’s current brand of turgid play is about as attractive as the face of the Hound.
Stoke City – House Greyjoy
“What is dead can never die, but rises again, harder and stronger”
A bleak collection of unforgiving stone edifices set against a backdrop of grey and cold waters, Stoke and the Iron Islands share many of the same forbidding characteristics. Their fortress at the Brittania Stadium has become synonymous with a hard and dreaded game of football as much as Castle Pyke has with the fearful promise of a descending hoard of rapists and pillagers.
All those who travel to the Brittania must be prepared to pay ‘the iron price’ with their players for the rest of the season. It is also widely believed that their sigil – the mythical deep sea monster, the Kraken – is in tribute to former legendary manager Tony Pulis. No other creature has ever risen from the depths of league football to strike such terror in the hearts of men.
Leeds United – House Reyne
“And now the rains weep o’er his hall and not a soul to hear”
Once a famous and revered name throughout Westeros, the Reynes were obliterated by Tywin Lannister for attempting to seize too much power for themselves.
Fittingly Leeds United tried to pretend that they had a Lannister-sized budget in order to seize the seat of power in English and European football, but could not sustain the wages and transfer fees of their sellsword players.
Leeds were brutally cut down and cast into the pits of oblivion (okay, only League 1), never again to be a force in the struggle for the Premier League’s Iron Throne. Much like the song The Rains of Castamere echoing around the halls of Westeros, songs can often be heard around many English football grounds revelling in Leeds’ demise.