When watching the English Premier League, I am fascinated by the rivalries among the various teams and the history of those teams. Most of the rivalries within the Premier League are rooted in the history and geography of the clubs. When thinking of historic or geographic rivalries, I invariably think of HBO’s Game of Thrones. The geopolitics of Game of Thrones is fascinating and all the enmity between some of the major families is rooted in their pasts. There are several noble families vying for control of the Iron Throne and the continent of Westeros. This is akin to Premier League clubs vying for the title and dominance in English football.
This article lists the major Houses in HBO’s Game of Thrones and their corresponding counterparts in the English Premier League. Firstly, only major houses that have been seen in the first three seasons (and the first two episodes of Season 4) have been listed. In all, 11 houses and 11 corresponding clubs have been listed. The list focuses on the HBO show rather than the books. While I have read the books, it is easier to convert the major houses into teams using the contents of the show and it avoids any spoilers for those who have not read the books as the plot in the show is behind that of the books. As readers of the books know, the situation in Westeros changes constantly and the situation at the end of George R.R Martin’s fifth book is different from the situation currently depicted in the television series.
Finally, the article focuses on the 2013/2014 Premier League season. If this article was written last year the analogies between certain houses and teams would not apply. For one, House Martell did not fully appear in the show until Season 4 and Manchester United are thought of differently this season as compared to last season. The similarities between the Houses of Westeros and the listed Premier League teams is sometimes geographic, while in some cases the characteristics and ethos of the clubs led to the comparisons. While the teams listed do not have all the characteristics of the major Houses of Westeros, they do share quite a few.
11. House Arryn – Newcastle United
As of Season 4 of the Game of Thrones television series, House Arryn is nothing more than a regional power in the northeastern part of Westeros. They do not take part in what Cersei Lannister coined ‘the game of thrones’ and seem to have no aspirations or ability to impact Westeros as a whole. The one thing holding them back seems to be their ruler, Lysa Arryn, who steadfastly refuses to be drawn into the war to this point. Newcastle United fit this description perfectly. They are a regionally important football club in the northeast of England. They have also not been a factor in the Premier League for nearly two decades. The one person to blame for this according to most fans and pundits is owner Mike Ashley. The man seems to be allergic to stability and every time Newcastle seem to be making good progress, he makes a curious decision to set them back.
10. House Greyjoy – West Ham United
Its apparent from the episodes of Game of Thrones that the Greyjoys are universally disliked and somewhat feared. They are noted for their harshness and brutality and have a way of life completely different from the rest of Westeros. Another trait of the Greyjoys and all Ironborn is their high opinion of themselves. There were two Premier League candidates to represent House Greyjoy, West Ham and Stoke. Both teams play a very physical, bruising style of football and most teams do not enjoy playing against them. The choice is West Ham because no sets of fans in the Premier League have a higher opinion of their football history and heritage than West Ham fans. They always talk about ‘playing the West Ham way’ but have not enjoyed a period of great success since the 1960s.
9. House Frey – Everton
The events of the Red Wedding are mostly remembered for the destruction of House Stark and the ascendancy of House Bolton in the North. Another notable event was the ascendancy of House Frey as a dominant house in the Riverlands. The ascension of House Frey came at the expense of House Tully. This season, Everton appear to be in line for a Champions League place. They have emerged as a surprise and appear to be having the season many expected from Tottenham Hotspur. House Frey are not thought of highly in Westeros after the events of the Red Wedding. Everton’s rise to prominence this season has had its critics. Their dependence on loan players has seen some of their rivals complain loudly over the past few weeks.
8. House Tully – Tottenham Hotspur
Before the events of the Red Wedding, House Tully were the dominant house in the Riverlands. Thanks to the actions of the Boltons and the Freys, House Tully lost its prominent position and the house was put into turmoil. Tottenham Hotspur were expected to be pushing for a Champions League place this season. Instead they have been upstaged by the exploits of both Liverpool and Everton and have had a disappointing campaign. As for turmoil, very few Premier League teams are more synonymous with the word than Tottenham. They have fired one manager already this season and are rumored to be on the verge of firing another one. Besides, the color of deposed Manager Andre Villas-Boas has a shocking resemblance to that of Catelyn Stark, who was born a Tully.
