Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Wednesday 30 May 2007
  Buenos Aires My recent wrangling, nay arguing with American Airlines gave me a kick up the butt, on writing my Buenos Aires travelogue, which is long overdue. By the way we still do not have a penny back from the bastards, just a few thousand air miles, which on the basis I vowed never to travel with them again, is as much good as a poke in the eye with a boarding pass.

Anyway, don’t let that put you of Buenos Aires, because it was well worth the aggro.

The capital of Argentina is not love at first sight but she is certainly a keeper, slowly growing on you wanting you to discover more. It is a city of many contrasts. A colourful history mixes with a black and white past and today flourishing porteños, as the locals are known, are effortless in their style, live side by side with some of the poorest areas in the world.

The people are massively passionate and warm, proud of who they are but belonging more to Europe than Latin American. They look down their noses at the rest of the country and likewise the rest of country stares back at as if they were strangers.

The city grew with the importance it’s port, now part of a huge regeneration, on the Rio de la Plata and although their independence came later than the rest of the country they finally banished the Spanish in 1820 and for decades that followed battled all-comers manfully to keep this huge divided country as one.

However it wasn’t until an obscure army general called Juan Domingo Peron stepped out of the shadows to drag Argentina in the 19th Century with his young glamourous wife Evita becoming the darling of the country as she set about distributing the wealth from the few to many.

But it was hard to shake the militants and in 1955 Peron was overthrown only to return in 1973. By this time the country was in turmoil and after his death the country entered the abyss and under military rule up to 30,000 people were killed, mostly trade unionists, political activists, defiant priests and student leaders.

Inflation soared and although memories of the 1978 world cup are of beautiful football and ticker-tape the country was in meltdown. Women marched weekly to the Plaza de Mayo to demand information on their missing children. They still march every Thursday at 3.30pm.

On April 2nd, 1998 the military junta made one last attempt to flame support by evoking patriotic passion and invading what the Argentinians call La Malvinas. Of course they didn’t budget on a large slice of Maggie’s patriotic passion and it was a nasty defeat for then leader General Leopoldo Galtieri. Defeat did bring the people to their senses though but 20-years on The Falklands is still a political issue and Brits are wise to avoid the topic in conversation.

However even as recently as 1987 there was another military uprising, which saw the economy spiral out of control with inflation at 197%. The peso was then pegged to the dollar at one to one in 1991 but the corruption and scandal did not go away.

The ‘90’s were a bad time for Argentina and the International Monetary Fund had to come to the rescue more than once, no more so at the end of 2001 when the country witnessed four presidents in 11 days.

Amazingly this large country with rich natural resources and huge national pride lived through generations of unrest, corruption, violence and economic disaster but at long last seems to have finally stopped beating itself up. Corruption and crime have not gone away and it is wise not to stroll around looking like a tourist with a big chunky watch on your wrist or a wallet temptingly sticking out of your back pocket. We had no problems but there are plenty of horror stories to make you wise up.

On the face of it today Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina is booming. Tourist’s stream into Buenos Aires, 4m in 2006, and enterprising portenos move back into the city in droves, creating businesses and investing in or building property.

However it is not all like that and the reverse is only across the train tracks. The train that comes into the huge Retiro station (English built in 1915) dissects the port area and on one side is wealth and the other is the shanty towns. If you are walking in this area understand your surroundings as a wrong road can take you into squalor only seen on television screens. There is no gloss to be put on 25,000 people each living in one of 30 shanty towns or villas in the capital, where corrugated iron is slung over rotting walls with holes for windows. Whilst the government ignores them there is now a tour you can take so tourists don’t have too. We didn’t but driving along the main autopista into the city, look right and you will get a good view of the other side of the tracks. Its humbling indeed.

The proud porteños are a cool lot, dressing to impress, even a mooch around the shops is seen as a chance to don ones best outfit, and still in the less affluent neighbourhoods, hard-earned money appeared to be worn in, than lived in or driven.

Argentina is famous for three things – the Tango, its wine and its love of football. After living in the U.S., it was a source of great delight to see good old footie dictate conversation, the media and the streets. More can be read of our experience at River Plate’s opening game of the season here. (click for photos)

Tango is as popular now in Buenos Aires as it was 100-years ago. The dance originated from a combination of lively cultures and some say from often violent streets around the turn of the last century. Two different barrios (neighbourhoods), one Boca and the other Barracas claim its beginnings and back then it was seen as a scandalous proletarian affair but eventually it became respected once the Parisian’s bourgeoisie and the high classes of London and New York found out about this most visceral, frantic, sexy and explosive dance. We went to a show at El Viejo Almacen (Alvnedia Independencia 300, y Balcarce, San Telmo) and it was truly amazing and a must if you find yourselves in BA.

With heavy influence once again from their Spanish and Italian history, café society and outdoor eating is common in the city. People will tell you that BA used to be dirt cheap, and it probably was 10 years ago but although still very reasonable, stories of $3 a meal were off the mark, at least in the heart of the city.

