Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Sunday 29 April 2007
  The Big Easy Off to the Big Easy later today until Thursday with work and looking at my schedule a few minutes ago there won't be much easy about it. I have never been to New Orleans before, it has always been on the list, just quite a way down it, but of course the world changed for the city and it's people on August 29th, 2005 when category 3 Hurricane Katrina made landfall not once but three times, which although battered New Orleans to hell, it did actually stand up pretty well to the 125mph winds, however it was the resultant storm surge that caused the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States.

The storm surge breeched man-made levees in more than 20 places. 80% of the city was flooded, with some areas 15ft underwater. More than 1,836 people were killed.

The aftermath was ugly too with out of control looting, violence, unrest and the spread of disease caused by contamination of food and drinking water supplies, all compounded by the city's characteristic heat and stifling humidity.

My job is all about protecting companies from risk, both natural and man-made. Hurricane Katrina cost the insurance industry $81.2bn and those industry people that will flock to New Orleans this week will make unusual bedfellows with the locals, as they, some would say foolishly, try to rebuild the place they call the Big Easy.
Saturday 28 April 2007
  Blackburn Rovers away. What was the score? Lost 4-1 A note to the board: Please no more Operation so and so's. It's a nice gesture but can someone tell the players that it would be a nice touch if they actually made the experience a pleasant one.

I woke this morning with a lot of clarity in my head and a conviction that our fate was already sealed. I went back to the radio commentary today (Scott Minto's so much better than Brownie, I'm sorry) and first half had an all too familiar ring to it, with long hopeful punts being knocked forward for Bent D to chase and Bent M to ignore. The quality was once again lacking as was any worthwhile efforts at goal but at the half we were still in it but our rivals elsewhere had already stolen a march.

Then irony, a word Americans don't understand, to end all irony. After Chris Powell's own goal at Bramall Lane giving Sheffield Utd the lead, our runaway player of the season Scott Carson made probably his first mistake of the season to concede the lead at Ewood. Then down to 10-men after Thatcher got sent off, for the umpteenth time Darren Bent reacted quickly to get us back in the game right in front of the travelling red army.

For 6 minutes the dream continued and although nothing other than a win was necessary, at that time I thought a point might be worth returning south with, but then Hermann Hreidarsson deflected a shot past Carson and I closed my eyes shut. That was it and it got worse as we completely fell to pieces conceding two more in three minutes and my heart went out to every Addick sat behind the goal at the Darwen Road end.

As the game came to a disastrous end, those superb fans, who made up a ¼ of the crowd, sung "I'm Charlton til I die," and we are but let's hope some of those players pretending to wear our shirt are not.

Operation Ewood, how about Operation Heartbreak?

Opinions of those at the fated Operation Ewood: Sky Sports; BBC Sport;; Sporting Life; Telegraph.
Super Al: "Events transpired against us today. The fans were brilliant today and sure will cheer us to the last moments" 
  Color Purple After its record breaking run in Broadway, with almost a 1m people seeing the show now starring American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, the adaption of Alice Walker's 1982 novel has been taken on a national tour by producers Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey.

Famous Chicago resident Oprah, also starred in Steven Spielberg's film version and with Quincy Jones born in the city, it is no surprise that Chicago's theatreland was the first port of call for the Color Purple and we went to see it last night. Fantasia'a role of Celie was taken by Jeannette Bayardelle and the show also included Destiny Child star Michelle Williams as Shug Avery and fellow American Idol contestant LaToya London as Nettie.

The book of course delves into world of incest, child abuse and homesexuality and the musical deals with these in a serene youthful kind of way.

The mostly black audience was appeciative of the musical performances but I personally thought it was often amateurish and some of the acting resembled a school play than a big Broadway production. It is however a moving story and I am sure as it moves around the US it will sell many tickets but it wasn't for me.
Friday 27 April 2007
  Tevez plays. What a joke Ha, ha, ha. The Premier League truly are a laughing stock. They allow West Ham to knowlingly cheat and fine them what amounts to wasters Matthew Upson and Luis Boa Morte's annual salary, they slap them on the wrists, wiggle their doddery old fingers at them, then sit back and allow West Ham to come to a conveniently speedy new loan agreement outside of the transfer window allowing Carlos Tevez to play until the end of the season. You couldn't make it up.

The chinless and spineless panel concluded: "We are of the view that these are exceedingly serious allegations because they amount to not only an obvious and deliberate breach of the rules but a grave breach of trust as to the FAPL (Premier League) and it's constituent members because in our finding the club has been responsible for dishonesty and deceit."

What absolute bollocks.

Good luck to the travelling Addicks tomorrow by air, train and road. Be loud, be proud. Come on you red army. 
  Hammers miss points deduction but get £5.5m fine It has been announced that West Ham have been given a whacking £5.5m fine by the Premier League but will not be deducted any points. I can't remember anyone ever receiving such a extraordinarily high financial penalty. Of course it is a tad cheaper than the £30-odd million the Hammers would lose if they got relegated.

I expect now that Eggert Magnusson will try to recoup the money from ex-chairman Terence Brown and managing director Paul Aldridge, who were responsible for signing the Tevez and Javier Mascherano. The question is, that since the club have been found guilty, will Carlos Tevez be allowed to continue to play the remaining games of the season? The report carried the threat that "the registration of Carlos Tevez can be terminated."

