Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Wednesday 31 January 2007
  Florida sunshine Tomorrow I leave the –7F temperatures of Chicago to fly down to the 80F Florida sunshine. I arrive in St Petersburg late Thursday night to meet a fellow Addick, and 3 others including an American friend of ours, who we once dragged to a Grimsby away game. We never quite gave him an idea of where Grimsby was and he probably still doesn’t know. We won 1-0 and after a few pints we normally get him to regale us with a few stories and a couple of songs that he has sworn to heart.

I am there to join my mates' annual pilgrimage to the US for Superbowl weekend. They have been doing this for donkey’s years and I have joined them for the last four. We never normally get anywhere near the host city, although this time around we are only 270 miles from Miami where the mighty Chicago Bears take on the Indianapolis Colts.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave Chicago tomorrow night because the city is buzzing with expectancy with the Bears colours of orange and blue decked around the city including atop of many of the cities biggest skyscrapers. It has been explained to me many times how potty the city went in 1986 when the Bears won the Superbowl for the only time. The windy city is due a party and believe me the city is ready.

Back in November when we planned our sunshine break to Florida I suggested that we collect in Chicago suggesting the Bears will go all the way only to get laughed out of town, a view point that most of the country has held as the Bears chances have continuously been sneered at. Well they are there now, and although the underdogs, you wouldn't have thought so here.

Superbowl tickets are like gold dust with only a few thousand actually going to the team’s season ticket holders. Available tickets start at around $2,500 and amazingly I actually got offered the potential opportunity the own one the other night. Trouble is my plans have already been made and I travel onto Miami coincidentally after the weekend for a conference before flying to Argentina on holiday the end of next week, and to change my flights and hotel arrangements is a nightmare.

Flights in and out Miami plus hotel rooms for the weekend are also impossible to get this late in the day. I guess if I really wanted to go I could and I will probably kick myself but you know what? I want the Bears to win and win big but it ain’t Charlton. Not many things are. 
  Three out on loan, no one else in Another January transfer window closed tight about 20 minutes ago and there were no late signings by the Addicks but for once thankfully no one was sold either. I know what we were told but I'm a bit long in the tooth for all that.

Despite some mutterings that Hayden Mullins may have still signed and one rumour that Darren Huckerby was on his way to SE7 for a medical, no one was added to the earlier acquisitions of Zheng Zhi, Ben Thatcher, Madjid Bougherra and Alexandre Song.

We did allow three players out on loan however, the highest profile being Jon Fortune, who despite making his debut in 2001 can still not force his way into the first team. Fortune goes to Stoke City to replace their captain Michael Duberry, who was sold to Reading earlier in the day and with the arrival of Bougherra, 2 years his junior, if he impresses at The Brittania then I reckon we may have seen the last of the former youth player.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Simon Walton going back out on loan to Cardiff. I don't quite know what this means for the 19-year old. Les Reed was hailing him as the great saviour back in December but I guess Pards thinks he needs more time and now is probably not the right time to be thrown into the first team, even though reports from Ipswich, a touch of naivety aside, were good.

Kelly Youga was also sent out to Bradford City for the remainder of the season. The French left back, who under four managers has made no impression on the first team squad whatsoever, was at Bristol City earlier in the season.

The day's biggest spenders were, wait for it.... West Ham of course. £6m for Birmingham's Matthew Upson, someone they may have got for nothing in the summer, if he'd gone through with the threat of buying out his contract. I'm sure there will be rather a lot of hilarity in Birmingham if they get promoted and Upson's new team get relegated come May.

Wigan completed the signing of Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa but failed to convince Papa Bouba Diop to move to the JJB. Watford were busy signing two Frenchmen - midfielder Johan Cavalli and defender Cedric Avinel plus Brazilian midfielder Douglas Rinaldi. I'm sure they'll all up for a relegation scrap, give me Ben Thatcher any day. 
  Bolton away. What was the score? Drew 1-1 Fantastic result tonight. I didn't listen to the commentary but kept in touch with the score via the BBC Sport website. What we are lacking in quality we are more than making up with passion and work-rate. That is 4 points I definitely didn't think we would be getting a couple of weeks back.

Lets hope it's not long before we get Reid, Young and Bent back and are able to unleash Bougherra on The Premiership. We may even be able to throw in A Song too. Sorry!

Opinions of those who were at The Reebok: The Telegraph; BBC Sport; The Times;; Manchester Evening News; Addicks Diary.
Super Al: "Some people might have thought that was an ugly game but to a professional manager like myself I thought it was quite an attractive game because it was all those heart on sleeve die-hard spirit kind of stuff that English Premier League is unique for."

"You have to earn the right for the couple of chances we created at the end. We perhaps had the two best chances of the second half and maybe could have got an away win tonight. You don't get those chances without the spirit, the organisation and the shear damnation of us tonight." 
  Going for a Song Pards ended his feud today with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger to sign the 19-year old Alexandre Song from Arsenal. The Cameroonian born youngster is making a name for himself alongside Wenger’s other young starlets and played and scored in Arsenal’s youth team’s 6-3 victory over Liverpool at Anfield recently.

He’s hungry, brave and uninhibited by our rocky season so let’s hope Song can add some skill and guile to our midfield in our battle against relegation. If nothing else it will lower the average age!

The days of the good old South London accent reverberating around the Charlton dressing room is surely a thing of the past with French now the accent de jour. Song, Faye, Diawara, El Khak, Bougherra and even JFH all speak with a Gallic drawl. Communication problem solved, although I understand JFH’s French only extends to ordering pies and shrugging his shoulders.

In fact, whilst talking about the once prolific goalscorer, JFH turned down a move to Spanish club Levante today, stating that he would rather stay and help fight relegation at The Valley. Nice sentiments Jim, perhaps you can start doing your bit tomorrow night.

Stories persisted today of a further bid from Curbishley’s Icelandic biscuit stash for Darren Bent. Both clubs denied the reports, with Richard Murray equivocally stating “let's make this nice and simple - he's not going anywhere.” More

I reckon these headlines do Charlton more favours than the ever more desperate looking Hammers, who lost again tonight, although my ageing memory does tell me that both Scott Parker and Danny Murphy were sold late in the January transfer window after fans initially being told they wouldn’t be. Murphy’s transfer deadline dash last year was carried live in the 11-12 midnight edition of Sky Sports News. Call me a cynic if you will. 
Monday 29 January 2007
  West Ham in £5m Lisbie bid As Alan Curbishley becomes even more desperate in the rush to spend money on anyone he can ever remember seeing play in more than one position, it appears that the ex-Charlton manager has cast his mind back far enough to a certain Kevin Lisbie.

After being denied the opportunity to spend £17m on Darren Bent and £2.5m on Hermann Hreidarsson he has turned his attentions to 'young up and coming prospect' Kevin Lisbie.

Curbishley was quoted as saying earlier this evening with the transfer deadline fast approaching "that the Hammers' fans demand Academy Football and Kevin fits the role perfectly as he has spent the last 10 years in Charlton's."

West Ham's Icelandic chairman Eggert Magnusson is said to be prepared to stump up £5m for Lisbie plus all the Icelandic Þorramatur the forward/winger/medical experiment can eat.

Meanwhile Supermarket Sweep's Dale Winton was today trying to get in touch with Curbs to see if he would make a guest appearance on the next series! 
Sunday 28 January 2007
  Laws throws his sandwiches out of pram as Bougherra set to sign Looks like Brian Laws will be throwing some more sandwiches around tomorrow as his prized centre-half Madjid Bougherra will sign for us for in the morning for £2.5m. The 24-year old earnt a lot of plaudits whilst on loan at Crewe from French club FC Gueugnon a year ago and was signed by Sheffield Wednesday after last season ended for £250,000, quote a profit for the Yorkshire club.