But eating and coffee are perfect for people watching, particularly in areas such as Palermo Chico, Puerto Madero and Recoleta and it is not unusual for couples of groups to nurse a Pepsi or a coffee for hours as they pass the time of day.

Buenos Aires is a shopping haven and on the basis that American Airlines lost my entire luggage, I had no choice to sample another good reason to come to the city. It is boutique wonderland and window displays mirror anything you will see on 5th or Michigan Avenue but there are also bargains to be had, especially if you are looking for leather goods. What I liked about the place was its old-school approach to shopping, in that you’ll still find shops dedicated to one type of product. This drives me mad living in Chicago and it was a treat to see small book shops, hardware stores, shops just selling ponchos, or polo gear and toys.

The Patio Bullrich centre in Recoleta was specifically good and my credit card took a fond liking to menswear shops Etiqueta Negra and Airborn.

Now I’m pretty spoilt with the quality of steak in Chicago, you will need to do a few laps of the globe to find steak to beat that found in America’s Midwest but there is one very worthy competitor.

39 million people live in Argentina but there are over 50 million cows roaming the country and if you are learn two words of Spanish before you go, then jugosa (rare) and bien cocido (well done) could be it. Argentina has the world's highest consumption rate of beef, at 68kg a year per capita and although there is pasta and for some reason an innumerate number of pizzeria’s this is a meat-eaters haven.

From the pavement Parrillas that sizzle with chorizo, to the traditional eateries and trendy restaurants you will find cuts of meat on the menu that will get you thinking about that old butcher’s shop you used to go to when you were a kid.

The parillas are where you will find the best value for your money, but for great meal try Cabana las Lilas, which occupies a wonderful location down on the dockside at Puerto Madero.

Puerto Madero is a docklands type area of the city, once vitally important but for many decades a rat-infested shell - sound familiar? Now towering offices, exclusive restaurants and people (get that) occupy this vast arty complex. Unlike so many cities around the world it is possible never even to get a glance of the river in Buenos Aires as for decades the city turned its back on it but make sure you get to see the shiny new modern monument that is Puerto Madero.

The city is easy to navigate by foot and is laid out in a Spanish colonial style grid pattern of narrow calles wide avienidas, including the gynormous 20-lane Avenida 9 de Julio with its postcard emblem the Obelisco at it’s centre. We stayed in the Recoleta area of the city, a green, pleasant and quiet part of town.

The most famous visitor spot here, if not the whole of the city is the Cementerio de la Rocoleta, a permanent home to hundreds of illustrious corpses, including Evita, aka Maria Eva Duarte de Peron. The cemetery has rows of impressive tombs and cenotaphs. Gather your thoughts afterwards at the legendary La Biela café (Avienda Quintana 600).

Recoleta boasts some of Buenos Aires most beautiful buildings including the regal looking French Embassy (Cerrito 1399), the Basilica Nuestra Senora del Pilla, consecrated in 1832. A stroll along Avienda Alvear is a treat with the Palacio Duhau (now a hotel) the spooky Residencia Maguire and the famous Alvear Palace Hotel.

East of here is the very claustrophobic Microcentro, which is the city’s financial hub. The pedestrinised Calle Florida runs through here, and half way up you will see a now defunct Harrods. Other places of note are the English clocktower, Torre de los Ingleses right near the Plaza Martin. The clocktower was presented as a gift by local Anglo-Argentinians in 1910. However since the Falklands War, authorities have insisted on calling the building Monumental Torre, and thus dropping the Ingleses! The surrounding area was once called Plaza Britanica, but you guessed it, no longer. Some people never forget do they?

The massive Correo Central is worth a walk by, it’s the central post office and down the street is Luna Park, where Peron met Evita. It’s now a music venue and Coldplay were lined up to play when we were there.

South of the city is the lively area of San Telmo, an up and coming area with a burgeoning nightlife, particularly surrounding Plaza Dorrego. Further south is a barrio made famous by the beginnings of the tango and its football team.

It is best to be careful walking the streets of Boca, once the heartbeat of this area was its port, but now it is at La Bombonera (the chocolate box), home to the famous blue and yellow jerseys of Boca Juniors, arch rivals to the more high brow River Plate a few miles along the river. Boca’s most famous son is of course Diego Maradona, and despite his many demons, his influence is everywhere.

A stroll along the wide Avienda del Libertador, nestled by parkland will take you past various museums and embassies. A popular spot to visit, judging by the queue was Jardin Japones, complete with pagodas, artificial lakes and huge koi carps. Keep walking and you will eventually reach the Monumento a los Españoles. A left here will take you to past the zoo (Jardin Zoologico) and to Plaza Italia, I told you they are Europhiles didn’t I?