Wigan (and others of course) will be hoping that Tevez, will be unable to play tomorrow, something that may appease Paul Jewell a little after he called for their relegation rivals to get points deducted, unlike Pards, who was quoted as saying that these decisions should be made on the pitch, which was Magnusson's argument too.

If I look at similiar recent examples of misconduct, Bury got thrown out of the FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player, whereas Accrington Stanley got fined for the same offence. Lower down the food chain in a great example of the one rule for one, AFC Wimbledon, got chucked out of the FA Trophy after ex-Addick Jermaine Darlington played after signing from Cardiff but before his papers made it from the Welsh FA.

The Isthmian League club were also fined and docked an incredible 18 points, since reduced to 3 but maybe enough for them to miss out on a play-off place.

Following the match-fixing in Serie A, Italian authorites took the approach of deducting points and relegating clubs, a fairer way in my view than just fining a club a couple of players' annual wages.

The Premier League never had the balls of course to deduct points from West Ham, so this scenario was not entirely unexpected but losing their talisman Tevez, may well be enough to consign them to the drop.
Thursday 26 April 2007
  Seize the moment Work has been overwhelming this week, sadly I have been thankful for some unusual jet-lag as I have been getting up at 4am to come into work, although not forcefully waking up to an alarm does make me more productive in the morning, just bloody knackered at night.

Work hasn't really given me much time to ponder Saturday, although it is far from my thoughts. There seems to be a general calm on the message boards and blogs this week about Saturday's game up at Ewood. In fact Pardew seems to be of a similiar disposition, asking players to "seize the moment." (more)

Certainly our rivals' games are vital but the players' sole focus must be on victory. We have some good memories at Ewood Park, and with close to 6,000 fans now making the journey, one of whom is flying in from Brisbane, Addicks fans have shown their commitment to the cause. If nothing else this season has brought a renewed spirit into our club.

Interestingly the M6 should be a funplace (or not) on Saturday with West Ham also taking 5,100 up to Wigan. Make sure you take your own sarnies as getting one in a service station may be problematical!

More on Saturday's game once I've had a good night's sleep. 
Wednesday 25 April 2007
  No Bull It’s play-off time in the NBA, and last night I was at the United Center to see the Chicago Bulls handsomely beat Miami Heat 107-89. which gave them a 2-0 lead in the best of 7 series. These games are a repeat of last season’s match-up, when the Bulls bravely lost and then watched Shaq and Wade's Miami go on to win the championship.

12 months on though and the Bulls continued their exciting improvement under coach Scott Skiles, particularly in pressurised games and against big players. Games during the regular season are too many in my view and although the most consistent survive and make the play-off's too many games are sterile and boring affairs. The play-off's are to the contrary and the atmosphere in the United Center last night was electric as Chicago fans roared the young Bulls onto victory, with Lewisham boy Luol Deng and London born Ben Gordon outstanding (left).

The next two games will be in Miami, starting Friday and its on the champions home court, where the Bulls will look to finish the job and move into the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the first time since the Michael Jordan era in 1998.
Monday 23 April 2007
  Sheffield United home. What was the score? Drew 1-1 Back in Chicago after a flying visit (7,926 miles to be exact) to witness what I think was our confirmed relegation on Saturday at The Valley.

I just think three of the last four games were each winnable and we failed to take advantage and it will take something special to get the required points from the next three non-winnable games. Defeatist, realistic, heart-broken, jet-lagged, whatever, I think that is it.

I found Saturday’s game emotionally sapping. My throat closed in on me as the players entered the pitch to a mountain of noise. My son’s head had trouble staying on it’s shoulders as it swivelled around to take in everything around him, and it was bloody hard trying to explain to him on the way to my parents after what that draw meant and he drew a rare smile from my lips as he then tried to explain it, as he understood it, to his Mum over the phone.

It was a desperately tense game and I felt as close to 23,000 people after the Elk scored, that only the game of football can allow. I am customarily a pessimist is these situations, in fact all situations involving the Addicks, but after Elk strolled 50+ yards and let fly, I honestly could not see Sheff Utd getting back into it but mistakes turn games and seasons, and Darren Ambrose failing implausibly to pick out either Romm or Bent with a simple pass, and then Thatcher uncharacteristically shirking responsibility (injury or not) to just get a foot on the ball, effectively ended our brave fight.

Yes, when Uncle Les was here and Santa was sat on his sleigh, I would have given my passport for us to still be in with a chance with three games to go and credit to Pards for giving us that hope.

But hope is a bastard of a thing, isn’t it? It is expectation, optimism, misleading and desperation all at the same time.

Ok, I know that up to 7,500 of you will be heading to Ewood Park and I salute you and am perversely jealous, but Pards needs to produce a bit of magic on Saturday, and magic from a box of tricks that contains a rabbit with one ear and a magic wand that is decisively wonky.

Our line-up was very adventurous against Sheffield United and for 20 minutes it was great to watch, but we failed to prosper and not for the first time recently I think Pards got out-thought on the touchline by an opposite number. Jagielka advanced to mark Ambrose, who then became non-existent after a sparkling start, Romm and Thomas (who was dire by the way) were forced back and we didn’t compensate.

ZZ and Song, whom both I would love to see us sign, have played just a handful of Premiership games between them and the team is calling out for Holland to mentor them in the middle, particularly as the 19-year old Song was being asked to be the spoiler and the provider. Another early and I thought harsh yellow card also hampered him. And as we all know already, at least I think we do, Benty is not going to score chasing 50 yard hoofs into open spaces.

