Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Tuesday 27 February 2007
  The Ready Brek glow I had a nice little Ready Brek glow all around me the weekend, well after 11am on Saturday anyway, more a perspiration glow before then to be honest. I'm pretty set for my trip back to the smoke leaving Thursday night, although trying to do anything other than work right now is proving tricky.

Last Thursday I saw a great show at The Chicago Theatre called Terracotta Warriors. This is the musical story of 8,000 life size soldiers and horses each made of clay and each different made around 210 B.C. on the order of Qin Shi Huang, the self-proclaimed First Emperor of China. The show starring 80 performers and hundreds of superb costumes is based on 23 short acts and can only be described as a cross between a ballet and opera set in the midst of Imperial China. We had good tickets and were in the 2nd row but were unfortunately obscured in part by a huge chinaman banging all manner of drums like his life depended on it and as beads of sweat fell from his forehead in my direction, it did kind of distract me from the colouful exhibition of dance and music going on up on stage!

Saturday we drank too much sangria and then Sunday with indoor 'soccer' cancelled due to bad weather (work that one out) I sat at home on my arse all day avoiding the ice and snow coming down at 45 degree angles outside of my window and watched television culminating in the Oscars.

Last night I was at The United Center to see Chicago Bulls lose again, I have yet to see them win this season in five visits. With the 7ft Orlando Magic center Darko Milicic dominant the Bulls lost 94-87 in front of a capacity crowd, who seemed more intent on winning free tee-shirts than cheering on their play-off bound team.

Tonight I'm going to sleep and tomorrow night have tickets for new film Gray Matters starring the rather cute Heather Graham.

Meanwhile I am on page 5 of my complaints letter to American Airlines after their bloody fine effort in trying to make me not enjoy my recent holiday.
Saturday 24 February 2007
  West Ham at home. What was the score? Won 4-0 I don't think I have ever been so nervous in my own house. I was up early, cleaned the floor, moved some papers around and stood under the shower head for far too long. The Fox Soccer Channel cut to pictures from The Valley and the first images were of Curbishley uneasily clapping the fans and Pards punching his fist to all four corners with a look of a man on a mission.

And so it was, from the very first whistle we were so up for it and every red shirt chased every cause good and lost one. There's no doubt that opening goal was a dubious one but Ambrose blissfully finished off a fine cross from Marcus Bent. Ambrose deserved his luck after already showing real intent with some clever play drawing fouls on him every way he turned.

The nervousness did not lift in this house but Charlton continued to play purposeful football as opposed to the Hammers unsteady passages of possession. With the backing immense from the Addicks fans Darren Bent nearly put his bigger namesake in for a 2nd before Thomas, who was quality all match, superbly steered in a welcome 2nd leaving Davenport for dead with skill, pace and a great shot.

I was sat here like a blithering idiot, meanwhile Pards was composed on the touchline in rank contradiction to the glum looking Curbs, with his boss Egg-head's eyes piercing into the back of his head from the stands. Is it possible to be that ugly I ask you?

And while I was hoping we wouldn't concede before half-time, great work, yes I said "work" by JFH put Benty away for a classic finish. Oh isn't it good to have that boy back. Half-time and a feeling immeasurble to describe.

It was obviously important not to concede early in the 2nd half and although they had more possession with Tevez everywhere, the clocked ticked on and I slowly started to relax.

JFH hit the post, Carson was alert to a couple pieces of danger and then with 10 minutes left the outstanding Thomas lost his mind by convincingly smacking in a 4th and I was in Chicago heaven. Call me never satisfied but wouldn't it have been nice to have seen Zheng's fine header go in off the bar in injury time?

We couldn't have dreamt of anything better. Pards proving his point with real dignity and class and of course where it really matters. Curbs position meanwhile is in tatters and I think the worst thing for us is that Egg-head cracks and sacks him this week. One thing I would say about the Hammers, I thought their supporters were admirable backing them to the end. I have a load of West Ham mates, many of whom read this and I hope they except me back into their bosom next Friday when I will see them for beers but will have to remind them of the times a couple of years back when I offered to swap Curbs for Pards.

Addicks supporters will be in top voice tonight and we need to take that onto Vicarage Road next Saturday, where my son and I will join them.

Every player in a red shirt did us proud today. To say I was sorry to see Marcus Bent go off injured says a lot about how Pardew's management skills have changed him and my attitude towards him. The same for JFH who set up the 3rd goal, was unlucky not to score himself and exhibited all of his experience once he came on.

The back with Young dominant were a close knit unit supporting each other at every opportunity in complete contrast to the shambolic looking Hammers defence. Holland was simply Holland and my man of the match (it was hard to pick one wasn't it) was Alexandre Song who mixed strength and skill all game long until he went off to a standing ovation.

If only Darren Ambrose and Jerome Thomas could play like that every week then we'll not fail to create chances, which have often been so hard to get this season and finally Benty, welcome back mate. It is our pleasure.

Staying up is still a big ask but Pardew and the players statement of intent was there today for everyone to see. Watford are losing and it's going to be a good day. Thank you Charlton, you make me very proud.
Opinions of those who were at The Valley: The Sun; BBC Sport;; ESPN; All Quiet; Frankie Valley; Observer; Hammered (West Ham blog).
Super Al: Matt Holland said it all when he came into the dressing room and said that's the standard that we need every week. We produced defensively and we were disciplined. They've set a high standard today and from now on they will be judged against that.”
Friday 23 February 2007
  The crunch The time has come. Tomorrow is huge no doubt. A game that won't ultimately decide our fate but a result that will say plenty about both sides chances of survival once the final whistle sounds. For those of us that moaned about midtable mediocrity, welcome to the harsh realities and nervous excitement of a relegation dogfight. Pardew in one corner and Curbishley in the other.

Who will play and where has been lost a little bit on the boards and blogs of fans these last couple of weeks because the magnitude of the game. Darren Bent is set to play and lead the side, an incredible boost to Addicks to have this fearless and intelligent player back in the side. Luke Young will hopefully add his experience and poise to the back four. El Khak looks the only obvious centre half with Pards perhaps favouring Bougherra over HH or Diawara if fit.

The temptation to play 5 in midfield is always there but we need Romm, Thomas or Ambrose firing on all cylinders and simply recently they each haven't been consistent enough. A flat midfield 4 to include Song and Holland looks likely with the two Bents up front.

This season our fixtures have had a distinct pattern to them with a length of tough games followed by a row of more winnable ones. We are in the latter cycle now and I would rather be standing right behind Pardew as we enter absolute crunch time than Curbs.