Then you are in Palermo, home to all things horsey. The Hipodromo Argentino is huge and can hold 100,000 spectators on race days. The track is used all year round. Across the street is another pastime that the porteños adore, polo. It is only played in the capital from September to November, when at which point the best players, and Argentina does have the best players, travel to play in other countries.

Polo was brought to Argentina by British ranchers in 1875, something else we gave the world and something else that other people are now so much better at and in this country the game is not just for royals or aristocrats, similar to Uruguay, when kids turn up after school to play. By the way Polo gear can be bought anywhere but La Martina is the place to go, owned by polo’s very own pin-up boy Adolfo Cambiaso.

Now there is the steak and the wine, but the coup de grâce is the ice-cream. A tradition inherited from the Italians, Buenos Aires helado artesnal (homemade ice-cream) is so unbelievable that you will never have a Mr Whippy again. Visit Persicco (2591 Salguero) for ice-cream to die for.

Our extra day given to us because of American Airlines incompetence did allow us to go to the Argentinian Tennis Open, held at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club, also in Palermo. In recent years Argentinian tennis players have featured heavily in the world rankings and we very much enjoyed being entertained by some up and coming players battling it out in the first round.

Palermo is a big area and is split into smaller barrios. Palermo Viejo is a quiet residential area with plenty of boutiques, bars and restaurants. La Cabrera (Cabrera 5099) came well recommended but we didn’t try it. A little haven of the rich and famous called Palermo Chico, also merits a gawp.

I hope the early part of this post didn’t seem like a history lesson (I’ve just re-read it!) but this city deserves an appreciation of its sometimes rich but more often sorrowful history but what I saw in February was a proud city, with its beautiful buildings, open spaces, deep culture and vivacious citizens. Not to mention five things that make this city a fantastic place to visit - food, wine, ice cream, tango and of course the beautiful game.

Above photos top to bottom: View down Avenida 9 de Julio; Plaza de Mayo; Retiro train station; Dancing the tango; A Parillada; Torre de los Ingleses; Hipodromo Argentino.

Photos L to R: Recoleta Market; Palermo Chico; Monumento a los Españoles; Monumental Historico Nacional; Luna Park; A Subte metro station; View of the city from our hotel; The French embassy building; The famous Cafe Tortoni; The Argentinian tennis open; The Obelisk.

Click on Photos to enlarge.
Tuesday 29 May 2007
  Watching paint dry It was bank holiday weekend in the States too. Memorial Day commemorates American men & women who have lost their lives in combat for their country and it origins were to honour the Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War 140 odd years ago.

So a weekend for relaxing and doing bugger all then, but my first mistake was waking Saturday morning with a dream, a vision..... of new hardwood floors. I thought I would stain my original oak floors a darker walnut colour. Easy, pop down to Home Depot, which for those of you that have never had the pleasure, is like a B&Q on speed. I bought all the bits & bobs I needed - wood stain, brushes and stuff. Then off to work. A nice little bit of DIY to soothe the soul.

And off we went, slapping this stuff on the floor, moving around stacked furniture and the new kitchen because, hello kitchen installment no. 76: it is still not bloody finished yet - 3 week anniversary tomorrow. Er, save your congratulations.

It was looking good as we worked our away around, stretching limbs and muscles and then half done we kicked back and watched it dry. And 34 hours later, er we still are!

Drying time according to the tin is between 4-6 hours and 8 in extreme situations. Well talk about trade bloody descriptions. The apartment is a mess and my parents arrive in a weeks time. Mum, bring your hairdryer..... 
  Miss Universe Thanks to the kindness of Donald Trump, I have been watching Miss Universe on NBC, we don't get Songs of Praise here. And, I picked the first two, 2nd placed Miss Brazil and the beautiful winner Miss Japan. なんと種類か.

I know, I've still got it.... 
Monday 28 May 2007
  My Chicago - #9 Roscoe Village Roscoe Village is on the North Side of Chicago about 15 minutes by train from the Loop and whilst not an official place residents roughly call the boundaries of Addison Street, Belmont Avenue, Western Avenue, and Ravenswood Avenue to be the periphery of the village with the busy Roscoe Street bisecting it.

People have lived in this part of town since the18th Century, when the area was inhabited by the Fox Indians. The Germans came next during the 1st world war and today the area is home to over 6200 residents.

It is a quiet family orientated neighbourhood with a lot of older properties converted into detached family homes, but scores of 1920's two and three flats plus its good share of bars and restaurants also attract a lot of younger professional types.

The leafy trees that flank the village's main artery, Roscoe Street, provide an umbrella of shade for the many pedestrians meandering past quaint boutiques and funky restaurants. The community vibe gets turned up a notch by the Parisian-style columns along the road, where neighbours post notices about everything from local bands to lost cats.

Many of the shops are independently owned and include Suckers Candy, Roscoe Village Bikes, Hard Boiled Records, and the A440 Violin Shop. Roscoe Village is best known for being home to the largest concentration of antique stores in the Midwest, called Antique Row, on a five-block stretch located on Belmont Avenue. And the Chicago Cubs home at Wrigley is only a mile east, so pick the wrong day and you could hit a lot of traffic, both the car and the people kind.

