This time last year, I was running drills training for my soccer games as part of my college team. Now I’m a new graduate, a New Yorker, and a retired athlete of sorts. So I’m hunting for a new kind of soccer season: one filled with dim-lit bars and splashing pints. I’m in search of a community that’s as soccer-crazed as I am. And the best place to find it is among some of the city’s fanatic-friendly, Premier League-affiliated bars.
Amity Hall Downtown (Manchester City) – 80 W 3rd St.
The first stop on my bar crawl landed me at Amity Hall, a welcoming watering hole for anyone in Manchester City’s baby blue colors. Tentatively, I weaved through the sea of matching people who were huddled together in front of a projector screen. The street-facing wall serves as one massive window, which lets in the daylight to break through an otherwise dim room. Across from the bar, leather cushioned benches lined the wall, breaking each table into distinctive seating. TVs placed only inches apart hang above the bar so that every bench seat has a stellar view. The fans were in good spirits, Man City was winning (as is often the case), so there was a hum of relaxed excitement. A group of men decked out in full gear stood closest to the bar to stoke the chants that consumed the space every couple of minutes. I walked back outside wishing I had worn a jersey and knew the songs, but also wondering if the group would be welcoming towards a rookie fan.
Turnmill Bar (Everton) – 119 E 27th St.
Turnmill Bar, adorned with Everton merch for matchday, was the next stop. Everton shares the color blue with Manchester City, but that’s about all. Historically, the team has struggled to find any success in the league. I prepared myself for a tough, prickly crowd, but Turnmill Bar was cozy and charming. With its dark wood and leather booths, it was easy to imagine I was at a secret local spot in the heart of the U.K. James Rodgers, who grew up in Liverpool, explained his loyalty to Everton, which has been synonymous with Turnmill since he moved to NYC in 2004. “When you walk through that door on a Saturday morning it’s like you’re back home for a few hours,” he said. “It’s absolutely magical. It’s brilliant.” The other people in James’s booth are good friends he’s met through the weekend ritual at Turnmill. “When we see someone out and about we invite them here and, you know, you kind of become part of the community, part of the family,” he adds. Even though it was the fifth consecutive gray weekend, I left Turnmill feeling warm and fuzzy, in more ways than one.
Mulligan’s Pub (Chelsea) – 267 Madison Ave.
Mulligan’s was brimming with potential, but unfortunately, it disappointed. To be fair, I went to the Chelsea-affiliated bar on a Monday afternoon matchday so it isn’t Mulligan’s fault that there wasn’t the exciting and boisterous crowd I had grown used to at the other bars. The bartender had a lovely Irish accent and greeted every customer (only around five total) by name as they entered during the pre-match talk show. The downfall came when the opposing team, Tottenham Hotspurs, scored in the opening moments of the game. Seeing that it was Chelsea’s spot, I was preparing for an uproar of jeers but was surprised when I heard sounds of support from the back corner. Without the distinctive team personality I had found at rival bars, it was hard to root for Mulligan’s, and Chelsea, as the choice for weekend soccer.
Flannery’s Bar (Tottenham Hotspur) – 205 West 14th St.
The energy at Flannery’s was electric. Keeping in mind that the Spurs are having a great season,
I couldn’t help but join in on the chanting and beer splashing. “Come on you Spurs” was catchy and easy to learn. The space is winding and quirky but can accommodate a large group. The Spurs fans were a younger crowd, and you could feel their youth in the buzzing atmosphere. The bouncer stopped allowing entry just before the match began, so there weren’t any distractions during the game; those who were in could come and go as they pleased for the game’s entirety. Standing in his usual corner is Max, a Flannery’s regular, who looks over the crowd with a smile while enjoying his Guinness at halftime. “We’re all friends of Spurs,” Max tells me, “I know it seems a bit absurd that we only let Spurs fans in here, but it’s a way to keep the atmosphere good and no one’s arguing.” He reiterates what I had already discovered, that Spurs fans and Flannery’s Bar have a good thing going on.
11th Street Bar (Liverpool) – 510 E 11th St.
Fans spilled onto the street outside Liverpool’s favorite East Village matchday venue. The place was clearly loved by fans; its interiors were worn in with love and heavy usage. Liverpool was down a goal and had a red card, and the air of desperation wasn’t luring me in. Onlookers wore red jerseys, furrowed eyebrows, and glaring stares. Unlike the group inside it, the bar itself had a relaxed, old-timey vibe. A narrow entrance area with light wooden floors contrasted with dark barstools that opened up to a spacious back room with exposed brick walls. Though I enjoyed the bar’s aesthetic, it wasn’t a fun day to be a Liverpool fan, and I didn’t feel compelled to order another beer or linger around for the game’s conclusion. The Spurs prevailed 2-1 against Liverpool and I departed wishing I had spent my Saturday celebrating with the Flannery’s crowd.
At each bar, regardless of the setup or energy amongst the fans, the strong sense of belonging was a common thread.