However Laws is not a happy bunny: "He wanted to go, he begged to go. It put us in a difficult position. We could have made him see out his contract, but we had a value and we made Charlton pay that value if they wanted him that badly.Good luck to Madjid. I wished him all the best, but I think he's made the wrong choice. Charlton rather than Everton is a no-brainer."

Cue plate of frozen prawn sandwiches being lobbed across the room!

Madjid does seem a bit of a character and even has his own website, which has had the Charlton badge up on there since Friday.

Update Sunday evening: Bougherra signs
  Not all that cushdy the other side of the river "Curbishley was at it again in his programme notes, trotting out a litany of excuses which managed to include two referees, an injury list and the inflated prices you have to pay in the transfer window."

"One question, Alan, when are you going to take some responsibility?"

"When are you going to hold your hands up to a transfer policy which smacks of nothing but a trolley dash round a car boot sale?" More

70 grand a week Lucas Neill, who apparentely has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave if the Hammers are relegated, nice but remember he's not their for the money, managed to pick up a booking before going off injured. 
Friday 26 January 2007
  Pouso jet-lag injury on mend? In a week of little Charlton news hidden away on the official site the other day was a mention that "international star" Omar Pouso has been selected for Uruguay's international away friendly at Colombia in February. On what basis Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez chooses his players is anyone's guess because unless I'm mistaken Omar has not kicked a ball since being substitued against Portsmouth in September after picking up an injury. Poor Omar was later diagnosed with a bad case of jet-lag and a back-strain caused from carrying a heavy wallet.

With this in mind should we be allowing this international star to get back on to an airplane, after all he hasn't yet got over his jet-lag from when he flew all the way from South America to London last time?

Pouso, officially listed as missing by the Metropolitan Police, was last seen in an oxygen tent at the Sparrows Lane training ground. There is a reward for more information leading to the introduction of Pouso to Charlton's first team squad. 
Thursday 25 January 2007
  Beckham starts gold rush It looks like David Beckham won't be the last high profile signing coming to America before the Major League Soccer league kicks off in April. A change in regulations last year, crassly known as the 'Beckham rule' allows each team to pay one player outside of the imposed annual salary cap of $400,000, and with cash-rich owners looking to improve the media profile of the league and in an attempt to intice the 150,000 or so viewers like me, who watch European games on television each week but don't have any interest in attending MLS games plus the huge numbers of immigrant Central Americans, filthy green notes are being waved under the noses of other also rans such as Zidane, Davids, Figo, Fowler and Ronaldo.

Not quite front page of Hello, but yesterday Claudio Reyna joined New York Red Bulls from Man City and I watch with interest to see who else will join Beckham in the land of the not so free! 
Wednesday 24 January 2007
  Superbowl’s and Sausage Rolls Back in Chicago this morning and its bloody freezing. I had an all too short time back at home but brought back some great memories with me, such as 10 of us offering to buy my old local in Hornchurch to stop it becoming a ‘pizzeria,’ after 8 pints of Fosters (and lime, ok, it’s my Essex drink, sorry) on Friday night, my Mum’s sausage rolls, the euphoria coming out of Fratton Park on Saturday evening and the face of my 6-year old with the biggest smile and his front tooth missing!

I will make a more concerted effort to get back more regularly this year to see the people that make me laugh and make me happy and those damned Addicks, to whom, I’m simply addicted.

The Superbowl is on everyone’s freezing lips here in Chicago and although it is a day for big coats and layers here in the windy city, I will spend the majority of the next 4 weeks in much sunnier climes. I have a very exciting holiday to Argentina and Uruguay to look forward to and before that I will be in Florida, mostly working but partly partying over the Superbowl weekend with some mates. Go Bears.

Before all of that I have a ridiculous schedule, well actually it’s some ridiculous people that insist I go to Cleveland, OH, Akron, OH, Boston, MA and Detroit, MI over the next 6 days. And why am I saying Boston, MA, it is so American, I will be writing Charlton, England soon! 
Tuesday 23 January 2007
  Transfer window Blanco Let’s play a game. What do these names have in common?

Kepa Blanco
and about 10 others that weren’t leaked to the press.

Now we know that Richard Murray negotiates the cash, Alan Pardew targets the candidate and interviews them with Murray, scouts watch them on cold Tuesday nights. And then Andrew Mills does…. what exactly?

I’ve been keeping my beady eyes on this ‘general manager – football’ since the summer, which frankly is difficult when I don’t know what he looks like and none of us know how he fits into the infamous managerial structure.

What we do know is that Roy Keane, Brian Laws and the Hibernian manager have each made public their displeasure at the way we have gone about our transfer dealings this month. Perhaps Mills was the one who sent the fax to the chairman of Sheffield Wednesday? Agreed, not necessarily the wrong way of going about it but certainly a way to alienate their manager, someone Mills, as an ex-agent, would know as someone one needs to get onside if you are to maximize ones bargaining power.

It never used to be like this did it? In fact we hardly ever knew who Murray’s targets were until we signed them.

I appreciate we are not the most fantastic opportunity in professional football land at the moment and it must be hard selling a player a deal when his salary will be halved next season. This combined with the complete slaughtering the media have given us plus our managerial merry-go-round of cock up proportions, which has undone 15 years of good karma, means it is bloody difficult to add quality to the squad. I’ll have one of whatever Reg Varney was smoking when he announced before Christmas that players were lining up down Floyd Road to join us. Er, how about bollocks?

With 8 days left, we've got a Chinese bloke, whose shirt costs £51, a young lad back from Ipswich, at least we think he's back because he hasn’t got anywhere near the first team squad yet and a reformed thug at left back – better than a reformed agent I suppose!

I’ve taken the Inspector Sands vow now and am not going to worry about it, just lie back and let it happen, just like I did when Clive Mendonca came into my life! 
Monday 22 January 2007
  Da Bears to go to The Superbowl The mighty Chicago Bears swept aside the New Orleans Saints tonight 39-14 to win the NFC title and will now go to the Superbowl XLI in Miami in two weeks time.

Snow was falling in the city tonight and the temperature was about -6F but the windy city will be party town tonight.

In two weeks time I will not be in Chicago but just 280 miles from the action in the warmth of Tampa.

Go Da Bears! 
  Portsmouth away. What was the score. Won 1-0 Days like yesterday don't come around very often, 453 to be precise and in that time I have seen a few away defeats, some of the hardy souls sat around me yesterday afternoon had seen many, many more but seeing the collective smiling faces of Addicks all around me and from the players on the pitch at the final whistle made this Addick very happy that I was there to witness what could potentially be a massive turning point.

It was a battling and impassioned performance and afterwards once the joy had subsided a little, we realised it was also a fully deserved victory and with Wigan, Watford and Sheffield United losing and West Ham faltering again, Pardew has breathed new life into the players, the fans and our hopes.

My son was one of a small number of fans sat in the away end and his smile has yet to wear off, he also refuses to take his Charlton top off and is soon to be diagnosed with that fatal illness that has affected thousands of us - sadaddickitis!

Talking of our fans, it was a poor turnout yesterday. £28 (roughly $55) is a lot of money to spend to be sat in the open on a bolted down plastic seat, although for that price your knees do get a fair feel of the seat in front of you also and for no extra cost. Also into the bargain we had Portsmouth fans baiting us throughout the game as if it was our elbow that knocked Pedro Mendes out earlier in the season.