There is an abundant amount of outside cafes such as MoJoes and the funky Kitsch'n on Roscoe. For wine stop into Lush, a bar surrounded by a wine shop and for a pint pop into the Riverview Tavern (right), named after the once Riverview Amusement Park, a Chicago landmark opened in 1904 but closed in 1967. One of its seven roller coasters was called The Bobs, which at 65 mph was one of the fastest rides in the world at the time.

There is an eclectic mix of restaurant options, such as El Tinajon, which is a Guatemalan place, Turquoise Cafe, which sells mid-priced Turkish food and the unfortunately named Kaze, which is a sushi restaurant.

A big annual event held every August is Retro on Roscoe, billed as Chicago's most popular neighborhood festival with last year over 50,000 people attending. Live music and comedy with a huge dash of retro make it a fun place to be.

Click on photos to enlarge.
L to R: Turquoise Cafe; Glam to Go boutique; A mural on the side of Starbucks.
  Kish to Leicester BBC Sport is reporting that Mad Dog Martin Allen will make Radostin Kishishev his first signing for Leicester after this weekend. Stoke are thought to be the other interested side.

Once Pards packed the Bulgarian off on loan to dirty Leeds his future looked mapped out to me, in fact he only made 5 appearances for us under Pardew. Also this week it is expected that the club will announce further departures from the club.

Congratulations to Billy Davies, who I am sure was not particularly hp at having his name being dragged through the courts thanks to tango man. However his decision to turn down us, then leave Preston and join a team that last season finished 5th from bottom has been fully justified after he led Derby to the Premiership today. Davies was many people's first choice to replace Curbs, including me and of course the board and there is now no doubting he was the best candidate.

Funny isn't it? Derby and Leicester were the two teams that we used to envy and want to emulate. Now Derby have replaced us and Leicester fans will think they have a new dawn with Milan Mandarić's money. 
Saturday 26 May 2007
  Snuffed out The International Olympic committee has told Chicago that they can no longer use it's skyline torch logo.

The IOC has ordered Chicago to redesign its 2016 Olympic logo and leave out the torch, which was designed to capture the city's three major assets of Lake Michigan, the cities parks and the breathtaking skyline, because Olympic rules state that no characteristics of an Olympic logo may contain any "Olympic symbols, motto, flag, or other imagery, such as a flame, torch or medal." (more)

That's a real shame because I thought it was excellent, the red-to-orange-to-gold flame of the torch was an amalgamation of the Chicago skyline with the Sears Tower in the middle and the logo which can currently be seen all over the city has to be sadly scrapped.
Friday 25 May 2007
  Where were you 9 years ago today?
Read this thread on Charlton Life and feel the goosebumps. 
  4 relegations and counting So the Herminator is off to join Harry at Fratton Park, the home for second-hand defenders. HH was a good servant to our club after signing in the March of 2003 and made 111 appearances, scoring 4 goals, the last one way back in December '04.

Personally I am happy for him to leave and lets be honest he's done well to get another season in the Premiership. Last season he, unlike a lot of others, always wore the shirt with pride but was too often a liability, even finding his own net twice.

I will best remember him for his marauding runs down the flank, with his legs and arms spinning wildly and his eyes fixed straight ahead, it was always a sight to see, one which might mean we lose a few female supporters next season, but we all move on and Hermann, owner of 4 relegations, has. What odds on Pompey to go down next year? 
Thursday 24 May 2007
  Darren Bent to Arsenal on loan for a year? Rumours of where Darren Bent will be playing his football next season continue whilst he takes his summer holiday but an interesting morsel today is that he will join Arsenal on loan for the season, with a view to return to The Valley if we get promoted. In return we could see some kind of fee and a couple of the Gunners' younger players come our way such as Mathieu Flamini, Alexandre Song or right back Kerrea Gilbert.

Bent has a rare skill as a young footballer and it is nothing to do with banging in goals. In all of his time at Charlton, he has shown a remarkable composure, intelligence and attitude on and off the field, even in the dark days of Les Reed. He truly has been a honour to watch and support, and Addicks will never forget his contribution to the club.

Equally it is abundantly clear that he likes being at the club and it will be the board that will decide his fate and not the young man himself. I honestly believe that he has little faith in Steve McClaren anyway (who has?) and would be willing to forego one season in the Premiership and a few minutes of international friendlies, to help us back up or at least keep his options open to a return.

Whether the board will cash him in or not remains to be seen but with 20% of anything above the £2.6 million going back to Ipswich, the premium needs to be right. If it is then Benty's legacy could be the funding to allow Pards to rebuild a team with his stamp on it, or then again would the board allow Pards do a deal with his old adversery Wenger for a year? 
  Trump Tower update Still 2-years away from completion, the Trump Tower crawls higher into the sky and I counted about 22 floors that now have windows wrapping around them this morning. When finished in 2009 the building will have 92 floors and be 1,362 feet tall.