Love him as we did, so often Curbs came up short when we really wanted him to move to the next level and I wonder how much he's been ruminating over his end of season record? It's been hard to ignore what has been going on over the river, even back to when they beat Man U, and I think we all thought then that Curbishley would quickly lead them away from danger but Curbs is outside of his comfort level and the expectations of both fans and chairman weighs heavy and pressure has never sat well with him.

Of course it is only about what happens during the 90 minutes tomorrow that matters, all the other stuff is just hypothesis. We have Pards, they have Curbs. Lets remember that when we dole out our applause tomorrow. Only one of them wants us to win, please remember that.

The players and manager have talked actively all week about how important the fans are, lets give them everything we've got. Come on you Reds. 
Thursday 22 February 2007
  The men in charge - part five The timely final part of a series. Click for parts one, two, three and four.

December 2006 - current Alan Pardew
After Alan Pardew was sacked by West Ham, with us heading to oblivion under Uncle Les, many of us touted Pards as a potential saviour. The board conscious of already being the laughing stock of football acted swiftly again to hire the best youngest managerial talent available on Christmas Eve and fans hoped that we would wake from a nightmare time that few had witnessed before.

It is clear to me that under Curbishley he took us the door of oblivion and left the key for Dowie. Unfortunately Dowie opened that door and Reed sat us in a formula 1 car and drove us headlong down it.

Then this man came along. We were down at Christmas in my mind and that has nothing to do with points or position. The players had no heart for the battle, the board, so often spot-on with their decision making, resembled a hastily thrown together east African government, the supporters had had their heart ripped out of them, there was no money, the media was ripping into us and the club simply had 'that look,' we had seen in others so many times before.

I was never the biggest Pardew fan when he played for us. He played for Palace see, and I would rather us not buy players from that crock of shit. I would watch him make late runs into the box and get crucial goals in a red shirt back in the early 90's and I would cheer but then I would imagine him wearing those tight Palace shorts and be disappointed that we had stooped so low as to acquire players from those tosspots.

Nonetheless the stats say that he played more games and scored many more goals (24 for us, 8 for Palarse) and I pay a lot of attention to stats but it was his bright mind and his intelligent demeanour that I liked when he was a young manager at Reading and although he did the dirty, he showed ambition and a stomach for a challenge by going to West Ham. Hammers fans didn’t take to him at first but he persevered and he rebuilt that team and last season he did them proud. I wrote after last season’s FA Cup Final:

"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." (more)

I was pleased when we appointed Pardew and I have been more and more impressed with him after each day, each game and each interview. The man is a class act. He oozes wonderful man management skills, look what his persona has done to Marcus Bent, Amdy Faye and others. He truly understands the relationship between fan and player and manager and he’s convinced me enough during the recent 6 weeks that he is a Charlton man too.

Pards may have picked up a club in the tunnel of oblivion and none of us are under any illusions that relegation is calling but he has turned us around and fighting to get us back down that tunnel, the one that have no doubt the now West Ham manager led us to.

Pardew may not keep us up but I personally am privileged to see this young man at our club. He has made us proud to be Addicks again, he has given us hope and pulled all the factions together and anyone with Charton in blood truly knows the value of being one. 
  Listen to this To get the spine tingling for Saturday's game. Listen to this, courtesy of Charlton Life, and remember why you are an Addick. 
  Oscars 2007 Sunday is Oscar night. Envelopes will be opened, one person will gush into his moet whilst four or so others will smile through gritted teeth. The 13.5 inch gold statuette's will be handed out at The Kodak Theatre honouring this year's best movies, well not necessarily the best but the 'most deserving,' or paradoxically the most politicially correct.

I haven't seen all of the nominated films this year but I have seen the majority of them, so just as I did a year ago I will have a crack at picking the winners of the main categories.

Best picture:
It took me half a box of popcorn to understand the connections between the different stories but it comes together beautifully to present a striking view of a sad, violent and interrelated world.
The Departed
A top quality cast with a grinning and snarling Jack Nicholson at his best. A film of high energy and emotion with a dramatic finale.
Letters From Iwo Jima
I've not seen this but it hits all the right Oscar best picture buttons.
Little Miss Sunshine
A quirky and hilarious tale of a dysfunctional family on a road trip. I'm surprised this made the top 5 best films.
The Queen
The film probably didn't tell me anything I didn't already know from living through the story at the time but it probably opened many American's eyes however. Elegently filmed with some very witty moments.
My winner: Babel

Best actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
I was never a big Leo fan but he was in two cracking films this year and he won me over twice, nevertheless I actually think he was better in The Departed.
Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
I haven't seen this lesser known indie film.
Peter O'Toole in Venus
I'm afraid I've not seen this either, which is a shame because I have heard good things about O'Toole.
Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
I was disappointed in this happy clappy story. There were much better performances this year than Smith's in this, but hey it's the Oscars.
Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
Excellent performance from Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
My Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio

Best actress:
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Missed out on this one.
Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
I'm desperate to see this before Sunday if not only to hear the Charlton Athletic reference but to compare Dench's performance against Mirren's.
Helen Mirren in The Queen
A masterful portrayal by Mirren sees her favourite for her first ever Oscar.
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
Enjoyable birds film, made pallatable by Streep's super bitchy character.
Kate Winslet in Little Children
Another film on my list. Winslet has been nominated 5 times but never won.
My winner: Helen Mirren

Best supporting actress:
Adriana Barraza in Babel
Mega famous in her native Mexico, Barraza deserves her nomination for her heart-warming role in Babel.
Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal
Can't comment.
Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
She make this film. Adorable performance from the 10-year old.
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
I really really didn't want to see this movie and I didn't, even though Jennifer Hudson is a Chicago girl.
Rinko Kikuchi in Babel
This is the toughest category in my mind. The little unknown Kikuchi gives a remarkable performance as a deaf mute.
My winner: Rinko Kikuchi

Best supporting actor:
Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
Classic grumpy old man performance from the 76-year old but it didn't stand out for me.
Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children
Can't comment
Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
My favourite, although of the actors I saw none jumped out at me. It was a good performance from the ex-model though.
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
No interest but has Oscar winner written all over it.
Mark Wahlberg in The Departed
Surprise choice for Marky Mark. He was good but not that good.
My winner: Djimon Hounsou

The Oscars, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres are on Sunday at 7pm Chicago time. Pass me the popcorn.  
Wednesday 21 February 2007
  A new International Supporters Club? Back in the summer I enquired into joining the International Supporters Club and Ian Cartwright returned my request asking for my credit card details and wrote "membership forms are being printed." Of course they took my credit card details to enable the club to give Kevin Lisbie a bonus.

Then in September I chased Ian again and was told that "we are currently working our way through 10,000 membership forms (not all International!), if you haven't got anything in say a couple of weeks please give me a shout." Then in mid October I found out that Ian Cartwright had suddenly left the club. I wrote this the same day.