Less than 1,000 Addicks witnessed yesterday's win, the magnitude of which could yet be enormous. I don't blame Addicks for not going. The pricing is insane, the ground is one for the worst in the top two divisions and then there is the little issue of our previous away form.

I have heard various comments about our away support recently and as someone who used to go to a lot of away games, but doesn't now, I try to write from 4,000 miles away without casting too many aspersions because fans have the right not go to away games, or choose to live 4,000 miles away, but what I abhor is those 'fans' moaning about the support from the comfort of their own sofa.

Too much noise, too much standing, too much swearing, too many old blokes. Well sorry you can keep your flasks in the back of the garaged 4x4 because it's backing and passion that is needed now at games, particularly away from home, not bloody moaning. Go to The Emirates if you are looking to catch up on the crossword.

There was a fairly large group of 18 year-old lads behind us yesterday, good as gold they were, and lets hope they stick with it, because it ain't cheap and it can be lonely on your own. If you can, try to get to the away games, they need us now more than ever. I know I will be trying to get back for some more before the fat lady starts singing.

Opinions of the few other Addicks at Fratton Park: The Times; BBC Sport; Frankie Valley, Addicks Diary; Guardian;
Super Al: "He was terrific for us today. (Faye) and players like him who have lacked belief, so they will gain from this today. We've got Luke Young to return this week, as well as Darren Bent and Andy Reid. That's £30million worth of talent back to this squad." 
Thursday 18 January 2007
  You read it here first So Barack Obama has finally declared publicly his intention to run for the 2008 US presidential election. During my first few months in Chicago I heard him speak a few times on local television and I made a mental note to remember the name of this engaging and articulate man. In July 2004, I wrote after the National Democratic Convention that "his words made me think that I was watching the one day future President of the United States of America." Watch this space as this story has only just began. 
  Coffee please The air stewardess on the plane from Chicago to Memphis this morning asked me if I was from London after I mumbled the words “coffee please” to her. I looked up over my tired baggy eyes and nodded in the affirmative.

“Oh great, do you know Steve Fox and Michelle Abbott?”

I gave her an incredulous look. “Er, no I don’t believe I do.”

“Oh, it’s just that they are friends of mine and they used to live in London.”

I’m home now after a work day that started at 4am and ended at 10pm, all for a 3-hour meeting and a curled up sandwich, via two states and four airplanes.

Tomorrow I make a return to lovely O’Hare airport but this time with a skip in my step as I head to the UK for a long weekend, starting with a Friday night that will probably see the end of 21 days without a drink – god I could have murdered a cold one at Fort Smith airport, Arkansas this afternoon – and then a drive down to Fratton Park on Saturday to see Djimi Traore score a hat-trick, something that will end my faith in the human race.

My son will be with me to witness his first ever away game and he’s extremely excited, if only he knew how cack we were!

I was told by my brother today that we have only sold 600 tickets, and although it is hard to make much noise in that crappy open end, one thing is for sure, If we win there will a bloody party!

It’s along the coast to Eastbourne after that and I return to Chicago next Tuesday, only to end up back at O’Hare the following day to go to some other Hicksville joint where the people that inhabit these small towns scare the living Bejesus out of me. Give me big cities any day of the week. 
Tuesday 16 January 2007
  The men in charge - part three This follows Parts One and Two.

July 1995 - May 2006 Alan Curbishley
I was like most fans disappointed to see Richard Murray appoint Curbs over Gritty, Gritt was a legend and even though Curbishley had a Charlton pedigree, he was ‘more West Ham’ in my eyes than Charlton. Bit like Pardew could be considered ‘more Palace’, even though he played more games for us.

The two-man pairing of course was never made to last, they never are – look at Wham! But I was content to support Richard Murray and the board’s decision.

That first season was an enjoyable one, with a couple of good cup runs – who remember’s Bowyer’s hat-trick away at Wimbledon on a Tuesday night at Selhurst? – We also made the play-off’s losing unfortunately to Palarse but it was a start and honestly that season we were nowhere near ready for promotion.

Nonetheless it was disappointing and I remember at that 2nd leg being confused by Curbs not playing either David Whyte or Bradley Allen that night, two potential match winners. It wouldn’t end up being the first time I despaired at his team sheets or substitutions.

Even so, in that first season under his sole charge he’d given us all a taste and a belief that we could get out of the division. The next season was one of rebuilding with Bowyer sold to Leeds and in May of 1997 the signing of a certain Clive Mendonca signalled some real intent to give promotion a go.

Crowds were on the up, The Valley’s development made the weeds on the terraces a memory and relative star names were being persuaded to join the ranks – such as Eddie Youds, Mark Bright, Mark Bowen, Steve Jones and Danny Mills.

Of course that season ended with the Wembley play-off final and one of the best, if not the best and most exhausting day of my life and although Lawrence in many ways achieved more by taking us up the time before, this time I felt that Charlton got the plaudits they deserved with non-Charlton people in admiration and Curbishley had a lot to do with that.

In those years Curbs bought a certain player, something he has always made a point of saying, although I would argue that he strayed from his mantra with some his final signings for us and these combined with Dowie’s mercenaries, the current line up would run for hills when faced with some of the players that Curbs had in his squad in the mid to late 90’s – Youds, Rufus, Balmer, Bowen, Bright, Mills, Kinsella, Brown and Robinson as well as a young Konchesky, Parker and Kevin Nicholls, who all wore their hearts on their sleeves and played as if every game was their last.

We lived the dream that first Premiership season, with wide eyes I went to all the big grounds and was just happy to be there or see us on the box, or read big reports in the papers and despite Stevie Brown’s heroics at Villa Park, no win in our last 6 home games was enough for us to get relegated at the first attempt.

In my mind it was the next summer, when Curbs pulled off some of his best managerial decisions. He persuaded Kinsella, Mendonca and Powell all to stay, sold Danny Mills for very good money and struck early by signing one of the best goalkeepers outside the Prem, Dean Kiely. It was one of my most enjoyable seasons. Up until Easter, in a harbinger of what was to come, Curbishley’s team walked the league. I’m a pessimist when it comes to Charlton generally but that season I woke every match-day thinking that we would win. A week before Easter on-loan Paul Kitson’s late winner at Sellout (our first win against Palarse there in 75 years) had us all believing.

The real shame was that we had to limp over the line because after our Good Friday win at home to QPR a 110 points total did not look beyond us but that was to be our last victory of the season.

One thing Curbishley was in his time at Charlton was prepared. His coaching and his analysis of opponents and their players was down to the smallest detail and this trickled throughout the club and that first season back in the Premiership we were a different proposition to the fish-out-of-water one two seasons previous. We had that battling spirit and confidence that took us to the title the year before plus players with experience of the top level and we had players that could play – it was no surprise the then midfielders of Jenson, Stuart, Parker, Kinsella, Robinson, Newton and Kishishev all went on to have good Premiership careers.

The next few seasons were one of growth. 40 point targets, improving the squad with players that were better that what we had, The Valley was improving as were the pies, the crowds were getting bigger, nothing for those big clubs to get excited about but a nice way to run a business and nice time to be an Addick and for once we were able to show off about our little club, which was run sensibly, and encourage others to come and have a look at our success story.

I remember being chuffed when Curbs denounced West Ham’s approach in May 2001, Big Brian Cole putting him on the spot after the last game of the season. But although Curbishley was a planner, and one could never knock his record over the course of a season, there were times during individual games when I just hoped for a bit more courage or invention, things started to get a bit dull frankly – call me spoilt if you like. We were on the cusp on moving to become an established top half club and I felt that we should have been more adventurous in games.