Word has it however that the self-titled epicure of real estate is struggling somewhat to offload the 825 units in the tower and 224 condominiums are still for sale. In fact only 8 have been sold since the turn of the year. "People think we're sold out but we're not," Trump said today whilst hosting a news conference downtown with three of his children, Donald Jr, Ivanka and Eric, all of whom Dad has working in the Tower, although doing what is unclear.

Such is Trump's self belief that he reckons throwing a sudden news conference in the middle of the street with his kids will make people rush to the sales office and pick up a couple of 600 sq ft studio's for $650,000 each. Er, think again.
It isn't that the Chicago housing market is bad, just that there is a lot of choice for someone seeking a new high-rise in the city. During the next 4 years the downtown area will have 16,300 new for-sale residences, in an area with about 90,000 existing dwellings. Next year, a record 5,200 units will be completed and most of these will be in high-rise towers, all complete with skyline views, mod-cons and for a lot less $$'s than the Donald's.

The retail areas within the tower are said to be oversubscribed, and I'm sure tourists will flock to buy all kind of crap from stores selling wigs and trinkets. However is living in a Trump Tower worth a premium? After all another 6 are slated to open in the next 3 years.

I tell you what would help sales though? How about taking down those "Only a few left" hoardings that go up alongside any new housing construction site?
Wednesday 23 May 2007
  Jealous Just been trawling through the Charlton Life forum, cor I would have loved to have played in one of those games yesterday, great credit to the boys and girls on there for organising it on the behalf of the Demelza House. I've just donated so there is still time for you to. And I must say I thought Ric was looking particularly young for his 27 years!

I slipped out of work today to watch the Liverpool v AC Milan game with a couple of Italian mates (Bari fans not Milan) but they were still cheering on the Rossoneri even though they were outnumbered in the packed pub 80/20. Wasn't much of game and Liverpool never looked like scoring. Can't help thinking how ordinary they would be without Gerrard. The amazing Paulo Maldini has now appeared in eight European Cup and Champions League finals, winning five!

I sneaked back into the office smelling of cigarettes and booze, only one of which I partook in. I don't think anyone noticed. I will go home shortly to face kitchen installment #24. We are now 14 days without a kitchen and my credit card is starting to struggle with our eating-out habit. The nerves are starting to get a bit frazzled too. I did feel better this morning when I finally let the kitchen shop owner have a full volley of it. Trying to hold down a day job, organise Italian kitchen company monkeys and watching football in the afternoon is not altogether easy. 
Tuesday 22 May 2007
  Pre-season friendlies announced With the South African trip canned, there are some holes in our pre-season calendar, although a short trip to Spain may fill a couple of dates in the 2nd half of July. The big home game is against Jorge Costa's Sporting Braga a week before the opening game. It is a surprise to see us go to Gillingham after all of Paul Scally's whingeing. I also was under the impression that we would go to Champions Hill to play Dulwich Hamlet as part of the Chris Dickson deal. Oh well, the initial list is as follows:

Wednesday, July 11th - Welling United (a) - 7.30pm
Wednesday, July 11th - Tooting & Mitcham (a) - 7.30pm
Saturday, July 28th - Gillingham (a) - 3pm
Wednesday, August 1st - Ebbsfleet United (a) - 7.45pm
Wednesday, August 1st - Aldershot Town (a) - 7.45pm
Saturday, August 4th - Sporting Braga (h) - 1pm 
Monday 21 May 2007
  Board back Pardew on Varney & Iwelumo joins on free As expected Charlton signalled their intent with the signings of both Chris Iwelumo and Luke Varney this morning. 6ft 4 Iwelumo was a free and although the 28-year old's career hasn't been the most sparkling, he proved himself last season in the fizzy pops scoring 18 goals and assistant manager Phil Parkinson will know of him well after signing him for the U's in 2005.

We haven't had a big target man striker for a while, Bartlett being the last one, and as John Pearson, Mark Bright & Andy Hunt showed us, height, power and assists are essentials in the lower tier.

Varney signed from Crewe for an initial fee of £2million, which sounds a bit lumpy when you consider that the 24-year old began his professional career late and only started to make a golascoring impact this season in League 2. Like Iwelumo on a 4-year contract it represents a gamble, but I would have thought that Pards would have seen Varney play many times in his stalking of Dean Ashton 18 months back.

Add Chris Dickson to the mix and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a (very) experienced Teddy Sheringham join next. Questions now remain over Lisbie, Marcus Bent and of course Darren Bent. Have we spent part of his transfer fee already? It was certainly interesting to read Pardew's comment about thanking the board for backing his judgement on Varney, and I expect this had more to do with the fee than the player. 
  Cutty Sark It was a shame to hear on CNN as I left the house this morning that a fire, thought started deliberately, has caused major damage to the Cutty Sark.