7. House Targaryen – Leeds United
In the Game of Thrones television series, a distinguishing characteristic of House Targaryen is their exile. House Targaryen was the ruling house in Westeros for generations but its only living remnant is in a different continent trying to return and claim her rightful kingdom. The only English football club that can adequately be analogized to House Targaryen is Leeds United. Leeds United were champions of England in 1991/1992 and were a fixture of the English Premier League until 2004. Since their relegation in 2004, they have had serious financial struggles. They have even tasted the third tier of English football. Leeds United have long standing rivalries with Manchester United and Chelsea who are represented by House Stark and House Lannister in this article. Two houses that Daenerys Targaryen is looking to exact retribution against are House Stark and House Lannister.
6. House Bolton – Liverpool
House Bolton is one of the major houses in the North. They have a long standing rivalry with House Stark. At the end of Season 3 of Game of Thrones, they replaced House Stark as the Wardens of the North. House Bolton are noted for their ruthlessness and brutality and their practice of flaying their enemies at the Dreadfort. This season’s dominant northern Premier League team is Liverpool. They have emerged from the shadows of their long standing rivals, Manchester United. While Liverpool do not flay their enemies, they have destroyed many teams who come to play at Anfield this season and have been the most ruthless team in front of goal. Their star player, Luis Suarez, is a ruthless, cunning player who enjoys tormenting defenders. Sounds similar to Ramsey Bolton.
5. House Stark – Manchester United
When Game of Thrones came on the airwaves, the dominant northern power was House Stark. They had been Wardens of the North for generations and their king was Eddard Stark. Coming into this season, Manchester United were the dominant northern team in the Premier League and had held that position for over 20 years. In Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark was deposed and House Stark quickly lost its dominance in the North. This season Manchester United are bereft of their leader, Sir Alex Ferguson, and their position as the dominant northern Premier League team has been lost. Winterfell was the seat of House Stark and was thought of as an impregnable fortress. Similar descriptions would have fit Old Trafford before this season. Winterfell was destroyed at the end of Season 2 of Game of Thrones and it seems every team gets a good result at Old Trafford this season.
4. House Baratheon of Dragonstone – Arsenal
House Baratheon used to be the ruling house in Westeros. Likewise, Arsenal were a dominant Premier League team in the early part of this century. House Baratheon’s leader, Stannis is a self righteous and inflexible leader who is convinced his methods will lead him to the throne. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is an inflexible manager who rails against the loan system and financial fair play every season. He steadfastly believes his style of play will result in a trophy haul for Arsenal. House Baratheon were on the verge of reclaiming the Iron Throne until they were routed at The Battle of the Blackwater by House Lannister and House Tyrell. This season, Arsenal had aspirations of winning the title until they were defeated 6-3 and 6-0 by Manchester City and Chelsea, respectively.
3. House Martell – Fulham
In Game of Thrones, almost everyone hates the Lannisters. Most Premier League teams and fans hate Chelsea. House Martell’s hatred of the Lannisters predates the events of the show and the events of the book. In addition, House Martell are not a dominant player in the politics of Westeros in the show to date. Their involvement so far has made it clear that one of their main objectives is to exact retribution on House Lannister. So, which Premier League team has a deep seated hatred of Chelsea but are not contenders for the league crown? A good answer is Fulham. The West London club are traditional rivals of Chelsea and are not contenders for the Premier League crown.
2. House Tyrell – Manchester City
Over the first couple of season’s of the Game of Thrones series, House Tyrell of Highgarden were on the periphery of ultimate power of Westeros. After the Battle of the Blackwater, the Tyrell’s emerged as one of the dominant houses in Westeros. The most distinguishing characteristic of the Tyrell’s is their wealth. They are responsible for feeding most of King’s Landing. Another characteristic is their burgeoning rivalry with the Lannisters. The one Premier League team that closely resembles these characteristics is Manchester City. Manchester City were not a dominant team in the Premier League until very recently. In the last few years, however, they have emerged as a power in the English game. Their greatest asset is their wealth. The exchanges between Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho highlight their growing rivalry with Chelsea, who are the best representatives of House Lannister.
1. House Lannister – Chelsea
The similarities between House Lannister and Chelsea are striking. House Lannister are one of the dominant houses in Westeros and are distinguished by their wealth and ruthlessness. Chelsea are a dominant Premier League team that are noted for their financial clout and their ruthlessness. Jose Mourinho is a calculating and ruthlessly efficient manager similar to Tywin Lannister. Chelsea’s captain John Terry is one of the faces of the team and has a rare talent in that everything he does manages to alienate the public and other teams. This characteristic is very similar to that of Cersei Lannister. Tywin Lannister cannot stand his second son, Tyrion Lannister and struggles to hide his disdain. If that does not describe the relationship between Jose Mourinho and Fernando Torres, I don’t know what does.