Curbs’ teams nearly always beat their relegation ‘rivals’ by grinding out results but in games when some flair would not have gone amiss, we rarely delivered, and when we did – Man Utd 3-3, Chelsea 4-2, Arsenal 4-2, Liverpool 3-2, they were treasured moments.

Everyone we signed seemed to be a utility player and if he did sign a creative one, he seemed to curb them, if you pardon the pun, and saddle them with duties that clearly were not in their games.

The big turning point was in January 2004 when Parker spat his dummy out and joined the bench-warming club at Stamford Bridge. Curbs’ was fuming and maybe it was at that point he realized that we were truly punching way above our weight.

He never replaced Parker although the signing of Murphy and Smertin were both players who could have taken us to the next level, but to me Curbs showed that he could not deal with so-called star names. Rightly or wrongly, these players need pampering and ego stroking and a certain amount of freedom within the confines of a club but it was Curbishley’s club, no one else’s and no one got in his way, not Murphy, not Euell, not Konchesky, not Andy Todd.

Di Canio’s signing was inspirational but they were to be in short supply as Alan struggled to move both the club and himself onto the next level. The England job was unsettling and it would have been a fitting way for him to leave The Valley but he and we knew it was never going to happen. Reputations are taken into account during these things and Curbs’ didn’t have the right one for the head-up-their-own-backsides knobs at The FA.

So, it came to an end. We never did get that Cup run and we depressingly finished every season after we reached the magic 40 points, despite the club telling us that we wanted to push on.

However that day, even sat at home now living in Chicago, against Blackburn and the spontaneous applause that rang around the ground during the last 5 minutes will always be remembered. He never really was a Charlton man, the fans rarely sung his name, but what he was, was everything that Charlton stood for during those 20+ years he was with the club, through some of the darkest to some of the finest moments.

We should always be proud that we had a man like Alan Curbishley leading us during those times but as people used to say we will never know how good he was until he is gone. That may well be the case but believe me Curbs is not blameless for the demise that was coming.

The final part will be posted shortly. 
Monday 15 January 2007
  Matt Holland to sign for Leicester? Arguably our best player in recent months Matt Holland is expected to sign for Leicester City tomorrow according to reports. Pardew is willing to let the ex-Ipswich player go for £500,000.

Holland has played 110 times for the Addicks and although during the summer it appeared his time had come, he has worked his socks off for the cause this season and has tried to lead an often bedraggled bunch in recent games which has said a lot to me about him as a person and a professional.

I for one would like to see him stay until the end of the season. Both Simon Walton and Zheng Zhi are waiting in the wings but are untried in the Premiership. One can only hope that Pards has a replacement lined up and is raising some capital with Hayden Mullins being consistently linked to a move. 
  My Chicago - #8 Greektown & Little Italy West and south of the Loop situated around the marauding University of Illinois at Chicago are two small areas of the city called Greektown and Little Italy. To describe these as neighbourhood’s is perhaps biggin’ up their part a little, but nonetheless both areas have a historical and cultural significance to the city.

Greektown covers about 5 blocks south of Randolph Street, where Greek restaurants dominate the sidewalks and the shop signs are displayed in both the Greek and English language. The area still does have a large Greek-American population, most of whose ancestors came in the mid 1800’s, although the numbers have diminished due to the rise in property prices and the expansion of the university.

Incidentally the Greek population in Chicago didn’t get any kind of notoriety until American’s ‘found’ it’s cuisine in the 1960’s and subsequently the Greeks started to celebrate their heritage more actively. The area hit the big screen when it was eulogized in the film 'My Big Fat Wedding.'

The ugly university buildings of UIC were part of the 'why an earth' 1960’s architectural boom and is home to about 5,000 students. UIC as a whole is in fact the largest university in the Chicago area.

Just around the corner is somewhere not very Greek at all but worth a visit. Old St Patricks Cathedral (700 W Adams St) is Chicago’s oldest public building after surviving the Great Fire of 1871 and is also, honestly, home to the largest street party in the world held every July.

The restaurants are all reasonably priced and their menus are similar with plenty of lamb dishes on offer, including Gyros (better known in Catford as Donor’s), which of course should never to be consumed without anything less than 8 pints inside you.

For reasons I have never known, lamb doesn’t appear often on menus in Chicago, but it is plentiful along this strip of restaurants, which to be honest are all pretty much of a similar quality. My favourite being The Parthenon (314 S Halsted St), only because my boss always takes me there and insists that everything should be washed down with a glass of rodity, which is said to be made in the basement. It tastes like it does too.

For a snack or just a cup of coffee, I would also recommend Artopolis (306 S Halsted St). The Greek salad's were great and the Greek coffee had to be shaken out of the cup it was so strong.

Further south past The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and then west on Taylor Street, basically walking around UIC, is a strip of about half a mile long that is known as Little Italy. Now if you are expecting a Little Italy neighbourhood like the ones in New York, Cleveland or Toronto, then you will be disappointed. This is a stroll of a mile and a half and actually not very Italian, although it does host some of the best Italian restaurants in the city.

Italians settled on the near west side of Chicago in the late 19th century, working nearby in the Randolph Street food markets and quickly making it home building churches such as the Our Lady of Pompeii (1224 W Lexington Street). Although the Italians were never a majority in the area, they have kept a presence to this day inspiring the brand new building of the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame at 1431 W Taylor St. A plaza dedicated to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio is opposite.

To find more Italian recognition stroll through Arrigio Park to see a statue of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the Americas. Around the park are some nice residential streets. Walk along Loomis Street to see classic Chicago three-flats and along Lexington Street to enjoy beautiful homes that adjoin the park.

One of my favourite city restaurants is here, Tuscany (1014 W Taylor) but if you prefer cooking your own then you will be in Italian heaven in Conte Di Savoia. Closed in the winter for obvious reason’s Mario’s Italian Lemonade place (1068 W Taylor) is swarming with locals looking for gelato and Lupini beans in the summer.

Don't expect Athens or Rome but close your eyes and imagine these streets swarming with Greeks and Italian families in the late 1880's and see the lagacy that was left behind. 
Sunday 14 January 2007
  49-yard kick gives Bears victory It took an overtime field goal from Robbie Gould from 49 yards to snatch victory for the Bears against last year's Superbowl champions Seattle Seahawks 27-24. Chicago's most popular sports 'franchise' will now play New Orleans Saints in next week's NFC Championship decider with the winners going onto The Superbowl on February 4th.

The 49-yard kick was a personal record distance for Gould, who has had an immaculate season for the Bears. The record longest field goal is 63 yards, it has been done twice. Once in 1998 by Denver Broncos’ Jason Elam and then 28-years previously by Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints.

These stats got me wondering why American football teams don't look beyond their own country for their placekickers. I mean that is all they do, no blocking, tackling or throwing but often they are the difference to teams winning or losing games. I reckon on a good day with a tail wind I could hoof a ball 40-odd yards, let alone Scott Carson or any other professional goalkeeper.

I remember Clive Allen tried it once for the now defunct London Monarchs in the European NFL. He actually played alongside Chicago legend William 'The Refrigerator' Perry. There have been more cases of Australian Rules kickers moving to the NFL, with Ben Graham currently a New York Jets punter and Saverio Rocca just making the switch from North Melbourne Kangaroos to Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year contract.

The real reason of course is money. Why millions are paid to quarter backs, line backers, wide receivers and running backs, Robbie Gould is only said to earn $170,000 a season, not to be sniffed at admittedly and not for a lot of graft but pauper standards in comparison and plainly professional soccer (sic) players wouldn't even get out of bed for that. 
  The wild west and then back over the pond Day 14: Two weeks without a drop of alcohol and it feels good. Good to wake less tired in the morning, more alert during the day and less knackered in the evening.