Simply we are not good enough, and although Pards has tried extraordinarily hard, and in some cases succeeded, in making a silk purse out of a sows ear and perhaps more importantly got the team believing and playing for the shirt, I am troubled by what we have to do in our last three games, and having to hope (there’s that poxy word again) that our rivals fail in there’s.

Sorry if you came here seeking solace.
Opinions of others that were at The Valley:; BBC Sport; Sunday Telegraph; All Quiet; Addicks Diary; Charlton Athletic Online; Frankie Valley.
Super Al: "In terms of how many points we now need I've got absolutely no idea. We need one more win for sure." 
Thursday 19 April 2007
  They need us now Coming home from the Watford game about 6 weeks ago I sat on the plane and plotted my trips home for the rest of the season. Work is crazy for me now until the end of next month, but I was determined to play a part in the fantastic backing Addicks have given Pards and the team since he took over. As my brother would say, "They need us now bruv."

I pencilled in the Blackburn game as one that potentially we could take a lot of people too, and also that the game would be significent. I was right, and as of tonight we have sold 3,750 tickets of 7,500 tickets available, with 8 days to go. Unfortunately I have to be in New Orleans next Sunday for a conference, and despite looking into flights, with the best hopes (and plane connections) in the world it wasn't going to work out.

So, it is tonight that I take flight instead back to Blighty, landing around midday tomorrow. Beers tomorrow night and then Saturday morning I will fetch my son and we will head to The Valley for what is a match of unbelievable proportions.

I also have my eye on the Liverpool game too, I have a horrible feeling it will go to the last game, come on when have Charlton ever done anything the easy way? However getting a ticket may prove tricky although I would rather be standing in Stanley Park listening to the crowd noise than at home listening to the bloody radio!

Sheffield Utd and West Ham's game in hand went the way we wished this week, although I had hoped that the table-toppers may have put more than two past Sheff Utd, but with their superior goal difference over Chelsea, and the Blades excercising serious damage control, a spanking was unlikely once Utd raced into a two-goal lead.

Saturday won't be for the faint hearted and they will pack 11 men behind the ball and be wasting time as soon as that first whistle goes. We need to be patient and give it our very best from the stands. The team as I see it need to play with some width and I would support a recall for Rommedahl and perhaps even JFH from the start. I would also like Holland to play, it is a day for leaders and winners and he is one.

Saturday will be a day of extreme tension and nerves, heck I'm nervous now, and remember Pards knows it, the players know it, and we know it too..... They need us now. 
Tuesday 17 April 2007
  Chicago's 2016 bid Chicago now has 2 ½ years to convince the rest of the world and more importantly the members of the International Olympic Committee that it should be the city of choice. So what are the next steps?

Well Chicago, despite the furor that met the news of it's selection as the USA's bid, is only considered an 'applicant city' and at certain points over the next 18 months the IOC will cut the number of applicants leaving a small number of 'candidate cities.' Cities have until mid-September to apply to host the 2016 Olympics. Probable cities are:

St Petersburg
Rio de Janeiro

Then international applicants compete with each other for approximately 10 months putting together an overview of their project and responding to questionnaires from the IOC. Finalists are chosen and an evaluation committee will visit them, probably in the spring of 2009. Prior to this each finalist will submit to the IOC an exhaustive candidature file, with answers to questions of a myriad of areas related to staging the games. Writing this I'm wondering at what point did us English get excited about hosting the games before they became true finalists?

Then immediately before the October 2009 decisive vote in Copenhagen, each finalist makes a final presentation to the IOC membership.

Of course in the meantime there is an awful lot of sucking up and politico to go through.

Chicago's bid hinges on new facilities, mostly situated around the downtown lakefront and nearby parks. The centrepiece would be an 80,000-seat, $366 million temporary Olympic stadium that would be built in historic Washington Park. Chicago's plans also call for a $1.1 billion lakefront village that would be built near the McCormick Place convention centre just south of downtown. The lakefront plan repeatedly was mentioned as a key factor. "For the Olympic Games to be a success we have to recreate a certain magic, a certain celebration center," USOC international vice president Bob Ctvrtlik said, "and the waterfront location, right on the lake, we felt could do that."

Chicago's emphasis on the Paralympics was a large factor over Los Angeles' bid. USOC Chairman Peter Ueberroth said "Lots of times the Paralympics become a poor stepchild in the bid process. From the beginning, Chicago emphasized this was a joint effort to bring the Olympics and Paralympics."

The windy city is considered to have a good shot against its international competition, because, by 2016, 20 years would have passed since the last time the United States hosted the Summer Olympics, at Atlanta in 1996. Also, a US bid for 2016 could be helped by the idea of geographical rotation, because the IOC picked European cities for the Summer Olympics of 2004 (Athens) and of course London in 2012, and then an Asian city (Beijing) for 2008. However expect Rio de Janeiro to have a say in where the 5 rings ends up.

Chicago's 2016 bid committee this winter is now looking to bring big sporting events to the city. They are no strangers to hosting outdoor events, rarely a weekend goes by without something happening downtown. However apart from staging 4 games at the 1994 world cup, it has been almost 50 years since Chicago has been the sole venue for a large sporting occasion.