The 138-year old tea clipper was undergoing renovation and the fire brigade was called to the scene at 4.45am Greenwich time and was eventually put out by 7am.

I spent a lot of my youth hanging around here, with my parents during the summer holidays trawling through the wooden decks and then older drinking in pubs like the Gypsy Moth, the Coach and Horses or the now closed Gloucester around the corner (yes, before it became a gay pub). I have also more recently been there with my son. It must have been a sad sight for those neighbours stood standing and watching it flame early this morning.

Fortunately the restoration meant that masts and about half of its structure were elsewhere and according to the Cutty Sark Trust, it can be saved. Lets hope so.
  Stopping, Going, New The team that will run out on August 11th in The Championship is expected to be very different from the one that left the pitch or sat in the stands just over a week ago. To most of us that will be no bad thing. Pards will decide on players out of contract this week, whilst stories start to circulate about players leaving, although the only one officially gone is Hasselbaink.

Pardew promised a new signing before the Liverpool game and since said it would take a bit longer. Well according to reports Chris Iwelumo will be unveiled at The Valley tomorrow. Colchester's Scottish born striker was signed by Phil Parkinson on a 2-year deal in 2005 and therefore will be a free agent.

The 28-year old has had a varied career playing in Scotland, Denmark & Germany as well as here. He has scored 37 goals in his two seasons at Layer Road.

Another striker on his way could be Crewe's Luke Varney. The People circulated today that he will sign for £2m, that sounds a lot but Dario Gradi will be looking to get the maximum amount of cash for a player who scored 25 goals in 39 games last season. Crewe also have a 20% sell-on fee to Varney's previous club Quorn.

This is going to be a busy few months and no doubt there will be a lot of assumptions and media bollocks to fill up blank newspaper columns. However What was the score will try to keep up with it all throughout the summer months.

Fact: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Released May 14th.
Rumour: Chris Iwelumo, free from Colchester / Luke Varney, £1.5m from Crewe / Teddy Sheringham, free agent.
  New Orleans' snaps

Click on to enlarge.
L to R: Statue of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the founder of Louisiana; Jackson Square; A street car on Canal St; Bourbon St; Buildings still damaged in downtown New Orleans; Bourbon Street in the daylight; The Supreme Court of Louisiana; Harrah's casino; Café du Monde on Decatur Street selling beignets since the 19th century.

Chicago Addicks' New Orleans post can be read here
Saturday 19 May 2007
  Bulls go out After winning last Sunday and then in Detroit on Tuesday night to pull back the series to 2-3 the Bulls were finally eliminated by the Pistons last night in the 6th game of the 2nd round of the play-off's. It was disappointing, if not entirely unexpected to lose to a very powerful Detroit but a fine season and a superb fightback in this series left a good taste in the mouth and was the best finish to a season since the Michael Jordan era.

Earlier today the Chicago Cubs took the first days bragging rights after beating cross-town rivals White Sox 6-3 in the first of the 3-game weekend series. The south-siders blew a 3-1 lead and Wrigley will not be a place tonight for Sox fans. 
Friday 18 May 2007
  Keane The live band season continued last night by seeing Keane at The Riviera Theatre, or the Riv as its affectionally known locally. The band who all attended Tonbridge School and grew up in East Sussex were as my Mum would say "such nice boys," as they charmed the admiring crowd of about 2,500 with pleasantries and conversation between each song.

The Riv is a famous Chicago music venue and although ornate, there is a desperate need of a lick of paint. Good viewing positions are also hard to find, and I spent most of the night standing on tip-toes for a good look at lead singer Tom Chaplin glide into sight.

The 3-piece band known for using piano's and not guitars were excellent though as they ran through songs from their two albums Hope and Fears and the darker Under the Iron Sea. In fact I've not listened to their first album, released 3 years ago, in some while and last night it made me realise what a wonderful record it is.

Without the energy of Snow Patrol or Bloc Party, Keane switched between ballad and anthem not ever so slickly, often stopping for long breaks in between to allow for thunderous applause. "For as long as I live, I will never forget this night," Chaplin said, perleeeeease!

Putting the cheese to one side though, it was an excellent performance with Tim Rice-Oxley storming on the keyboards. The stage lighting was done well for a small venue and they used the 6 large video screens to good effect silencing the crowd with WW1 footage before they sung A Bad Dream, a tribute to poet WB Yeats.

They did a first-rate job with Bedshaped, Somewhere Only We Know, We Might As Well Be Strangers and played about 80 minutes and then returned with a 3 song encore ending with Is It Any Wonder?

Some say Keane are boring, slightly cheesy yes, but boring no.
Wednesday 16 May 2007
  Road test Ok, you'll like this. Yesterday I did my driving test. And I passed! Which if I'm honest only proved that I can turn left and right and drive in a straight line and then reverse. Oh and I can park too, in a 12ft wide diagonal space!