Friday afternoon was the toughest so far as our team attended a belated 'holiday season' function with one of our friendliest markets and whilst everyone swilled good wine I sunk about 5 bottles of Pellegrini.

I'm sitting waiting for The Bears play-off game against the Seattle Seahawks to start, snow is forecast later, which I'd imagine will suit the Bears more. In fact after a lengthly spell of mild weather, the winter is expected to begin in earnest this week, troubling when I have a long day trip to Fort Smith in the heart of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains and once part of the 'wild west" on Wednesday.

Then on Thursday I leave here for my next pilgrimage home to see family, friends and the Addicks. Charlton and not drinking? It's like cheese without pickle. 
Saturday 13 January 2007
  Middlesbrough home. What was the score? Lost 3-1 If ever there was a must-win game it was today, particularly with other results going our way but if we can't help ourselves then no one else will.

When will we learn? Are we good enough to learn? Crucial defensive errors cost us again and not for the first time we conceded in that vital minute or so before the break crushing any fragile confidence and raising our opponents who had not won away all season. That is 43 goals we have conceded this season, Sunderland 'only' let in 69 last season!

Yakubu and Viduka highlighted our own limitations up front, even though Boro's surplus to requirement Hasselbaink scored thanks to a slice of fortune. However there was no cutting edge with Ambrose from what I could make out on the radio playing in a central midfield position and Reid wasted out wide.

But after another week of the January transfer window passing with only an improvement at left-back to show for it, our squad looks like it doesn't have the heart or the ability to save us.

Sure we are still in there, although doing our very best impression of the Titanic but I'd rather have Pardew leading us through these difficult times than the previous two turkeys and with most Addicks now accepting the inevitable the pressure falls more so on Curbs' West Ham, Wigan and Sheffield United. If we can keep these three in sight then we may still have a chance of minuscule proportions.

One thing is for sure though, we need players and we need players bad. How we sell the club to potential ambitious candidates is tough though.

Opinions of those who were at The Valley: BBC Sport;; Sky Sports; All Quiet; Frankie Valley; Observer;
Super Al: "We've contacted some players this week but I have a decision to make about whether they are going to have the qualities to attack the situation we are in, like Ben Thatcher showed today." 
  Looptopia "'Looptopia' Chicago's first all-night downtown celebration modelled on 'White Night' events in Paris, Rome and other cities will turn Chicago's Loop into a sensory playground" (more)

Over 75 events will be staged throughout the Loop on the night of May 11th & 12th and museums, galleries, restaurants, bars, cinemas and shops will extend their hours to provide America's first dusk to dawn spectacle.

Of course staying up all night was something I grew out of when first I realised I could without being told off and then realising I couldn't because I was too old! 
  Can I park here? Anyone who has visited Chicago would not have failed to notice 'the corn on the cob' buildings on the north side of the Chicago River. The Marina City residential towers, 61 floors each were built in 1964 and the first 19 floors are used as car-parking open to the elements with parked cars only protected by a steel rope.

The other day I was walking by and saw a car hanging out of the building, something that I guess many people including me had thought what if? Well it was all a stunt, dreamt up by Chicago based advertising agency Leo Burnett for Allstate Insurance Company.

The dangling car goes hand in hand with Allstate's 'hunter' advert which is being shown in the build-up to the end of the American Football season.

The advert can be seen in full, and if you want from 7 different angles here
Friday 12 January 2007
  Bulls up Up until Monday night the Chicago Bulls had only lost 3 of their 18 home games this season. Well it's now 5 out of 20 after I took Charlton kind of the luck to the United Center (right) twice this week.

On Monday night they lost to the Houston Rockets, despite the Texan's missing the 7ft 5inch Chinaman Yao Ming. This in spite of being up by 10pts at the half, but the Bulls were sluggish after the break and lost a low scoring game 84-77. Then on Thursday evening they were cruising well into the 3rd quarter leading by 18, but choked remarkably to the New Jersey Nets and ended up losing 86-83.

However they still remain tightly knit together with 3 other teams in the Central Division, any one of whom will probably end up winning the Eastern Conference title. 
  Platinum balls "I was on the phone to Tom Cruise for about an hour last night, and an hour the night before."

No, not me but LA's new plaything David Beckham of course. Who else would you turn to for advise? Gary Neville?

Beckham's signing for LA Galaxy was not entirely unexpected, in fact I have been following the story intently for a while but what has blown me away is his salary. Was Andrew Mills involved I ask myself? No, but a company we have talked about before, AEG, obviously were.

Tonight I came across this article in The Independent, which you might find hilarious but sadly 'soccer' fans here wouldn't because this is the best they have but as the MLS hemorrhage's its best players to Europe, clubs lose money and fans lose interest in the club game, if not necessarily the sport, Beckham is a huge shot in the arm but likewise a huge gamble.

In the country with such famous sporting icon's as A-Rod (annual wages of $21.6m), Shaq ($20m) and Vick ($23.1m), America's sporting public have been blown away by the salary that Becks is being paid over 5 years. "The best looking athlete in the world," as he was described on the television here tonight, will pick up a cool $50m a year until the age of 36.

I wonder what kind of reception he will get from his fellow 'soccer' players? This is a list of the top 10 earners in the MLS:

1. David Beckham; LA Galaxy $50m
2. Juan Francisco Palencia; Chivas USA $1.36m
3. Landon Donovan; LA Galaxy $900,000
4. Eddie Johnson; Kansas City Wizards $875,000
5. Juan Pablo Garcia; Chivas USA $624,260
6. Freddy Adu; DC United $550,000
7. Josh Wolff; Kansas City Wizards $420,357
8. Clint Mathis; Colorado Rapids $410,000
9. Eddie Pope; Real Salt Lake $394,688
10. Tony Sanneh; Chicago Fire $365,000 
Thursday 11 January 2007
  Thatcher to join relegation fight Must admit that I never thought we would sign someone like Ben Thatcher but then again I would never have thought a lot of things that have gone on this season. However it is steel and balls that is required in our situation and Thatcher as we know will provide that. A £1m for Traore strikes me as good business, even though he was 'valued' at double that in the summer. I just hope that whizz-kid of an agent, sorry General Manager did not cough all the funds up front?

The fee for Thatcher (picture right taken at the training ground today) is thought to be £100,000 rising to £500,000. He was one of a crop of good youngsters in the early 90's playing under Mick McCarthy at Millwall. Kenny Cunningham, Mark Kennedy, Alex Rae, Andy Roberts and Kasey Keller were all there too. I didn't like him then to be honest although he has made a good career for himself playing mostly in The Premiership.

However recently he became a 'hate figure' with that challenge on Pedro Mendes and regretfully that wasn't a lone incident. But the predicament we are in is not for the faint hearted and I think Thatcher will do a job, and realistically would do a job in The Championship as well.

Fuck it, lets go and get Andy Todd as well.... 
Wednesday 10 January 2007
  In and Out Anyone else thinks that Blogger is a pain in the arse at the moment? Anyway, lots of talk and no action in the coming and goings at The Valley. Of course none of us believed Peter Varney when he said that players would be lining up at the door when the clock struck midnight on January 1st, either that or Pards just looked at the list and laughed.

Lets start with the potential outs. Darren Ambrose's very brief return to form looks to have secured his place under Pardew, who will also join the search to find Dennis Rommedahl's potential and with Lloyd Sam banging on the door, it's injury prone Jerome Thomas who will be the new manager's first casualty. We certainly have our fair share of wingers at the club, although none of whom can seemingly get down the by-line and put a decent cross in.