On October 22nd Rick Everitt left a comment on What was the score saying:

"Is the club listening? Yes."

"With Ian's departure, Wendy Perfect and I requested that responsibility for the ISC pass to us in our Target 40,000 capacity, because we think we are best placed to support and develop it. It will take us a few weeks to get to grips with what has been promised and delivered to date. In the meantime, rest assured that the ISC is not being neglected - far from it."

Nothing happened except that I heard that the ISC was going to be rolled into the Red Card Platinum scheme. On January 3rd I received an email from Sue Hubert telling me that I was to receive a red card "in a couple of weeks."

And since then silence until I heard on the grapevine that British Columbia blogger friend Ken Jennings has taken up the mantle of an Addicks International Supporters Club and I believe is actually meeting club officials today in SE7.

I and others look forward to Ken's assessment of that meeting and if he could throw my red card out of the plane window as he passes over the midwest then that would be just dandy.

I am sure Ken would welcome any opinions you have on the validity of a new ISC. You can email him here or leave comments below.
  The men in charge - part four Part four of the series.

June 2006 to November 2006 Iain Dowie

I was touting Billy Davies as a potential new manager long before Curbs’ meeting with Richard Murray about contract extensions and all reports seem to point to the fact that he was the board’s first choice after Curbs left following the final game of last season. The disconcerting thing was that although fans had been talking about potential future managers, once Curbs finally walked off into the sunset, the board obviously wasn’t.

There has been a catalogue of mistakes made by the board this season, and from a club that plans seemingly more than its peers, its biggest failure was to have no succession plan.

A terribly flawed European type structure was put into place immediately after Curbs departure, which had about as much planning and substance of an Enron financial statement.

Billy Davies didn’t like it and declined our offer, which coincided with Iain Dowie walking out of Simon Jordan’s boudoir, and with an ongoing war of words between our favourite Tango Man and the Addicks board, Dowie was given an interview.

Dowie spurred on by the chance to manage up the ladder and be nearer to his family in Bolton bluffed his way impressively through the job interview and nodded at all the right moments and was offered the job.

I would have preferred Davies but Dowie made all the right noises and let’s face it, it was one in eye for those stripey twats down the road, wasn’t it?

I was under no illusions that this was going to be a tough season, post Curbs. The club foolishly gave Dowie access to club’s debit card and despite a month at the world cup he still managed to sign a whole team for the princely sum of £11m, none of which actually inspired apart from Carson and sadly perhaps JFH.

Our opening schedule of matches was horrible and most of us were expecting a bottom 3 position after the 7th game on September 30th against Arsenal.

What I liked though was the refreshing way Dowie had the team playing football and the way he handled the press and treated the fans at the game and I was warming to him as were others, highlighted by 1,500 fans going to Craven Cottage, including me and heartedly singing his name during and the after the loss.

Injuries were also proving to be a major hurdle, this despite hamstring man John Harbin being brought in by the club. Prior to Dowie’s last game at Wigan, we went 6 games without a defeat and at that time were putting together probably our best defensive displays of the season. To add to this ID also took us further in the League Cup than any other Charlton manager previously.

Then on November 13th the bombshell came - the board sacked Dowie. We may never know the reasons behind that decision and remarkably the details are still very anecdotal although the most prevalent point of view is his failure to comply with Murray’s management structure and engaging his older brother, perhaps both before and after he was employed by Palarse, in some judgments that he made on behalf of Charlton. It has even been said that Bob Dowie was in the dressing room before the Fulham away game.

One thing I don’t buy into is that his 'unusual' coaching practices got him the boot. If the Charlton board were shocked by these, then they did even less homework on him than I thought.

I still maintain that I was disappointed to see Dowie go. He clearly had the support of the players and the majority of the fans although hindsight has shown that some of his signings were poor, very poor indeed. However the consequences of what materialized at the club and the disruption it caused has to be taken into account when we now scrutinize some of the players he brought in and their form.

Dowie’s sacking was shocking and very un-Charlton like but worse was to come.

November 2006 to December 2006 Les Reed

Les Reed was a Charlton man, is a Charlton man. Fans remember him fondly as first team coach of the team that Curbishley built and promoted via the play-off’s in 1998 and his return to the club in the summer was welcomed by me.

However when the board appointed Reed to replace Dowie there were two obvious questions. One was why he had never ever been a manager before; he was after all 54 years old. Secondly why did the board appoint him straight up as manager and not caretaker? Give him a few games and we’ll judge him then I thought.

The run of games that Reed faced after he took over on November 14th were all winnable. He got a rousing reception at Reading but we lost. He then got a good welcome at The Valley against Everton and we did scrape a draw thanks to a fortuitous goal by Reid.

There was no new manager bounce, the players publicly stated their dismay at Dowie’s sacking and all was not well. His press conferences and his sound bites became more and more peculiar and with him having no real relationships with the media, reporters had found a stooge.

Games came and went and we were getting worse and yet Reed would come out and say such things as: "While this is now a step backwards, we are not back to where we were." In fact some of his post-match comments became sadly hilarious, only enhancing his lack of inter-personal skills and his naivety in front of the press.

There was silence from the boardroom but the fans were losing their patience as we witnessed our great club fall apart. It was a disastrous time, we threw a great chance of making it to a cup final and then there was the 7 Premiership games we will probably live to regret come May. The defining moment came at The Valley when the ground turned on the players and ultimately the ‘head coach’ with chants of "Your not fit to wear the shirt."

These were desperate times and the club was in a mess, yet the board’s glove puppet Peter Varney continued to support Reed. That was up until late on Christmas Eve with the club dire straights a paragraph heading the official website made yet another shock announcement. It turned out to be one of the best Christmas gifts Charlton fans could have ever hoped for.

The final part five to follow. Click for parts one, two and three
Tuesday 20 February 2007
  Uruguay Uruguay is a small country, the 2nd smallest in South America. Almost half of its 3.3m population lives in the capital city Montevideo, a city only 140 miles across the River Plate from Buenos Aries but very much with its own identity.

Uruguayan people have one of the best literacy rates in the western hemisphere and the majority of people we met spoke very good English, which is mandatory in schools. Uruguay like Argentina is made up almost entirely from European immigrants, mostly Italian and Spanish and the influences in the places we saw were all to see. Restaurant menus are mostly made up of home made pastas, pizza, grilled meats and spinach pies. The most popular Uruguayan meal is a Chivito, which is a sandwich with basically everything in it and then topped by a steak. To eat a whole one is a challenge.

Maybe it was this that Omar Pouso missed the most, although last time I was in Tesco eggs, bacon, cheese, ham, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, steak and bread were all to be found!