I still don't own a car here but am very close to deciding to buy or lease one. At the moment I just rent one when I need to, its cheap and I use my UK driving licence to do that. Problem is in the state of Illinois you can only do that for so long and I'm sure the time limit has passed, so this along with the fact that I might get myself a 1970's chevvy or a small Hummer or something has made my mind up that I should go and do the test.

To get your licence, there is a theory test to sit first. You pick up the book, learn the signs, stopping distances, how many bottles of wine you can drink before you are under the influence etc, then go to the government building, talk to a halfwit and do the test.

It was multiple choice and I passed with flying colours. The eye-test consisted of being able to see, or at least saying you could see two very bright lights in a machine. The bloke in front was Chinese and could not speak a damn word of English. The woman asked him 10 times if he could see the lights? He looked at her bemused until she said, "Just say yes." He did and he passed. Rather disconcerning and I made a mental note to beware the take-away vans around my way.

Next up is the road test, which is a bit misleading because most of the 10 minute exam is done in a car park and not on the road.

Of course I haven't got a car, so had to get some old duffer of a driving instructor to take me out and he insisted on a lesson first. Understandably so when he charges $80 an hour. Inflation eh, when I did my driving lessons with old Ted 22 years ago they were seven quid!

Anyway I amazed myself how I went into complete driving test mode. I held the steering wheel at 10 to 2, I looked in my mirrors exaggeratingly every 50 feet, drove at 28mph with about half a mile between me and the car in front and indicated to go around anything wider than a piece of A4 paper.

Apparentely I was very good and I was allowed to go for my test. This was yesterday and we drove up there, hung around, signed some stuff and then my driving instructor wished me luck and told me I was on my own. Gulp!

Then very bizarrely I had to drive myself to the queue to wait for a test examiner. Even though I hadn't passed my test, there I was, driving. Just lucky that I knew how to, I guess? It was a little embarassing waiting there with the other 'students,' who, were either over 75 or about 16. At 75 you have to take an annual test and in some states you can drive at 15. Illinois is 16 though.

I waited my turn, put the radio on and tried not to think about driving on the right/wrong* (delete as applicable) side of the road and most importantly remembering which way I should turn the wheels if I was parking down a steep hill. This question is the only one you get asked during your test and if you get it wrong it is a straight fail.

Parallel parking, a 3-point turn, driving above 28mph not important, turning your wheels inwards when on a steep hill essential and of course if you have ever been to the northern part of Illinois, then you will realise that the highest point is about 50ft!

Then my instructor got in, she was about 25, I drove, she flirted, I reversed, got my question right, parked the car in a gap the size of a Homebase car park and I passed.

It wasn't quite the feeling that I had when I was 18, but it still felt good, even if I joined a couple of 90-year olds in the office to get my licence, one of which could hardly walk and didn't speak English and the other as death as a post.

Time now for a road trip. 
Tuesday 15 May 2007
  Alhambra Palace Most of my last weekend was spent painting, walls not canvas', as our long awaited kitchen is finally due to be fitted this week. The cabinets came yesterday and the appliances Thursday and somewhere in between it should be installed. We ordered this bloody thing before Christmas, but I guess that is what happens when you move to the US and then buy an Italian kitchen. It's probably a lot cheaper to buy in Parma too!

Having no kitchen (it was all ripped out last Wednesday) has meant we have either eaten out or stayed in and ate peanuts and drunk wine. On Friday night we went to a new restaurant that opened in the city called Alhambra Palace. Named after the Moorish Palace in Granada, this regal looking space with 35ft ceilings in the west loop is decked out authentically in artwork, artifacts, gold gilded railings and furniture imported we are told from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

A few belly dancers are chucked in with a very middle eastern band and incessant, I suppose they call it singing? Add some hookah pipe smoking and you could be somewhere other than Chicago. The food was disappointing by the way and the service was awful but this might be because it has only just opened and it is an absolutely huge place.

But the most remarkable fact was that late Friday night, most of the customers eating, drinking, smoking the hookah and dancing like natives were people of a middle-eastern persuasion. I know that encompasses a lot of groups but I had never seen a real element of an arabic population here, so I have no idea where they came from or if they will come here on a regular basis. It did make for a very unique night out, something you just don't get in other 'ethnic' restaurants or cafe's in the city.

Sunday I played football and we got hammered again. I and a couple of others are seriously thinking about quitting and seeking our Sunday morning fix somewhere else because losing is becoming too much of a habit and having a young version of Bill Gates play as sweeper this week may have been the final straw. My Thursday team is so much better and they are a fun bunch, with a bit of a social kick to it, which makes the experience on Sunday all the more wearisome. 
Monday 14 May 2007
  A word on the players from 4,000 miles away I obviously have only had the benefit of seeing 4 games in the flesh this season (Fulham a, Portsmouth a, Watford a, Sheffield Utd h) and another 20 or so live on television, so if you are like I used to be and put no credibility in viewpoints of those kind of 'armchair supporters', then look away now.