The trouble is that most International sports federations already have picked most of their sites for championships between now and the IOC vote for 2016, but Chicago will look to create or take on smaller invitational events over the next 18 months, even if they are money-losers and the World Amateur Boxing Championships could be the first.

  John Legend & Corinne Bailey Rae Almost forgot. I saw John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae last Friday at The Chicago Theatre, maybe not the best venue for a music gig and most certainly the Leeds-born songstress would have been better suited to a smaller and more informal setting but after the heady nights watching Bloc Party and Snow Patrol recently, this was altogether taking it down a notch.

Rae played on stage with Legend at the Grammy Awards earlier this year and she won plenty of admirers after singing a 50-minute set in her soulful and kooky style to a very receptive audience. She then came back on stage to join Legend in a fun version of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s Where Is the Love.

Legend, an Ivy League-educated pianist and singer (he majored in English at the University of Pennsylvania) was quite the showman contrasting sitting at his trademark grand piano on centre stage with his intermittent prancing and preening around the stage. A bit like a hetrosexual Elton John without the dresses.

His voice was smoothly soulful as he belted out song after song from his Grammy winning Get Lifted and the more recent Once Again albums. I don't know his stuff too well but was tapping along happily to Lets Get Lifted and Save Room amongst others.

I guess I didn't wake up the next morning with my ears buzzing and a song's lyrics crashing around my head but Legend was determined to make it a memorable night and for almost 3 hours he and Corinne Bailey Rae almost certainly did.
Sunday 15 April 2007
  Everton away. What was the score? Lost 2-1 Back in the relegation tunnel but still with a route map, so everything still to play for. It was a cruel way to lose after fighting back so gallantly. Great goal from Benty, that will do his confidence a world of good. Maybe some naivety from Bougherra and some wrong decision making from Thatcher but it is entirely wrong to dwell on these matters as we need to look ahead. Four games to go and no one ever said it would be easy. If we thought the West Ham game back in February was massive then Saturday's is gargantuan.

Pards' words afterwards were comforting. I reckon he could make a blind man think he can see, with the faith and reassurance he exudes. The rollercoaster carries on, I'm starting to feel sick and its still a huge ask but we are in it together and I reckon we can out-sing that fat lady, who has appeared but yet to clear her throat.

I played football, checking my Blackberry at every opportunity like a complete loser. My team lost too, it wasn't a good day but we all live for another. Come on you reds!
Opinions of those who were at Goodison: Addicks Diary; BBC Sport; Independent; ESPN; The Sun;; ToffeeWeb (Everton view).
Super Al: "My overriding feeling is that this team still has a lot to say in what's going to go on between now and the end of the season."
  Sweaty palms Other than a 0-0 draw today's Sheff Utd v West Ham match was hard to call. A win for the Hammers would continue their great form, but a defeat would seriously derail their claim for survival. A defeat for Warnock's side would keep them below us in the bottom 3.

But a 3-0 win for the Blades was least unexpected and gives them a huge lift before next week's encounter at The Valley but equally knocks West Ham for six and they have Chelsea at home on Wednesday. Meanwhile before next Saturday's absolutely crucial match, Sheff Utd go to Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Reading did us a favour, and watching some highlights earlier seeing Les Reed with his big windsor knot standing on the touchline sent a shiver down my spine. Wigan play today like we do but after our failure to pick up all 3 points last week, we really need something from Goodison because I reckon 40 points is now looking like a minimum target for survival. The Blades have both Watford and Wigan, on the final day to play at home and are already on 34 points. My palms are getting sweaty but at least I will be at The Valley next week to do my bit.

As far as today is concerned, the games on delay here an hour after the final whistle. I will play football during the 90 minutes, hopefully a big enough distraction, we'll wait and see. By the way I played last Thursday for the first time since January and even scored! Let me talk you through my goal, oh you've got sweaty palms and can't concentrate? I know how you feel.... 
Saturday 14 April 2007
  Ssshh, the MLS has started You know, the MLS.... Major League Soccer, Becks, Posh. Come on, keep up. Well the new season started last weekend and no one realised, because you see it only really starts when Becks shows up with his new haircut in August.

My boys Chicago Fire, who I've promised myself I will try to see this season, began with a fine home win over New England Revolution in front of a decent crowd of 15,353. FC Toronto, managed by Mo Johnston are the latest and 13th team to join the MLS and it is them who will host Beckham's debut on August 5th. Three other teams are slated to join by 2010.

It has been a struggle for 'soccer' teams in this country but Beckham's arrival plus to a lesser extent former national captain Claudio Reyna has given the game a boost and most importantly for the first time it is armed with a significent TV deal. ESPN and Fox have stumped up $20m per year for 7 years and will televise every game. Of course as the Premiership is slowly finding out the key to making that TV experience work is by filling the stadiums and that has been a problem, particularly in busy sports markets like New York, where the Red Bull New York side played some games last year in front of just 10,000 fans, in a stadium that holds 76,000.

However most of the clubs now either have 'soccer' specific stadiums, such as Chicago, or are building them and its these clubs who are building the best fanbases plus of course gaining important revenue streams.

Another recognition by the MLS is the Hispanic dollar. Millions of Mexicans watch the Primera División de México each week on television and are also avid followers of the European game but they rarely attend MLS games. A few years ago Chivas USA were formed and play in southern California and this year the league has come up with the SuperLiga tournament in July, featuring four MLS teams and four Mexican clubs, with a $1m going to the winner.