From the towns and roads we travelled the quality of cars and houses were not overly important to the average Uruguayan, however almost without exception everyone we came across was friendly and immaculately dressed.

Petrol is expensive in Uruguay and therefore mopeds and bikes are popular means of transport but my lasting memory of the country will be its cars. There are so many old cars in Uruguay they even have a name for them, cachilas, and this created a thriving cottage industry of mechanics, dealers, suppliers of parts and historians. A great article on Uruguayans cars can be read here.

We spent a day at Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay’s 3rd biggest “department.” It is only a short hydrofoil ride across the River Plate and a summer retreat for the Portenos of Buenos Aries. This small beautiful town was originally colonized by the Portuguese in 1680 and it went on to change hands no less than 11 times in the first 100 years of being as the Spaniards, Portuguese and the Brits battled over this important and strategic point of defence on the coast of the Rio de La Plata.

The two different cultures are clear to see as their past endeavours share Colonia’s cobbled streets. The town, the oldest in Uruguay, is split into two separate parts with the original town, Barrio Historico declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

In the Barrio Historico the cobbled streets with it’s colonial houses is picture perfect, seemingly untouched by the modern world save the shops on the main street called Avenue General Flores and the cutesy restaurants dotted around the town squares.

We wandered up and down the tiny streets, as ancient English and American cars passed us by slowly giving us a real glimpse of Uruguay and its smiley faced people.

The lighthouse which sits within the ruins of a convent built in 1694 gazes over the town and the original city gate was rebuilt in the late 1960’s and branching from there are a number of amazing step back in time streets such as the Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs, top left). On the lovely Plaza Mayor sits the Municipal Museum, once the home of Irishman Admiral William Brown, who played a heroic role in Uruguay's independence and Casa de Nacarello dating back to 1790.

Lots of little galleries and shops litter the cobbled streets, some nice, some naff and there are a surprisingly good quality of nice restaurants and cafes. We ate in the vibrantly decorated El Drugstore.

There are a few decent hotels too, such as the Posada Casa de los Naranjos, situated in an attractive Colonial House with names for rooms instead of numbers.

At the opposite end of town along the beachfront and past the weekend homes of today’s moneyed is Real de San Carlos and witness the remains of a young man’s dream. Around 100 years ago an Argentinian with far too much money decided to build himself an empire of fun. A bull-ring (left) sadly lies derelict and has not been used since 1912 and the once largest handball stadium in the world also lies empty and neglected.

However a racetrack is still in use as gambling–mad Uruguayans watch horse racing twice a week. It is a sad place but there is hope of a renaissance despite the government’s malaise, a Sheraton hotel has opened a hotel there and there is talk of other private investment.

Colonia is also home to Uruguayan 2nd Division football team Club Plaza Colonia. They play at the 12,000 capacity Estadio Profesor Alberto Supicci. We went past the stadium and if it holds 12,000 then I will eat 3 Chivito's!

Nearer to our hotel was the sleepy backwater town of Carmelo. Founded in 1816 by national hero José Gervasio Artigas there isn’t much to see apart from sad looking streets, with old, old cars slumped up against the curb. It reminded me of some of the bleak old parts of Eastern Europe, another place where MOT’s are clearly not required.

The River of Cows (Arroya de las Vacas) is Carmelo’s main attraction with its swing bridge, the only one of its kind in South America and just a short walk or bike ride to the sandy beach. The main meeting point it seemed was around the Piccolino restaurant in the town square, where local families ate and sipped on the local drink Mate (pronounced ma-te), which is truly disgusting so we ate Uruguayan pizza instead.

The Carmelo area also has a little explored wine country. Only 2% of the wines harvested in Uruguay are exported, and after tasting some of them I can see why. However there were some exceptions such as Héctor Stagnari. The grape used is Tannat, brought to the country from south-west France in the late 19th century.

For a great experience of the Uruguayan wine country visit the Finca Narbona. It has a 1,000 acre vineyard, a recently renovated winery, cheese factory, bakery and two rooms if you have a glass to many to get back to whence you came. There's free mosquito spray as well which you will need if you sit outside. Ask for Augustine, a regular little entrepreneur. If you ask him nicely he will show you around and may even take you up in his private plane too!

Our experience was that if you can release yourselves from the shackles of your hotel then Uruguay can be very cheap, particularly when you compare their Peso to the pound. A litre bottle of the decent local Pilson beer can run 90p and a Chivito sandwich £1.20 and you can probably pick yourself up a 1970 Ford Cortina for about 50 quid.

However our hotel, albeit they did their best to look after us appeared intent on wanting to arrange everything for us, which of course comes with a price, and a price in US$, where an organized taxi would feed a Carmelo family for a month.

I would have liked to have got down to Montevideo, if only to hunt out Omar Pouso. Its 2m people are said to have a one of the best qualities of life in South America and the cities 14 miles of sandy beaches sweep up onto a modern capital with its colonial spirit still very much in tact.

If you get to Uruguay stay in Montevideo visit north to the tiny town of Colonia with its huge history and travel 2 hours south to Punta del Este, said to be the St Tropez of South America, just without the food and wine!

Click on photos for a larger view:
L to R: Colonia's city hall; El Drugstore restaurant; Hipodromo racetrack opened in 1942 still functions; Rio de la Plata; Honestly this is Carmelo's fire brigade; Polo in the Carmelo countryside; Carmelo's main square; Four Season's resort in Carmelo; Tourist office.
  River Plate photos Click on Photo's for a larger view.

From L to R: The players enter the field; The home end and River's notorious barra brava's; The travelling support from Lanus; Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti, home to the 1978 world cup final and now closed for the next 5 home games due to trouble before the match we attended; River go close in the 2nd half; River's Gallinas (Chickens), which is the name Boca fan's call them. River supporters exalt this by dressing up in chicken garb.
See River Plate v Lanús post here.
  Give me a Double U It was a happy Chicago Addick household this morning, despite being the first day back in the office for almost 3 weeks. It wasn't that the weather peeked above freezing for the first time in 27 days - as I was reminded the duration of me being in sunnier climes - or that Charlton today jettisoned 3 wasters of the wage bill. Or that Britney had checked into rehab. No, the real reason I was a very happy bunny was that I found out this morning that my son and I have each got a Watford ticket. I cannot express my gratitude enough to the person who got them for me. It won't be forgotten and my son was putting his kit on as I spoke to him today in readiness. 
  The power of Pardew Andrew Mills has been relieved of his post of General Manager - Football, Charlton announced in a 6 line statement earlier today.

All slightly different to the fanfare that met his and others arrival under the new management structure for the future announced in June 2006. This proves two things to me. One that the succession planning to Curbishley's reign was completely inadequate and one could blame the structure or the people employed to do it, both decisions made by Richard Murray and the board.

