By Tim Galsworthy


The Premier League season has kicked off once again. Those of us who are foolish enough to invest our time, energy, hopes, and dreams into one team or another are steeled for another ten months of ecstasy and agony. As this season got underway, and with the start of a new academic year on the horizon, I began to wonder which football team my doctoral journey resembles. So, here is my attempt at pairing PhDs with the Premier League. I wonder if you will detect my particular affiliation by the end…


Manchester City

You are undoubtedly a high-flyer and always a star attraction. Your papers have all the bells and whistles, while your writing is filled with a glittering array of scholars and sources. The fact you have a sizeable budget certainly hasn’t hurt… Your aim is to make a splash at a big European conference, but that hasn’t quite come off for you just yet. You’re also struggling with some new technology at the moment but you’re very likely to be top of the class once again.


(This viva party looks wild!)


Norwich City

You are new to the PhD game but you’re already making a good impression. You might not be at a big-name university or researching a glamorous topic, but you’re quickly winning admirers through your willingness to be adventurous. Your reliance on one particular example or academic probably won’t be enough to get you over the finish line – or should that be Finnish line? (sorry!) – but right now you’re just enjoying the ride.


Tottenham Hotspur 

You stunned a few people last year with the quality of your work. You left it late submitting your big chapter draft, but the end result was pretty great! You made waves at an overseas conference too which has put a real spring in your step. This year you’re pulling out the big guns to try and get your project over the line. You’re trying out a range of new methodologies and you’re working from an impressive new office. Time will tell what difference these assets will make.


(Sadly my office is not this impressive)


Chelsea FC

Transition is the best word to describe your PhD situation currently. In search of direction and consistency, you’ve decided to fall back on a legendary scholar in your field. You’re trying out new and untested material to varying degrees of success. You still have a lot of bursary money behind you – even if you’re unable to utilise it for a while – and your work certainly has potential, the polish might just take a while.


Watford FC

You have a habit of chopping and changing your PhD. You’ve changed topic and you keep changing supervisors. Nevertheless you keep plodding along. This year is the first in a while you seem to be settled on your project, but who knows if that is going to last!


Brighton and Hove Albion

You are doing a hip-and-cool project in a quirky place. You have eschewed the cloisters of more established institutions and the constraints of traditional PhD programmes in favour of something different. Last year wasn’t the best for you, but you’re hoping that a new supervisor will turn things around for you this term.


(Brighton’s football stadium shares a train station with my University’s campus)


Burnley FC

You are gritty, determined, and tenacious. Your path through the PhD has not been smooth or simple, but you always find a way to get things done. You have stuck with your project, despite the ups and downs, and you are all the better for it. Other scholars should really stop underestimating you – especially at conferences on cold nights in January.


Wolverhampton Wanderers 

You are just starting the second year of your PhD after taking people by surprise during your first. Your project is filled with passion and excitement, much thanks to your brilliant supervisor. While you might not have the biggest budget and you might not study at the most renowned university, things are going to turn out just fine for you.


Liverpool FC

Lead by your inspirational and effortlessly cool supervisor, you are the one to watch this year. The golden sky of publications and PhD completion is in view, although you have been painfully close before. You haven’t changed much heading into this academic year and you really don’t need to. You undoubtedly have the best project, the best support base, and are generally just the best!


(“We’ve conquered all of Europe, we’re never gonna stop!”)


I can claim no objectivity for this blog post. I hope you have all deduced which Premier League football team I support. Perhaps the absence of two teams which I couldn’t bring myself to write about, one which plays in blue and one which plays in red, makes it even clearer.

The moral of this story is that your PhD is comparable to football. Not because of the glamour or the riches, but because there are moments of great joy and moments we wish to forget. There are times when your shots are near misses and times when they hit the back of the net. Above all else, we love our PhDs like we love our football teams. We will always keep coming back to them and we will always believe in them – just like those who support us. And remember, there’s always next week and there’s always next year…


Tim Galsworthy is a History PhD student at the University of Sussex. He serves as Topical Editor for Pubs and Publications. He is also one of the Postgraduate Secretaries for the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS)


Twitter: @timgalsworthy


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