The US national team have also been invited to play in South America's equivalent of the European Championships, the Copa America. This will be held in Venezuela June 26 and July 15.
I will be interested to see the countries reaction to David Beckham, I hope it works out because you sense that 'soccer' is growing slowly in this country. For example more people watched on television the world cup final (17 million) than baseball's 'world' series. Other lesser known Brits have joined the circus as well.

Welsh midfielder Carl Robinson left Norwich for new-boys Toronto. Ex-Sunderland player Andy Welsh is there too, as is Jim Brennan, who played in England for a long time, although Canada is his homeland. Many players have also arrived from Central and South America. New York have signed 50-cap Austrian midfielder Markus Schopp and ex-Rangers keeper Ronald Waterreus is at The question remains though, are these players here to grow the profile of 'soccer' amongst the American mindset or a nice pay-off because they are too crap to play anywhere else?

Compare Welsh and Robinson with Wisconsin native Jay DeMerit, who left behind the MLS to make it in the English league. The Watford defender plays in the semi-finals of FA Cup today.

Interestingly Beckham's return to the England squad is being played down by the MLS because a clause in his contract allowing him to return home for internationals would mean a no-show at sold out league games. The US don't utilise the same international calendar and LA Galaxy playing in packed stadiums without their superstar is not something the powers that be want to see as they bang the Beckham-mania drum.

Chelsea and Celtic will also once again include the States on their pre-season tour (yawn) and I will try to keep an eye on the season and particularly the impact that Posh & Becks have on 'soccer' in this country as the summer moves on.
  US Olympic bid D Day Today is an important day for the city of Chicago as the US Olympic Committee will choose which American city will lead their bid for the 2016 Olympics. At 10am this morning Chicago and Los Angeles will face off for the right to compete against bids from the rest of the world, which is expected to include Azerbaijan, Doha, Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro, Madrid, Rome and Prague. The pundits believe that the host city will most likely be in the Americas as it is simply their turn after Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London.

Both cities will each pitch a 40-minute presentation followed by 20-minutes of questions put forward by the board of decision makers. Chicago's presentation will be led by two men, Mayor Richard Daley and Patrick Ryan, who incidentially is the founder and executive chairman of the company I work for. "We did not get into this to fail," Ryan said earlier this week.

The winner is expected to be announced at 3pm CT and I will post it on here.
In recent days both State Governors have backed their respective bids with big suggestions of funding. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed legislation this week to provide $250 million in state money, whilst Illinois' has already promised a $150 million guarantee. It is said that the United States is the only country in the world that does not provide a national Olympic guarantee, requiring other levels of government to underwrite downsides.

The host city winner will be announced by the International Olympic Committee on October 2, 2009, just over 4-years after London was rewarded the 2012 Games.
3.50pm Breaking News: Chicago awarded the US Olympic city bid. (more)
Friday 13 April 2007
  Orange elephant "I would bloody like to see Charlton relegated" Simon Jordan on The Game podcast at

Oh dear, some people never forget. He has a memory like an orange elephant that boy. He did pay credit to Pardew though, although of course not the board that hired him. Ironically Jordan was giving the interview after travelling back from Stoke, a Palarse performance he described as "inept." No mention of Jon Fortune though! 
  Wrigley Field threat very real The weather has been appalling here this week with snow most days, about 7 inches has fallen since Tuesday, followed periodically by rain making the walk home rather slushy. The Chicago Cubs actually cancelled their home game on Wednesday but do play this afternoon and I will be attendance wrapped up like a wrapped up thing.

The Cubs are everyone's favourite losers, however they have some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the country and with a new manager, who has overseen some $300m spent on new players, there is a lot of expectation in the north part of the windy city.

However there is one big question mark that will hang over the 105-year old club this summer. The previous owner, media giant the Tribune Company, have announced that they will sell one of the biggest clubs and brands in American sports at the end of the 2007 season. The Tribune Co. have put the Cubs on the block as part of its $8.2 billion sale to Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell but there is a catch. The 'friendly confines' of Wrigley Field might not be part of the deal.

There are a number of bidders lined up for the Cubs, who could fetch in the region of $600m - about 40% of Manchester United's value. However that is just for the 'franchise' alone and not for the hallowed ballpark they play on.

Wrigley Field is as much part of Cubs folklore as the team itself and the beautiful old stadium occupies some serious real estate land that Mr Zell, not known for his compassion, might find very useful. Just to add to that cocktail Zell is a fan and shareholder of Cubs' south-side rivals, The White Sox.

Sports teams moving to new stadiums was invented in this country and sentimentality runs short when it comes to history and fans affinity with 'places of worship' they have grown up with. The same thing has been happening at home now for years and when Liverpool finally leave Anfield, and the kopites accept it, you realise that we live in a very different world to the football one we lived in 25-years ago.

Potential new Cubs owner Jerry Colangelo, the respected businessman and Chicago born, said recently that new owners must take a ''hard look'' at the circumstances involving the team maintaining a long-term commitment to Wrigley Field. Other rumoured bidders have whispered the same.

Clubs move cities and teams move grounds on a regular basis here. Americans can't stand to look at an old building, they don't get it. Knock it down and build another one, the same but with more corporate boxes, they say. However Wrigley and Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park are different. People have watched over and cared about these iconic places for decades but whilst Fenway got a new haircut and a facelift to the tune of $100m, the Tribune has lost continuous battles with the city and it's mayor (another White Sox fan) to be allowed to make improvements and grow the capacity.