Personally I would be more happier with Thomas in The Championship than Romm or Ambrose, if I'm planning ahead, and he is one of only a few players who has any confidence with the ball at their feet - Reid, Rommedahl and perhaps El Khak the others, okay perhaps that's a more misguided confidence!

On the flip side after an excellent start when Thomas was desperate to impress Curbishley, injuries have hampered him ever since and he doesn't score enough goals but then again, apart from one chap, who does? I would be happy with £2.5m for the ex-Arsenal youngster but talk of £1m appears far too low in my book, even though he cost only £100k.

There are rumours that Harry Redknapp's little black book of foreign mercernaries now includes Djimi Traore. Pompey have said to bid £1m, half of what we paid in the summer and I say get rid but not before we bring a replacement in. It is also said that Souleymane Diawara, who has his supporters, including me and it is believed Pardew, may also join Portsmouth but only on loan until the end of season with the experienced Andy O'Brien coming the other way.

Sheffield Wednesday meanwhile have told the world that they have turned down a bid of £1.3m made by us for their highly rated centre-half Madjid Bougherra. I don't know much about him but I wonder if Wednesday are holding out for more money and that's why they made the bid public?

It is said that Pardew has some good connections overseas, something we have severely lacked, unless you call partnering holiday home companies and youth academies in obscure places good connections. Pardew is particularly close to the Spanish game and is trying to secure a loan deal with table-topping Seville for their 22-year old striker Kepa Blanco. He has scored 6 goals in only 9 starts this season but struggles to get in the first team, which includes Frederic Kanouté and Brazilian Luis Fabiano.

Other names being banded about are Teddy Sheringham, Yossi Benayoun (who is surely not enough of a utility player for Curbs), Alexei Smertin, David Healy and Lee Hendrie.

Finally the official site has confirmed that Cory Gibbs will be out for the season after a further operation on his knee, which he damaged playing for the USA against Morocco in a world cup warm up game. Pardew must be shaking his head at the pony he has inherited. 
  Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Lake Geneva has nothing to do with Switzerland in fact it is named after a town in upper state New York near Lake Seneca. Nevertheless this charming town could fool one into thinking that you were at a Swiss or French ski resort in the Alps. The mountains are more hills mind, but it has a cozy feel to it and the shimmering Geneva Lake with it's tree-studded shores and a 21-mile path dotted with huge mansions around I'd imagine is summer haven.

Despite the 50F (10C) temperatures, it was winter this last weekend and the place was deserted except for the small town itself with it's cozy cafes and camping shops.

Despite being situated in the state of Wisconsin, Lake Geneva is only 80 miles from Chicago and the lifeless homes on the lake led us to believe that wealthy Chicago families consider this to be a summer extension of the city, with Bears news dominating the networks and the Tribune being sold in newsagents.

There are an incredible number of beautiful historic and contemporary mansions on the lakefront, the Great Chicago Fire brought increasing numbers of Chicagoans into area, many stayed but most just kept a house there and some of these are hugely nice, such as the 18,000 sq. ft Stone Manor (below). The estate was built in 1901 by Otto Young, a man who made his fortune buying real estate along State Street in Chicago following the great fire at a cost then of $1m complete with indoor bowling alley and a 3rd floor miniature golf course!

The best thing about Lake Geneva is that everything is outdoors. In the summer there are beaches, hot-air ballooning, horse riding, golf plus every water activity you can think off, then skiing in the winter, although if you have actually been to the Alps, you may laugh at the ski-resort here (above).

It is no surprise that Chicagoans discovered this place because the countryside is everything the suburbs of Chicago is not, and as such the best activity of all is plain old walking, not only around the lake path but the 270-acre Big Foot Beach State Park nearby and the surrounding villages of Fontana, which 10 miles to the west and Williams Bay just a bit closer.

We looked around a few places to stay for the one night we were there, but fell in love with The Geneva Inn, perched right over the lake and dinner in their restaurant, The Grandview was excellent. And if it's some local cheese and wine you are after then pop into see the friendly ladies at The Cheese Box, but don't mention me as we promised to go back and didn't!

Photos L to R: Geneva Lake; Deserted country lanes; Big Foot Beach State Park; Andy Gump statue, the cartoonist was from Lake Geneva; Another beautiful lake house.

Monday 8 January 2007
  Proper Charlton I have just come across this on Charlton Life. Sorry if I'm a bit late with it but have a look, it's fantastic. You're not proper Charlton unless.... I reckon I ticked around 80%.

Richard, no. 36 reminded me of you! 
  Stoked The January transfer window is proving as tricky as ever for us. Lets face it we are not the best looking specimen at the dance are we?

Anthony Stokes, as it was looking late yesterday, today chose Sunderland over us. This is a kick in the teeth but remember Celtic were offering Champions League football too and he turned his nose up at them as well. I think we shouldn't dwell on this too much, he clearly prefers the wonga to the opportunity.

Having said that Roy Keane and Niall Quinn's Irishness would have been a big deciding factor, particularly with their links to the national team and not forgetting Quinn's connection with Arsenal. Stokes also spent the entire pre-season with Sunderland and therefore knows the club, it's players and the area probably better than SE7.

According to reports, Pards has done an about turn on Darren Bent, as long as it is Pards making the decisions, then I am happy but the good news is that Benty's injury doesn't look like one of those classic Charlton ones when a bout of flu takes 6 months to heal.

There is also talk of Jerome Thomas being sold to raise some cash, it would be nice if we sold the crap and kept the cream wouldn't it? 
Sunday 7 January 2007
  Nottm Forest away. What was the score? Lost 2-0 I've read enough about Saturday's game to make me thoroughly depressed. I was hoping that Pardew would try some of the youngsters, can they really be any worse than that crock of shit who pretend to be Charlton players, particularly when you look at Lloyd Sam's effort when he came on towards the end?

It is criminal that we are left 'supporting' some of these mercenaries and it completely chokes and disgusts me that they dare wear the same shirt as the one I have in my wardrobe and get paid handsomely for the honour, hah that's a laugh.

This season has been a disaster hasn't it? The kernel of which started long before Dowie, before Reed and before Pardew but the future has been made fundamentally worse by the club spunking £11m on players who are largely rubbish. I maintain that Dowie may have picked the players, although not all of them, but he DID NOT write the cheques.

Injuries are now crucifying us with our best players missing, the media are ripping us to shreads and we are in January and I'm sorry I have been a Charlton fan too long not to expect the board to sell Darren Bent this month and frankly Richard Murray et al have done nothing recently for me to have any faith in them.

I DO have faith in Alan Pardew though and if Pardew insists we sell Bent to rebuild the team, then I will go with it as he has a history of rebuilding teams, equally Rome wasn't built in a day and I do not see any advantage on us cashing in on Bent when we can't even secure the signing of an untested 18-year from Arsenal, with Anthony Stokes choosing mid-table Championship Sunderland over us, let alone 5 or 6 other players that will turn our season around.

Mind you if Murray still has that large plate of humble pie in front of him, then I bloody hope that he does not alienate the best thing to happen to us for a long while - Pardew - and go behind his back and flog Bent and even worse, flog him cheaply. Recent changes at the club give me some hope that Murray is allowing Pardew a wide berth in some crucial decision-making at the club.

The Forest game was another to add to the catalogue of embarrassments but like the Arsenal game it didn't mean anything. Next week is huge and Pardew knows he has some serious work to do. Pards is sure learning about his inherited players as he said and I hope we never have to see some of the players that yesterday disgraced the famous shirt again.