Mark Robson is now the only remaining member of that 5-man structure, if you include John Harbin (now at Coventry with Dowie) in that much heralded team.

It's interesting that Murray makes comment that Mills helped secure all of the players signed in January too but evidently did not impress Pards enough to avoid him telling Murray that he wanted him out.

The power of Alan Pardew is growing within the club everday. He made a comment in the first few days of his employment that "he was the manager," and slowly he has made, insisted or recommended changes within the club. I understand that he was behind some recent changes to the facilities at Sparrows Lane too, done whilst the first team squad were in Spain.

But after myself and others were asking the question - what does Andrew Mills do, at least we now know what he looks like and what a nice handsome boy he is too. I am sure there is many a second hand Ford Escort just waiting to be sold that he can conveniently find a buyer for and make a nice little earner.

Part two of the latest Pardew early spring clean is the end of Omar Pouso and Gonzalo Sorondo as Charlton players. Both having their contracts cancelled, Pouso's a temporary one and Sorondo a 2-year one. What a desperate drain they both were on our payroll.

Of course the real desperation of it all, is that I have only just got back from Uruguay after taking it upon myself to find these two wasters. Believe me though, their pay-off's alone will make them very rich men when they get back to the Uruguayan 1st Division. 
Monday 19 February 2007
  A journey from hell Did you hear about the bloke who lost his Blackberry, his credit card and his hotel key? Well I've got another one for you.

I got back from holiday today and the bit in the middle was excellent and I will write more about that soon but the travelling to and from was an absolute 'mare.

I was already in Miami and had a flight booked direct to Buenos Aries late two Thursday nights ago. I was out having lunch when my phone rang and was told by American Airlines that the flight was cancelled due to maintenance problems and we had to fly that afternoon to New York to pick up a flight there to Argentina. 1,300 miles out of our way.

The flight to New York was late and only a mad sprint to the international terminal got us onto the overnight flight to Buenos Aries. That flight was okay and we landed on time, albeit later than we'd planned after a 11 hour journey.

Then that dreaded moment. Standing at the baggage claim carousel and the last bag coming around and its not mine! I had been in the clothes I was wearing since breakfast the day before and my misery was met by indifference by the baggage staff at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport.

Check into the hotel and spend the first afternoon of the holiday shopping for clothes and toiletries. My bag finally turns up at our hotel later the next day, 30 hours after I did.

Fast forward to this Saturday just gone, the last day of our holiday and we are at the port in Colonia, Uruguay waiting for the hydrofoil to Buenos Aries. The journey is about 40 minutes long, our flight to Miami leaves in 5 hours. Announcements were being made in Spanish, people around us were tutting and tapping their watches and we finally found out that the boat was late due to bad weather. The river had a tide that looked liked it was caused by someone farting in it. It was ridiculous.

Another two hours go by and no sign of the hydrofoil, so cue hastily made phone calls to see if there is any other way we can get to Buenos Aries 50 miles across the Rio de la Plata. Er, no. On the phone to the airline and mega $ to change our flight to a later one. We get onto a standby list for the later flight at 11.05pm but finally sail gently across the river 4 hour late. We get a car and a driver doubling up as Nigel Mansell to get us to the airport but our flight is well gone and we are apparently too late to board the last one. Great.

Back to the hotel, another night, more money and more still to change our flights and the connecting one back to Chicago 24 hours late.
  Saturday’s game live in the US For my American readers I note that Saturday’s crucial game with West Ham is live on Fox Soccer Channel at 10ET. It is also being shown in Canada.

I am surprised that it is not being shown live on television at home. The press are building it up but obviously Sky thinks Watford v Everton a more inspiring fixture. At least it will be a 3pm Saturday game though which makes a pleasant change.

My Saturday’s during the season normally take on two moods and we are supposed to be going out with a new couple we met recently for drinks on Saturday night. They will either love me or loathe me.

Pards and Curbs seem to have a pact not to talk about each other and their respective teams but old egg-head seems to want to stoke the fire I see. Really I go from being excited to anguished as the game gets closer.

Iain Dowie was today appointed Coventry’s new manager and looking like he was new Leicester owner Milan Mandaric’s choice for Walkers Stadium.

Coventry managing director Paul Fletcher said: "Iain was incredibly impressive on the occasions we met and there is no doubt that he was by far the strongest candidate in all the criteria we set." (more)

Those words have a familiar tone to them don’t they? Chicago Addick wishes him all the best anyway. 
Saturday 17 February 2007
  River Plate 1-0 Lanús Our timing was good because last Sunday was the opening game of what is known as the ‘closing season’ which runs until July. For reasons best explained by the Argentinian FA there are two seasons an opening one from August to December and then a closing one, which runs from February to June, thus there are two annual league champions. The other oddity, though one which the big premiership clubs would love is that teams are relegated based on their previous three season finishes.

River Plate is one of the oldest and most famous football clubs in Argentina, officially known as Los Millionarios, their rivalry with cross-town working class foes Boca Juniors is legendary. Lanús meanwhile are a less fashionable but decent team based in the south of the capital. Rescued from bankruptcy in 1978 they have been regulars in the Primera Division since winning promotion in 1993. They even won the South American equivalent to the UEFA Cup in 1996 and I was impressed with their supporters who made the journey, the 3-4,000 or so tried gainfully to get their songs heard but ultimately went home disappointed.

River’s as their nickname suggests play in the wealthy neighbourhood of Nunez in the 65,000 capacity Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, home to the 1978 world cup final. Not much has probably changed since the late 70’s, classified as the only all-seater stadium in the country the best seats resemble park benches and the faded red and white bowl is in desperate need of a lick of paint.

However the River fans sure know how to make a noise and with seemingly every fan decked in red and white and owning a flag of king size bed sheet proportions the stadium reached fever pitch at about half an hour before kick off. Elaborate songs were sung in full voice choreographed by the barrabrava behind one goal complete with flares and drums.

In a lesson to us all the River fans backed the team throughout the whole game, never getting on the players backs despite what appeared a mediocre performance.

The first half passed without any incident and River, managed by world cup legend Daniel Passarella, were labouring and finding it hard to penetrate a solid Lanus defence. The 2nd half was far better but River’s play seemed to over rely on their star midfielder Belluschi and a habit to cross the ball from far too deep. In fact as the game wore on Lanús looked more and more dangerous on the break and I could see them snatching it but as so often happens, whatever league you are watching, the big boys finally broke through in injury time when following another Belluschi corner the ball broke to right back Eduardo Tuzzio on the edge of the box and his skillfully hooked the ball in the send 56,000 Millionarios crazy.