Fenway has been revitalised because the owners were determined to do so. That's why one company owning the Cubs and another owning Wrigley, which Zell has confirmed is a possibility, could be the worst-case scenario for this landmark, built in 1914 and said to be valued at $90m.

Not many Cubs fans can see this scenario, but since when will anyone confer with them? There is a very real concern that Wrigley could go the same way of many famous stadiums before it and be consigned to history. 
Wednesday 11 April 2007
  Pollgate The Graham Poll nod given to Pards during the game on Sunday, which seems to have taken up a lot of column inches might well dissipate following the news that Leroy Lita has been charged by the FA with violent conduct. Poll, too busy nodding and winking we assume failed to notice Lita's headbutt on Talal El Karkouri in the 2nd half. An offence Poll concedes "warranted a red card." (more)

Lita meanwhile is a bit partial to a headbutt. (more)

Poll, favourite to referee the expected upcoming title decider between Chelsea and Man Utd, has made himself look a bit of tart recently, this despite him applying common sense over the Song affair.

Although El Khak did get a piece of Lita's ugly mug in his head on Sunday, he frustrated the hell out of me watching with my cup of Twining's because he fell to the ground as if he'd been shot by a sniper. In the context of the game, as picked up by co-commentator Paul Walsh, we really didn't have time for him to be rolling around on the ground. And then we were bloody lucky that Poll chose to ignore his blatent penalty box push on Shane Long in an inane moment of madness.
I'm not sure Pards will change it but I wouldn't mind seeing Bougherra play in the Moroccan's place on Sunday. Magic makes his comeback (although he was on the bench at Citeh) in tonight's reserve game as does Bryan Hughes. 
  Les Reed & Sanchez take over from sacked Coleman I was out drinking last night and was on the end of something very strange texts. Something about Chris Coleman getting the sack - yeh, go on pour me another, and Man Utd winning 7-1 and that wasn't the arrest count even (that was 14-7).

Now I know our boardroom has witnessed some moments of madness this season but honestly sacking Chris Coleman with 5 games left leaves me shocked. Coleman has proven himself as a quality motivator, clever tactician and good operator in the transfer market (£5m for Boa Morte anyone?), all without any of the cash that his predecessor Jean Tigana had to spunk away. Football is a cruel game and Addicks are left wondering which way this change will effect Fulham's players and their fans, although patently Coleman may go down as another one of those managers treasured by supporters of other clubs but not his own.

Northern Ireland maanger Lawrie Sanchez has quickly been appointed with, wait for it Les Reed as his assistant. Reed has worked previously in the Northern Irish set-up with Sanchez. All this adds further to the thrills, spills and nerves of the relegation battle. There was never this much excitement when we used to lose our last 10 games and finish 12th was there? 
Tuesday 10 April 2007
  Kohler, Wisconsin About 145 miles north of Chicago in Wisconsin is a weekend retreat called The American Club. It's a nice hotel with a spa and a posh restaurant but it's the resort's part of local history that makes this place unusual.

In 1873 an Austrian immigrant called John Michael Kohler purchased the Sheboygan Union Iron and Steel Foundry, the firm did well producing cast iron and steel implements for farmers plus ornamental iron pieces that included cemetery crosses. Then Kohler seized upon a bold idea by applying a baked enamel coating to a Kohler horse trough and hey presto the man had created the Kohler Companies first ever bathtub.

The bathtubs were popular for reasons that I guess are obvious and in 1913 John Michael Kohler made an unpopular decision and moved the company 5 miles from Lake Sheyboygan to the middle of the countryside. Kohler sadly didn't see the fruits of his planning as he died but his son took over and carried out his fathers dream to not only build a factory but a whole community erecting a village with family homes, a school, a village hall, a fire station and a dormitory for the unmarried immigrant workers.

This dormitory wasn't any old dormitory with elegant oak panelling, stained glass and brass furnishings and the workers lived royally for $27 a month for "room, board and plain washing," but as the immigrants settled into American life, which included an evening school where workers practiced becoming American, that is eventually what they became and the need for the 'American House' was no longer. So in 1981 it was reopened as an elegant hotel after 3-years of restoration.

Kohler wasn't the first planned community or new town as we call them. South of Chicago's Loop is a town called Pullman, synonymous with a train carriage company of the same name and Letchworth in Herts was one of the very first new towns with a prolification of others after WWII. Basildon anyone?

Today Kohler's town of 1,900 inhabitants, most of which don't actually now work at Kohler, is home to four golf courses, including the ostensibly wonderful Whistling Straits, venue for 2020 Ryder Cup, a private country club, a botanical garden, health club, pub, restaurants, and shops as well as the historic tribute to Kohler's Austrian roots, The Waelderhaus (right). Also with no explanation the hotel has an antique greenhouse, originally attached to a hospital in Chorley Lancashire and bought in auction by Kohler in 1979.