Opinions of those that were there: All Quiet; Addicks Diary; The Sun;; Guardian.
Super Al: "I'd like to think one or two players will recognise that the performance they put in today wasn't good enough for the standards I like to set and they either respond or I'm afraid they won't find themselves anywhere near the first team." 
Friday 5 January 2007
  First hurdle Day 5: : A week (well almost) without an alcoholic drink of any kind and it was a bit of a breeze. However the first hurdle comes this weekend when we head for a short two-day break with some British friends to Lake Geneva in Wisconsin.

The weekend should be a relaxing one, Lake Geneva named after a town of the same name in upper state New York, is about 80 miles north of Chicago, not far across the border in Wisconsin, the dairy state. Although Illinois is extremely flat Wisconsin has some peaks, large hills if not exactly mountains and there’s actually a ski school in the area, however they’ve only had 1 inch of snow the whole season, so skiing won’t be on the agenda, ironic when you consider we couldn’t get to Colorado because there was too much of it.

Parts of America west of Chicago such as Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas and Kansas has seen more snow than ever before but in the Midwest and the North East the winter so far has been incredibly mild, which can only mean that we should expect a brutal 2nd half of winter. The only snow we have had in Chicago fell amazingly in October and we then had a cold snap and a few inches in early December.

The average snow fall in Chicago in a year is 39 inches but so far this winter we have had just 5 inches.
  Parky in, Harbin gone. Benty? I go away for one and a bit days to Akron, Ohio not to be confused with the arse end of the world, which of course would be in London SE25, and all hell breaks lose.

Phil Parkinson, as anticipated joins the club as Assistant Manager, at least until he gets a better offer but I reckon it's a good deal for all parties as Parkinson will be desperate to repair his otherwise immaculate record after being sacked by Hull. Parkinson was a cult-hero at Reading and worked with Pardew for 5 years until he left to take over as manager at Colchester.

And with Mark Robson and Mark Kinsella being renamed as first-team coach and reserve-team coach respectively, this finally ends the much vaulted but flawed 'coaching structure' that Richard Murray put into place when Curbishley departed. Andrew Mills (General Manager - Football) remains, and we will see what kind of work he does in the January window.

Talking of which, the January window has not been good to us in previous seasons with Parker, Murphy and Smertin all leaving us late in the month, although we did get Marcus Bent! What would we ever have done without him?

Now, it appears that we may listen to offers for our best player, Darren Bent. I personally think that Pardew is only being honest in his assertion of the situation and lazy good for nothing journo's are getting over excited. However selling the boy would be bloody daft. As far as I know, no one has ever stayed up by throwing in the towel early and 2nd from bottom and without your best player is not the best way to attract new talent to replace him.

I just hope this is not another Murray ruse, no more porkies please Charlton. If that supposed idiot up the road can keep Andy Johnson, then we can keep Bent and if Boa Morte is worth £5m then how much is Bent truly worth?

As announced on What was the score on Monday, Performance Manager John Harbin has left the club, probably under the trade descriptions act as has overseas scouting co-ordinator Jeff Vetere, who was very close to old boss Curbishley.

The old blokes at The FA have been at it again. After 9 holes and a liquid lunch they decided yesterday that Pards was quite right in getting a bit excited when West Ham scored a late goal against Arsenal earlier in the season, but they also thought that it "frivolous" that Charlton thought Sankofa didn't deserve a red card this week away at Arsenal. Rightly or wrongly, why does Sankofa get the another ban, when it was the club not the player that questioned the decision? After the decision Sankofa, who looked visibly shaken, just walked off the pitch without even talking to old mother Riley. Nope, doesn't make any sense at all but apparentely we're going back to the FA for another go, so watch Osei's ban become 3 games next week!

It's the beauty of the Cup tomorrow. I can't get excited about it I'm afraid, even though it's being carried live on television here although I will miss it as I'm away the weekend.

It will be another 'risk-free' chance for Pardew to look at his players though. I would particularly like to see Rommedahl be given a chance up front with Marcus Bent and I'd play (I keep saying this) El Kak as the holding midfielder with Kish at right back and Fortune and Diawara as the centre-half's. Simon Walton may make his long awaited senior debut but what about giving that Pouso chap a run-out or is the altitude still too low for him in Nottingham? 
Wednesday 3 January 2007
  The best of 2006 Chicago Addick's personal look back at 2006, forgive me if this is all about me!

Football first. Charlton won just 9 games in 2006, they played 41. Not very good was it under four managers? I saw them win just 2 of those games on the box - both this season. El Kak's late free kick win over Blackburn and Hughes' late header the other day defeating Aston Villa. I have actually not witnessed a win live since December 2004. My personal 'being there' Charlton highlight in 2006 was our hard fought 1-1 draw against the eventual champions at Stamford Bridge in January. Despite 4 summer week's of the world cup, when England hugely disappointed a nation, the best game I actually sat down to watch was the FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham, surely the best final since 1990.

I wrote at the time: "Afterwards I couldn't help feel that Charlton would never have been so adventurous in their play and a UEFA Cup place is fully deserved by an obviously intelligent manager in Alan Pardew. The much vilified West Ham board also take credit for sticking with him when it would have been easier to sack him and appease their critics."

As most of my regular readers will know I like to travel and do so at every opportunity. I was lucky enough in May to spend a weekend in Reykjavik. It is a naturally remarkable place yet modern and cosmopolitan at the same time. The day we spent being driven through almost total white-out conditions to visit Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss was a totally amazing experience which ended with us flying through snow covered mountains on skidoos at 62 mph. I won't forget that day in a hurry.

The city I best liked in 2006 though was here in the USA. I had been to Los Angeles many years ago and took a liking to it's urban sprawl and was again taken by it's craziness when we visited in August. A close 2nd though was Washington DC, where I spent a weekend with a mate walking around the nations capital in February. If you have an interest in the history of this bizarre country then a trip to DC is a must.

My favourite day began very early in the morning in a hot-air balloon watching the sun break 3,500 feet high over Napa Valley. It was a surreal and utterly tranquil experience. The rest of day was lazy touring some of the area's fine wineries and ended with a drive in an open topped sports car to San Francisco. It was a lovely way to spend my 40th birthday.

The day before in Sonoma we came across a vineyard called Gundlach Bundschu, started by a Bavarian family in 1857. Their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon became my favourite wine of 2006.

Everday living in America is an experience, although this one sends a chiver down my spine when I think about it. In September I leapt out of an aeroplane from 13,000 feet, 8,000 of which was in freefall on probably the most reckless day of my life. It was an exhilerating feeling but probablly one I won't be repeating for a while.

There were too many late night's in 2006, and one of my 2007 resolutions is to get to bed earlier but there was one particular night last year when I didn't want to go to bed because it was just too good. The night followed a hot and memorable day at one of my very best mates' wedding in August. The evening was an absolute laugh, highlighted by the groom break dancing on the dancefloor. You need to know him to find that funny!

I saw a lot of movies last year and Casino Royale deserves praise, simply because I wasn't expecting much but the best film I saw during the whole of last year was just the other day. Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a classic anti-hero, was a disturbing film with documentary-level authenticity with a deep consideration to a serious issue.

Back in January I was taken to see Billy Elliot at the Victoria Palace Theatre, which wasn't just the best show I saw last year but the best for many a year. Back in June I got hold of some Madonna tickets and I was glad I did as her live show, sorry it was more of a workout than a gig, made a younger man very happy. Talking of Madonna, my favourite song was the cheesy Maneater by Nelly Furtado, mainly because it reminded me of my holiday.