The most outstanding player on the pitch for me was River’s new Colombian signing Nelson Rivas, who marshalled his defence with real panache and did not put a foot wrong all game. Midway through the 2nd half the crowd all stood to applause him as yet again he whisked the ball of a Lanús attacker and nonchantly passed to one of his own players.

Being at the game was a wonderful experience. The game of course was slow and methodical, with sudden spurts of pace in the last third. The crowd "ole" every piece of skill and ruefully whistled every stray pass or mistake.

The crowd noise in an open bowl with not a covered end in sight was amazing as song after song rung around the old stadium. It is said that half of county support either River Plate or Boca Juniors, and it is hard to imagine how the other 10 teams in Buenos Aries compete for media coverage. River have not won a league for 4 years but started the Clausura as favourites. It sure was a good start.

Footnote: I was mightily surprised to read this article a few days after the game. Indeed we were warned by everyone to be careful before, during and after the match. We took advice and avoided the entradas populares (behind the goal) and sat in the plateas (fixed seats) and there were obviously many foreigners sitting in our area as well as families. The crowd was very partisan and you would not want to be cheering the opposing team but we felt safe the whole time we were there. However hooliganism is a known Argentinian problem and rivalries run deep and not only with other clubs. The clubs have opening backed their hooligan or barrabrava element with free tickets and travel and have unforgivingly turned a blind eye to troubling events both in and out of their stadiums over the years.

With recent events in Italy the Argentinian FA are finally being forced to act and River’s famous stadium could be closed down indefinitely. In fact last week saw violence in a number of other opening league games. On Friday it was announced that River's famous El Monumental will be closed for the next 5 home matches. (more)

River Plate: Juan P. Carrizo; Paulo A. Ferrari; Danilo Gerlo; Nelson Rivas; Eduardo Tuzzio; Diego A. Galván; Leonardo D. Ponzio; Fernando Belluschi; Rubens Sambueza; Radamel Falcao García; Ernesto Farías.
Subs: Bernardo Leyenda; Federico Lussenhoff; Víctor E. Zapata; Nicolás Domingo; Augusto Fernández; Marco Rubén; Sebastián Sciorilli.

Lanús: Carlos G. Bossio; Rodolfo Graieb; Santiago A. Hoyos; Walter D. Ribonetto; Maximiliano Velázquez; Marcos Aguirre; Agustín Pelletieri; Rodrigo Archubi; Sebastián Leto; Lautaro Acosta; Cristian G. Fabbiani.
Subs: Claudio S. Flores; Javier A. Almirón; Nelson F. Benítez; Eduardo Ledesma; Diego Valeri; Diego Lagos; Santiago Biglieri.

Attendance: 60,000
Photograph's to follow 
Wednesday 14 February 2007
  In search of Pouso and Sorondo After a fabulous few days is Buenos Aries we are now relaxing near the sleepy Uruguyan town of Carmelo, which lies on the Río de la Plata where the Rio Uruguay meets one of the widest rivers in the world. Nestled between eucalyptus and pine trees, Carmelo's best kept secret is its unexplored wine area.

An hour south of here is the historic town of Colonia. The oldest town in Uruguay was founded by Portugese in 1680 and I hope to visit this pretty town later in the week.

Another hour on from Colonia is the countries capital Montevideo, ranked as the city in Latin America with the highest quality of life, which might just explain Omar Pouso's inability to settle in south-east London. I won't be travelling as far south as the birthplace of both Omar Pouso and Gonzalo Sorondo but I will be keeping an eye out in the local casino to see if both are in there spending their hard earned peso's!

By the way Uruguay is 2 hours behind London and with pizza and pasta a staple and Heineken served in every bar, I am finding the reverse acclimatization pretty straight forward. I don't know what all the fuss is about! 
Saturday 10 February 2007
  Man Utd away. What was the score? Lost 2-0 Ok so that's that little run of games over and done with. 4 points, each unexpected, from 12. Not a bad return at all when you consider in that period West Ham gained 1 and Wigan, who are playing tomorrow 3. Sheffield United meanwhile have moved to 10 points clear of us and to profit four wins on them is a big ask. I have my beady eyes on Man City though, who are dropping quickly. Watford are still fighting and today was a massive win and another blow to Curb's side and their expectant fans. The game between us in two weeks is beyond colossal.

I only know what I've read as I've been walking the streets of Buenos Aries today but it sounded like another battling and undaunted performance with Rommedahl getting some encouraging reviews as well as the new boys Bougherra, Song and ZZ. And heartening words from Sir Alex Ferguson too.

Tomorrow I will get my football fix by attending the River Plate v Lanús game here at 5.10pm.

Opinions of those who were at Old Trafford: Observer; Addicks Diary; Sky Sports.
Super Al: "It was a good performance from us and the next two weeks will be very, very important to us as we prepare the team physically and mentally to be stronger than anybody else." 
Thursday 8 February 2007
  Watford game a pain in the Hornets I see the Watford tickets have gone on sale and on the basis that I have to be Richard Murray to get a ticket it looks like I won’t be going which is a real shame as I will be back in London that weekend after convincing two of my clients that they need to be in town for the Monday and Tuesday to do some meetings, rather conveniently allowing my son and to go to the Watford game. That looks to have backfired doesn’t it? Lucky I didn’t tell my son as it would have been tears at bedtime.

I have actually got two away ticket stubs, not bad for someone who lives 4,000 miles away. Meanwhile my mate who has been to every away game bar three this season hasn’t kept any. Is there anyway the club knows who has bought these tickets in the past? There is no reason why they shouldn’t if they were acquired from the ticket office. Or is that me being simple?

Of course if I had ever received my Red Card Platinum membership then that may have given me another option but despite taking my money back in September I am still waiting!

I know this keeping away ticket stubs is a recent thing, but surely issues like this need to be decided before the season starts and may be a bit more vocally.

The ironic thing is that game I would think would be carried live here in the States, whereas at home I will have to make do with the internet commentary. 
  Don't cry for me Argentina Last day in Miami, a couple of meetings and then I hope to get out and have a little mooch around as I have never been here before. I went outside this morning for the first time (sober) and after being holed up in conference rooms for 3 days, I kind of forgot that this is actually South Beach and was taken aback by the bronzed bodies in bikini’s walking about.

Tonight we fly to Buenos Aries for a holiday, a place I have wanted to go to for a long time. We get there tomorrow morning and stay until Monday afternoon when we take the Buquebus across the narrow Río de la Plata to Uruguay and will lay on a beach for 5 days until we go back to Chicago next weekend.

Momento encantador! 
Wednesday 7 February 2007
  Why do things happen in 3's? Yesterday was just one of those days. I realised once my alarm never went off that the reason was that I never set my phone/Blackberry before I went to bed. That, like taking my contact lenses out and brushing my teeth, is something I have conditioned myself to do whatever state of disrepair I get home in.