The hotel itself is a cross between the preserved and the contemporary and suceeds fully in being a country retreat where staff are equally friendly and discreet. By the way the countryside is beautiful and you almost fail to notice the billowing smoke coming out of the factories huge chimney's. In fact without the furnaces and the production sheds Kohler wouldn't be the same.
L to R: The American Club; Hidden behind trees is Kohler's main factory; Whistling Straits.
Monday 9 April 2007
  Reading home. What was the score? Drew 0-0 Not 3 but a single point to add to the total, one I was pleased with in the end as Reading looked increasingly threatening as we tired in the last 15 minutes. With Jerome Thomas again putting in another frustrating performance and Ambrose too often disappearing from the radar, we lacked any real quality going forward despite Bent (D) and Zheng's non-stop commitment but on too many occasions the final ball went astray in a noisy but clearly tense Valley.

Pards, who started with Ambrose over Faye also lost both Marcus Bent (hamstring) and HH (knee ligaments) to injury in the first half-hour, thus with Holland and Thatcher as replacements, it meant we reverted to the team I would personally have started with.

Reading with little to play for impressed me with their spirit and play and if the deadlock was to be broken they looked the more likely to profit as the game went on. Song probed but an earlier booking hampered him and Pards was right to replace him before Graham Poll lost his nerve and flashed a red card at the youngster. El Khak came the closest for us (picture), and although it was a fine header crashed off the underside of the bar, he perhaps should have put us in front after just 5 minutes as we never got as close to scoring again.

The positives are that it is another point, another point more than Sheffield United and a point closer to Fulham, who were beaten at home by Man City. Just as imperative was another clean sheet with Diawara, who has been outstanding during the recent defensive lock-out, again dominant.

I am edgy and the nerves don't diminish. We have stalled a bit on the creating chances front and Darren Bent in particular, with the added responsibility of being team captain, has looked over-anxious in the last 3 matches and it is the time once again for some further big performances from our more creative players.

There are plenty more emotions and grey hairs to be had as Sheffield United host West Ham next Saturday with Fulham away at today's opponents Reading. Wigan play Sunday like we do because of the Grand National.
Opinions of those who were at The Valley: BBC Sport;; Sky Sports; Guardian.
Super Al: "We keep our unbeaten run going, it was a tough game, a clean sheet and that point might be important in the scheme of things. I've never looked over my shoulder in my life, and I'm not going to start doing that now."
  White Easter The snow was falling this morning in Chicago, the winter just won't give it up. I'm in the office just until lunchtime when I will head nervously home to sit and watch the Reading game. Reading have had a great season and today's match is arguably our hardest in a while. Royals fans normally take great pleasure in booing Alan Pardew, although even the most bitter will appreciate why us Addicks have taken to the man as we have.

I would like to see a bit more adventure in our play today and perhaps we should start with both Rommedahl and Thomas, with Marcus Bent making way allowing Zheng to sit behind Darren Bent. Has anyone else noticed how Pards likes to hint on team selection and injury only to 'surprise' us at kick-off? Thatcher was slated to play at Eastlands but didn't and Holland was supposingly "rested." I would like to see both play later, although I expect Pards maybe unwilling to tinker with a back-four that has been impressive in the last 3 games. Nevertheless Reading's wide players are more able and nimble than Citeh's and Thatcher would improve our balance and allow Thomas more freedom to roam.

Saturday's results were generally good with Sheffield United and Wigan losing at home but bloody West Ham keep winning. I wonder what the FA are thinking after their crass statement that a points deduction would probably make no difference as the Hammers will likely already be relegated. Er, probably not. I can hear their arse's creeking from here, especially as Tevez is on a one man crusade to keep them up.

Anyway, it's snowing and the Addicks play at 2pm my time and I have enough to think about, so lets worry about ourselves. Give it everything from the stands tonight if you're going. 
Friday 6 April 2007
  Man City away. What was the score? Drew 0-0 Another battling point today to go alongside a clean sheet. Citeh started on fire and they had about 5 corners in the first 3 minutes. However Carson and the back four stood firm as they did for the whole 90 minutes. Offensively we weren't much with Marcus Bent playing exceptionally deep and support to his namesake Darren was scarce although Zheng impressed again with his willingness to get forward in the 2nd half.

An excellent Carson save from Barton, a simple clearance by Diawara on the line plus a header over in the 2nd period by Onuoha were the only efforts of note from City. Our best chance came from a quick break from the right, but Onuoha did enough to prevent Zheng from snatching all 3 points when he slid in to beat ZZ to his shot but the ball bounced of the Addick and rolled anxiously wide.

I felt we missed Holland but I guess Faye's inclusion and M Bent's deep role provided a clue to our intentions but I really thought that we looked the mostly likely winners in the last 20 minutes. I sat in an Irish pub amongst lunchtime customers and although I had to put up with bloody 'diddly diddly' background music the 1,800 Addicks at Eastlands made themselves heard. I'm very envious of my brother and a couple of mates who are staying up in Manchester tonight, they were very high spirited when I spoke to them earlier.

So as Pards says, we've done our job and now it's up to others. West Ham like us have nothing to lose but their run-in starting at The Emirates tomorrow is tough. The consensus is that Sheffield United have had a good season, well they now find themselves in the bottom 3.

Fulham were well beaten today and their home game against Citeh on Monday is massive. Wigan play European chasing Bolton tomorrow and Aston Villa, who seem to be walking in glue, play away at Blackburn.