I'm not much of a television person, the quality is terrible and I struggle to follow anything here because of the scheduling and continuous adverts. However programmes I tried to catch in 2006 were Inside the Actor's Studio, with James Lipton and Two and a Half Men whenever I could. I'm also a sucker for Deal or No Deal. I did also watch the whole 4th series of 24 on DVD in a couple of sittings.

I am a self-confessed foodie and two restaurants stick in my mind from last year. We had a great meal at the Japanese inspired Koi in LA but this was bettered by Alinea in Chicago, where Grant Aschatz's creativity has to be tasted to be believed.

I'm not one for a regular pub or bar, but I was a frequent visitor to Gingers Ale House, often at unsociable hours and they serve a cracking cup of coffee and a 'proper' sausage sandwich with HP sauce. It fully deserves it's 4th straight 'best soccer pub in America' award.

Working is for the weekend right? Well one of the best I had in 2006 was when my brother came and visited in October. We are very different but we have this great way of making each other crack up, it was a fun weekend and I do miss him.

The people I know and love back at home I continue to miss incredibly. The one's I don't know such as Alan Curbishley, Iain Dowie, Les Reed, Alan Pardew and Richard Murray provided me with some of the most shocking moments of 2006. It was never this much fun being a Charlton fan was it? The media can piss off, I for one am more than happy that we are no longer the 'little Charlton' they used to coo and pass over.

There was one person I met in 2006, which wouldn't have been possible if a) I wasn't living in the USA, b) a Charlton fan and 3) wrote this blog. One warm night in October in the city that doesn't sleep I met a fellow by the name of New York Addick and I can't tell you how nice it was to vent one's fury and passion and talk bollocks with a fellow fan, something us ex-pat Addicks don't get to do on a regular basis. 
Tuesday 2 January 2007
  Arsenal away. What was the score? Lost 4-0 Lets move on, we have plenty more winnable games ahead. A not unexpected first defeat at The Emirates this evening, it was just unfortunate that after we started to get a foothold in the match, a flukey deflection led to Sankofa fouling van Persie to give away a penalty. How Mike Riley decided that it was a straight red is beyond me and that decision basically made the game a non-contest and from then on it was a damage limitation exercise.

4 goals was unfair on Scott Carson, who performed heroics in goal but the scoreline was made a lot worse by strikes with the last kick of the ball at the end of each half. The performance showed, if we needed showing, how hard a job Pardew has in keeping us up, particularly now without Darren Bent up front for at least the next 4 league games.

It was always likely that Henry would make his comeback tonight and he didn't disappoint by scoring his usual goal against us. The players collectively worked hard and at times played it around reasonably well but without ever threatening, Ambrose's 2nd half shot comfortably saved by Lehmann the only chance I remember us having of note.

Diawara was back in the side but had a nightmare frankly and although he does show signs of class and strength, he's had a shocking introduction to English football, not helped by having to play under 3 managers and have the chairman publicly slate him.

It was good to hear the travelling Addicks getting behind the team late on, we have to keep the faith and focus on the winnable games. We also desperately need some fresh faces because apart from one or two, the first XI almost picks itself and plainly they ain't good enough.

Opinions of those at The Emirates: BBC Sport;; Sky Sports; All Quiet.
Super Al: "I thought we had done well up to then (the 1st penalty). We had a game plan to try and stop them in break. "The decision against us was a triple whammy. One, he should have been given off side, two yards offside by the way...." 
  Darren Bent out for 4 weeks It is what we all feared. The man who has scored the majority of our goals in the last 2 season's getting injured. Bent landed heavily in the first half and appeared to jar his knee but carried on in a way we have come to expect of him and even scored, proving that Pards has given him renewed confidence after not scoring under Les Reed.

However reports yesterday have been confirmed on BBC Sport today that Bent will be out for a month. This pretty much guarantees he will not be sold in the transfer window *please* but he will miss the 4 vital Premiership games and the Cup game at Forest. It is a blow but it is has been obvious that the 23-year old needed a rest and has been carrying light injuries for a while.

This leaves us with only the lazy dream team of Marcus Bent and JFH. Young James Walker, who impressed Dowie back in the summer is at Orient on loan, although I have heard there is an exciting prospect at the club called Lisbie!

Pardew is now expected to focus his attention on a striker in the window with David Healy, Ashley Young, David Nugent and Marlon Harwood all being mentioned in the press. 
Monday 1 January 2007
  Bears enter play-off's on bad note In the last game of the regular season the Chicago Bears showed last night why they won't be Superbowl winners in 2007. Despite strolling to the NFC North title with the best record in the whole league, 13-3, they were embarrassed by their big rivals Green Bay Packers 26-7 after another error-laden display particularly in the first half from quarter back Rex Grossman.

Grossman's opposite number, the legendary Brett Favre (right) completed 21 of 42 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown as Favre, so often a thorn in the Bears side, improved his career record at Soldier Field to 12-2. The Bears defense with had been so meagre earlier in the season has allowed almost as many points in the last month of the season as it had for the three previous.

The divisional play-off's start next week but number 1 seed Bears get a bye and don't play until the week after. I plan to meet some mates in Tampa, Florida for Superbowl weekend but would be anguished if the Bears were in it and I had to leave the city, but I don't see it.

Meanwhile with the round orange ball, the Chicago Bulls have turned their season around after winning 16 of their last 19 games including big wins over their Eastern Conference rivals Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers. Home games have been regularly selling out as fans get behind Scott Skiles and his young charges but I have tickets for two of the Bulls games during the next 2 weeks and will I write more on Da Bulls then. 
  Harbin to leave? Doesn't look so revitalised now does he? Only Curbs can substitute a defender, one Jonathan Spector for a forward when you are losing 4-0 at half-time. 3 defeats on the trot now for West Ham and a goal difference that is now worse than ours. As a mate told me before Christmas: "we are happy that super Curbs has come home." Glad you are enjoying him.

The bottom teams are taking wins of each other, which we need to see if we are to get that bottom pack as big as possible. Wigan and Sheffield United losing today draws them closer to us, whereas Newcastle and Villa will be looking nervously over their shoulders.

Meanwhile there is further talk that Pardew and Wegner will shake hands tomorrow on the loan signing of 18-year old striker Anthony Stokes, who has been at Falkirk and is the top scorer in the SPL.

Lastly while rumours of who Pards might bring into the club to assist him continue, Teddy Sheringham and Phil Parkinson were mentioned over the weekend, I note that the official site have him listed as Manager and the much maligned title of 'Head Coach' has been removed. Pardew's words of support for "his coaching staff," after the Villa victory could mean that he will find a place for both Mark Robson and Mark Kinsella, when he comes to assessing his needs.

An assistant manager and two coaches would not be unusual, at least judging by most Premiership clubs I checked. I do expect hamstring king John Harbin to be shown the door though and replaced by Hammers' head of sports medicine Niall Clark, who was at Reading with Pardew. 
  Abstain Day 1: I used to do this every year and occasionally I'd actually achieve it, that is a non-drinking January.

I gave it a swerve the last few years, judging that trying to make friends and being sociable more important than losing weight and proving to myself that I'm not an alcoholic.

However I'm simply not enjoying 'having a drink' at the moment and have decided to take the vow and see how I get on.

I have a couple of tricky looking fixtures in my diary this month including a trip back home but I'll try to bore you with regular updates on the state of my mind and my stomach as January 2007 progresses. 
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After living in Chicago for four and a half years, I moved to the beautiful if bewildering island of Bermuda in July 2008. This blog is about being an exiled and depressed Charlton Athletic fan and whatever else the day brings.
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