The cause of me not setting my Blackberry alarm as it materialised was that I lost it the night before. If I could lose one thing, my family, son and girlfriend aside, then it would not be my Blackberry. My whole life is sadly on there and I wouldn't know what to have for breakfast without it.

I padded about a bit, cursed everything and everyone, kept calling my number and eventually gave up on it and called my company to cancel the thing. Then the hotel room phone rang and it was someone I know via my job who was on his way to Miami who said that a strange girl had phoned him to ask if he knew me because she had my Blackberry. Re-sult.

I rung her and met her in the bar that she worked in yesterday evening, a place I would have sworn I'd never set sight on before and collected my phone from this stunning 5ft 7inch Lebanese girl who was as happy for me as I was.

I left the bar to stroll back to my hotel shaking my head as I walked and went to the cashpoint to then realise that I didn't have my company credit card in my wallet. I soon worked out that could be in any bar in Miami probably with about a million dollars of beers clocked up on it, none of which were drunk by me, well perhaps just the one.

I got into the room and cancelled my credit card before heading down to the bar for a drink, because I needed one, only to lock myself out of my room and then have to wait while security ran a check on me to clarify I was who I said I was.

It is safe to say that last night I wrapped myself up in cotton wool and went to bed early. 
  Miami vice My recovery from a boy's weekend in Tampa Bay took a step back last night after being out far too late for someone of my age in Miami’s South Beach. I was in a bar called Tantra which contained a high percentage of the world’s most beautiful people gyrating around each other, myself excluded and thats both the beautiful and the gyrating bit. Happy Mondays indeed!

I'm in Miami’s South Beach for a couple of days with work attending what is beguilingly called a Symposium and while back in Chicago the weather yesterday reached -22c, here on the beach it is 10c below the normal temperature of 21.

The annual Superbowl pilgrimage was a bloody good laugh, despite my adopted Bears losing on Sunday. Six of us flew in from different parts of the globe to cause havoc amongst the old ladies and gentlemen in St Petersburg, Florida. We managed to turn a few heads, and in some cases two judging by some of the inbred people we woke in god’s waiting room.

In fact as most American’s will tell you Florida is not really America, in fact there isn’t anywhere quite like it. Rarely will you meet anyone who was born and bred in the state, although one of our party was and very normal he was too. Ex-pats, folk old enough to be on the Queen's mailing list, the odd, the bizarre and a more than fair share of obesity is what you see in the Sunshine State, sorry I’m not selling it very well am I?

The weather wasn’t kind to us while we were there, but St Pete’s is normally a year round sunshine place with an average of 360 days of sun (I pity the people who will be there for the other 2 days of rain they will get this year!). The city is huddled along a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. To the north is the city of Tampa and the two are connected by a myriad of causeways and bridges.

Named after its much older twin town in Russia, the population of the area has grown drastically over the last 40 years with over 25% of the people aged 65+.

Of course if the suns not out there aren’t an awful lot of options, a car is a must, so drive over to the Salvador Dalí Museum, which is the artist’s biggest collection outside of the Teatro Museo Dali in Spain.

The domed Tropicana Field hosts the Tampa Bay Devil Rays baseball team, situated at 1 Tropicana Drive. The roof supposedly is lighted orange to look like one each time the Devil Rays win a home game.

There is also, wait for it, a dog track and the world's oldest and largest shuffleboard club, which is the site of the National Shuffleboard Hall of Fame. I’ve booked myself a court for the year 2045.

There are a ton of bars and restaurants, most of which you would do best to avoid, unless you are married to your sister. We spent the majority of our time at St Pete’s Beach on the Gulf of Mexico and for a relaxed beach bar try The Reef (6712 Gulf Blvd), where Rick the barman clearly lost his vocation as a stand-up comic.

We watched the Superbowl in a bar called Ricky T’s (6100 Gulf Blvd) which has more television’s than is quite necessary but the bar staff are accommodating, although I would give the place a wide berth for a few weeks while they seek some therapy after our visit!

We did find a great hibachi restaurant called Blue Fugu (4615 Gulf Blvd), where Japanese chef’s cook and perform tricks whilst you watch.

Of course the sun is as a rule always shining in St Pete's and the beaches are very nice but if it's not you will struggle for something to do other than spend time in your car or in a bar. However if it's shuffleboard you are after, then you came to the right place!

Check back for some photographs. 
Monday 5 February 2007
  A city mourns A sad night for the windy city as pre-game favourites Indianapolis colts rolled over Chicago Bears in last night's Superbowl XLI. Despite early euphoria when Devin Hester caught the Colts opening kick-off and raced 92 yards down the field for a touchdown to give Bears a dream start, the Colts offensive pressure finally told in the 2nd half, although despite showing minimal offensive threat after the first quarter, Chicago were still in the game right up until the last 11 or 12 minutes.

Down by just two at the half, the Bears could not get their offensive plays working. The pouring rain only helped add to mistakes that littered the game from both sides but crucially Rex Grossman, the young Bears quarterback made a couple of decisive errors in front a watching audience of 93m people to give the Colts a 29-17 victory.

Back in a bar in St Petersburg, retired Indiana residents outnumbered people wearing orange and blue and come the end of a long day I was happier to be in Florida and not in the cold, silent and sad streets of Chicago.

Photo: Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher trudges off the Superbowl field after Bears lose to Colts. 
Sunday 4 February 2007
  Go Bears! Well it's Superbowl day, a close 2nd to Thanksgiving in terms of importance in most American households. The television companies dictate that the game will kick off at 6.24pm but the build up started a couple of weeks back and has reached frenzied point in the windy city.

I'm in Florida and the orange and blue shirts far outnumber the white and blue of the Indianapolis Colts, a team of nomadic history in a city of just 790,000 people with a roundabout as it's cultural highlight!

Many times since my arrival in Chicago I have compared it's sports teams fortunes to those of Charlton. The Bears one of the two original NFL teams, have created a legacy in the game but equally compassion seems to be limited to those within the city walls.

Every neutral seems to be backing the Colts today, mainly because of the countries fondness for Peyton Manning, its 'legendary' but trophy-less quarterback with a famous family whereas the Bears novice but erratic young quarterback Rex Grossman just sparks condemnation from the media.

I've always loved an underdog and the Bears go into today's game with all and sundry expecting them to get well beaten, well about 3 million people in their homes and in it's bars in -23C temperatures back in Chicago expects differently as will those wearing orange and blue in Miami's Dolphin Stadium later, who will far outnumber their rival supporters.

No one gives them a chance but the city expects. Go Bears!