It's all to play for, try to enjoy your weekend's.
Opinions of those who were at Eastlands: Addicks Diary;; BBC Sport; The Times; The Sun, Manchester Evening News (City view).
Super Al: "We could have been better offensively, but we can take a lot from today. We are out of the relegation zone, we finished stronger than City and we have kept three clean sheets. There are a lot of signals that we are going to have a good chance, but by no means do we accept that it’s a foregone conclusion that we will be OK. The hard work begins now." 
Wednesday 4 April 2007
  The Parkinson no-show Something amazing is happening at The Valley and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Phil Parkinson, an ambitious and well regarded young coach joined as Pardew's right-hand man earlier in the new year. It appeared at the time that the role was a stop-gap allowing him to work with a man he holds in high esteem but when the right managerial job came along Parkinson would move on and that was definitely a case of when not if.

Well Huddersfield Town came calling and Parkinson was an hour away from being unveiled as The Terriers new manager in front of the countries media this morning but he couldn't do it.

"I have had a change of heart. I have been enormously impressed with Huddersfield and the integrity of the board. It is a fantastic club, with a great infrastructure, which will go from strength to strength. However, the lure of working with Alan Pardew and in the Premiership was not something I could walk away from." (more)

Some of us have been lucky to work with people that inspire and Parkinson's judgement and decision says an awful lot about him, his boss and the place that he works.

Let the red train continue at full speed ahead.
Tuesday 3 April 2007
  "Chicago bursts to life" Rather predicatably Snow Patrol left the song Hands Opens to last, last night as Gary Lightbody had everyone at The Aragon eating out of his hands when he bellowed out the line "Chicago bursts to life and your sweet smile remembers you" (it's one of his favourite cities he'd explained earlier) at the finale of the Chicago leg of their North American tour.

But in truth, although Gary Lightbody's vocals were superb, the band often failed to nail some of the songs from their excellent last two albums Final Straw and Eyes Open. A bit ultra critical perhaps because it was still a great night out and the very personable and chatty Gary Lightbody, dancing like a cross between Jarvis Cocker, Mick Jagger and my Dad at a family wedding, gave a consumate performance. Funniest moment was Lightbody looking around at the fort-like arena, and telling the audience that all the band members lived "in castles like this." All around me people nodded knowlingly.

Songs from both albums were played kicking off with Spitting Games and Wow plus Set the Fire to the Third Bar, at which point a girl was pulled out of the audience to replace the absent songbird Martha Wainwright, and bloody good she was too. Later in the 80 minute set came two of my personal favourites Open Your Eyes and You Could Be Happy.

Snow Patrol's songs are often heard on TV shows here, such as Grey's Anatomy, which might account for the docile crowd. People around us were chatting and texting and the band deserved better. Bloc Party it wasn't, but I was very pleased I went.

If you have tickets I would recommend staying in the bar and avoiding support bands Silversun Pickups and Ok Go, who were both poop. 
Monday 2 April 2007
  Personal Day Another week ahead with my feet firmly on the earth. No airplanes and definitely not any train rides if I can help it. Another reason why I love my 25-minute walk commute.

After the White Sox opener this afternoon, I see Snow Patrol tonight, supported by Chicago band Ok Go. Wednesday I am visiting a new client, one I'm very proud to have played a large part in winning. They have a gigantic bottling plant on the south-side of Chicago and I'm going for a tour around. Thursday I will be locked away all day in a brains trust (a day, pah, who are they kidding) before watching The Diary of Anne Frank at the famous Steppenwolf Theatre in the evening, not too far from where I live.

Then if I can circumvente all those things and get myself into a good position with my work, I hope to take a Personal Day on Friday. Now Personal Days are peculiar to the American workforce and are essentially a way an employer escapes the rath of 'minorities' (I do hate that word) by not 'observing' any religious holidays at all, but instead allowing a small number of days, which you are allowed in addition to your annual leave. So for example, if someone wanted to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Diwali or Groundhog Day, then you use one of your Personal Days and no one will be offended see. Oh, how very politically correct.

So Friday of course is a holy day observed by Christians, and Cadburys and most god-faring countries allow their employees to have a day off to attend church, eat chocolate or watch football. And that of course is what I want to do on Friday. If possible, and I hope it will be, I'll mark it down on the team calendar, no one will ask because that would be considered intrusive and I will go to the pub lunchtime and watch the next installment of the Addicks relegation battle. 
Sunday 1 April 2007
  Opening Day The baseball season's opening day is a rich tradition in the States and etched into sports fans calendar's. It also marks the beginning of warmer weather and that yearly moment for teams' fans to get all gooey-eyed about their championship winning chances. In fact in Cincinatti, home to the first ever professional team, an annual parade marks an unofficial public holiday. I don't expect Notts County fans parade on the first day of the season do you?

The weather forecast in Chicago tomorrow is supposed to be good, and as luck would have it, I've been invited to the White Sox's home opener against Cleveland Indians, the first of a 2,400-game marathon of a regular season in which 30 teams try to outlast each other just so eight of them can play for another month of play-offs!

The experts don't give either Chicago teams a chance, the White Sox have a real under the radar feel to them, just as they did when they won the 'world' series in 2005. Conversely everyone's favourite losers, the Cubs have spent a fortune (around $300m) on a new manager and player upgrades during the post season in an effort to buy the title, not won since 1907.

Both teams, one on the north side and one in the south start tomorrow's season with plenty of expectation. The White Sox's ageing champions might have one last shot at regaining the 'world' series before the team is surely broken up in the manner of most baseball teams each winter. Meanwhile the pressure is on new Cubs manager Lou Piniella and a good start is imperative to get Cubs' fervent but fickle fans behind them. 
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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