Photo above of one of lions outside Chicago's Art Institute 
Saturday 3 February 2007
  How about a minutes silence for Charlie Hall? I was sad to hear about the death of Charlie Hall last week. Seeing him hurtling across the pitch with his black bag and dripping 'magic' sponge will be a memory that will stay with me forever. Charlie joined the club in 1943 and you have to flick back through a lot of team photos' in Colin Cameron's Home and Away book to find one without Charlie in it. I know because I recently did it.

I understand there was a message book in circulation before the game today and that's very nice and something for his family to treasure but what about a minutes silence? Blimey I've stood many times quietly for a minute wondering who I was paying my respects to, but Charlie gave 44 years of his life to the club and his Charlton life deserves to be honoured. 
  Chelsea home. What was the score? Lost 0-1 Up early and in the car to drive 30 miles to a bar showing the game live. The bar we have found in Tampa has free wifi so what the hell, I've brought my laptop. Chicago Addick's videprinter starts now....

00.00: Game kicks off in bright sunshine as clouds cover Tampa.
10mins: Even start with Addicks holding their own.
12mins. Order breakfast, a mate has shepherds pie. Good luck.
18mins: GOAL, Lampard scores typical goal, frustrating to think we had the ball twice in possession before Faye loses it.
21mins: Looking a bit shaky at the back, particulary Sankofa who is getting no support from Rommedahl.
22mins: El Khak has a strong cross-cum more of a shot well saved by Cech.
25mins: More coffee.
28mins: One of El Khak's free kick saved by Cech.
35mins: Bent galantly running around on his own up front without any support.
38mins: Pards and Parky in deep conversation on the sidelines.
40mins: Co-commentator Pat Nevin helpfully announces that Pardew needs to change tactics if we are going to win the game.
45+1min: Lampard has free-kick palmed away by Carson.
45+2mins: We go in 1-0 down. West Ham are losing and Matthew Upson has been carried off. Musn't laugh!
46mins: Pat Nevin very happy with himself as JFH comes on for Romm. Now 4-4-2.
50mins: Crowd start to rally behind Addicks.
53mins: It's sloppy but they're working hard.
55mins: Thomas tries to beat Carvalho 9 times before losing out to a goal kick.
57mins: Addicks up tempo, work rate there is spades but quality not.
63mins: Great noise from the home fans as we exert some pressure.
67mins: Excellent move ends with Faye bursting into the box. Cech saves well. It was our best chance of the game.
68mins: Wigan take lead.
73mins: Faye through and shoots straight at Cech, another great chance. Come on!
75mins: Kalou hits outside of the upright.
77mins: Cock up by Thatcher, who then redeems himself in the penalty box against Drogba.
78mins: It's alright everyone, Lisbie's on for Holland.
78mins: Save by Carson, out for a corner.
80mins: Come on you reds. Last 10.
82mins: Hasselbaink wastes a good free-kick opportunity.
86mins: Great save by Carson keeps us in it. Do you think Liverpool will notice if we don't give him back?
90mins: 3 extra minutes
90+2mins: Carvalho lies down while clock ticks.
93mins: West Ham lose, so do we. Final score 0-1.

It wasn't a game I expected anything from but the continuing fighting spirit was there to see. Our best chances fell to Faye but Cech was equal to them. We know that starting XI lacks quality but Pards has got them working really hard. There was loud and appreciative backing from the home fans and with Watford, Sheff Utd and West Ham each losing to lesser opposition, we are still in there fighting. Shame about Wigan, oh and Matthew Upson....

Opinions of those who were at The Valley: BBC Sport; ESPN; Guardian;; All Quiet; Frankie Valley; Blue Champions (Chelsea blog)
Super Al: "Ultimately our destiny is in our own hands; we need to get 38 or 39 points. And we've sent out a message today that we will fight to the very end." 
  Florida tornadoes Glad I packed my suntan lotion! Mother nature kindly sent a string of tornadoes across the middle of the state causing a 40-mile swath of destruction terrorising residents of one of the nation's biggest retirement communities early this morning killing 19 people. (more)

Once again the cyclical global weather phenomenon El Nino was blamed, fuelling the power of the tornadoes starting out in the ocean and driving them onto land at upto 165mph. About 100 miles south-east of the destruction I spent the day keeping out of heavy rain and shivering in my shorts! Lucky then I brought both my Charlton and Chicago Bears tops for a bit of warmth. 
Thursday 1 February 2007
  Superbowl 101 The Superbowl doesn't have the history of the FA Cup, nowhere near but the anticipation and excitement that greets it reminds me of the glory days of the FA Cup, when on final day the whole country stopped and watched the thrills unfold on television.

The Superbowl came about when two rival leagues the National Football League (NFL) and its younger rival, the American Football League(AFL) agreed for it's two champions to play in a grand final, initially called the 'AFL-NFL World Championship Game.' The world wasn't of course invited but never let that get in the way of American sport.

The first ever game was in 1967 and won by Green Bay Packers. In 1970 the leagues merged and the 26 teams formed two conferences named the American Football Conference (AFC), and the National Football Conference (NFC). Since then, the Super Bowl has featured the champions of the AFC and NFC, which are determined each season by the league's playoff tournament.

The winners lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named after the the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowl games. Following his death in September 1970, the trophy was named the Vince Lombardi Trophy (right).

The Superbowl is one of the most watched television programmes of the year, with an estimated 130-140 million people tuning into some part of the game and it goes without saying that food and 'lite' beer consumption is off the richter scale.

It is no surprise then that advertising is at a premium. In 1984 Apple ran an advert during the game introducing it's new Macintosh computer and since then the ads have been a premier showcase for extravagantly expensive commercials. The Budweiser campaign is one of the most anticipated and believe it or not some people only tune in for the commercials! The cost of a 30-second spot? $2.5 million.

I mean forget the game because there is the half-time show too. Prince headlines this year, lets hope he doesn't show us his nipples like Janet Jackson did in 2004.

Cities compete to host the big day and there is certain criteria that has to be reached, such as size of stadium, hotel room capacity, media facilities, exhibit space etc, although one aspect can not be manufactured - the weather. The host city needs to guarantee 50F weather, a reason why nearly all of them are held in the south of the country although last year's game took place under cover in Detroit.

The unique way American sport is organised with salary caps and the drafting system means that only 6 of the 32 professional teams have never reached a Superbowl final, two of whom were only formed within the last 10 years. The Dallas Cowboys have participated in the most, 8.

The Bears have beed designated the 'home team' in Superbowl XLI. The home team alternates every with the NFC representative serving as the home team in odd-numbered years and the away team in even-numbered years. All pro teams have a home, away and a white 'uniform' and the 'home team' get to choose their colours and the Bears have decided to wear their blue jerseys. Go Bears! 
About Me
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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