Scott Carson
Player of the year by ooh, 4,000 miles. Good luck Scotty, you will always be one of us.
STAY or GO? Would love to see him stay but frankly he deserves better, so sadly Go.

Darren Randolph
Other young goalkeepers have slipped the net, Jason Brown for example or been toilet. Hopefully not this one. Maybe he's the new long-time in coming Graham Tutt?
STAY or GO? STAY, he could save us a few mill on a new goalkeeper.

Osei Sankofa
Slowly grew in confidence during his spell in the first team. Not sure Pards was impressed, me neither.
STAY or GO? His contract is up, maybe GO depending on who else is available in the market.

Luke Young
I thought we really missed him when he was out injured. An injury that never seemed to heal and could hamper a big money move.
STAY or GO? GO. A bottom half Prem team manager will get desperate to buy him at some point. Probably Curbishley.

Nathan Ashton
Out of contract. Went to Millwall and didn't get a game there. That says it all for me.
STAY or GO? GO, probably to a lower division side.

Ben Thatcher
Noses were turned upwards when Pards signed him but he led by example and will do a fine job of scaring the living bejesus out of right wingers next season.

Herman Hreidarsson
Another out of contract. I'm not going to knock his passion because he has proved that he cares, however for me he became a liability in the same way Mark Fish did towards the end of his time, whether at full back, centre-half or the injury time striker.
STAY or GO? His contracts up so a tricky one. He might not like a one year extension but that is the best offer I have. STAY.

Kelly Youga
Remember him? No me neither.
STAY or GO? Er, tough one.... GO.

Cory Gibbs
Signed with high hopes and I can only wonder how frustrating it must be to watch that load of pony week in week out from the sidelines. Oh wait, that was what I did but without the 10k a week softener.
STAY or GO? Under contract and if fit could be very useful in the Championship. STAY.

Madjid Bougherra
Have my reservations but yet to see him close up. However Magic was rated one of the best players in the Championship when at Wednesday so hopefully a player we can build a promotion bid around.

Souleymane Diawara
"The best centre-half no one has ever heard off." Perhaps from 4,000 miles I saw things in him that others didn't and that includes Mr Murray. He plays a very continental style which concerns some, i.e. he plays off of the attacker and relies on pace instead of brute force. He may take a little time to adjust (again) to the Championship but he should be head and shoulders above others in that division.
STAY or GO? On the basis that Murray blotted his copybook, I can't see anyone paying the salary or fee for him, which is good news for us I think. STAY.

Talal El Karkouri
El Khak, what a dilemma. Curbishley packed him off to the desert, Dowie brought him back. He played in 36 Premiership games this season and looked either world class or back of the class. His hopeful punts up field drove me insane, yet without his goals we would have had 5 pts less than we ended up with.
STAY or GO? Could go either way but probably a STAY with reduced pay.

Jonathan Fortune
Wanted by Stoke but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Pards wishes to keep the centre-half next season, however Fortune might feel the time is right to move on.
STAY or GO? GO. He will move on if Pards gets some money to add to the coffers.

Simon Walton
Played less games than Omar Pouso and lets face it none of us know if he's any good or not. His disciplinary record is a big concern but he may be useful in the Championship
STAY or GO? He only started 18 games in the fizzy's last year and got sent off 3 times and booked 7. He is contracted until 2010 but have a feeling Pards will move the youngster on if it is right. Coventry anyone? GO

Matt Holland
I thought it was time for Matty to pack his clean sheets and go last season but in our moments of despair he was often our only beacon of light. He even got booked twice!
STAY or GO? Next year's captain. Most certainly a STAY.

Amdy Faye
He was frankly an embarrassment between the end of September to January. He did however score the goal in our only away win in 35 matches, and I was there!
STAY or GO? Ideally, we'd offload the useless piece of crap but have a feeling he will be sitting on the bench a lot next season.

Bryan Hughes
A bit part player but you know exactly what you are going to get. However think he could be quite useful in the Championship.
STAY or GO? Out of contract. Just for my son's sake as his best friend is Hughes' son, STAY

Radostin Kishishev
You either appreciate him or you don't. I could never knock his workrate but then again if I was that fit and wearing a Charlton shirt I'd run around like a headless chicken too.
STAY or GO? Not Kish's fault but he is a remnant of the Curbs' era. I don't think Pards rates him, he's not the only one. GO

Andy Reid
The rotund one made a big impact in his 15 league starts, and his absence was sorely missed in the final 5-6 games when we just couldn't unlock a defence.
STAY or GO? If he can stay fit, then I reckon he will be the best player in the Championship. STAY

Alexandre Song
People forget that this lad is only 19 and started just 11 games for Arsenal, 7 of which were in the cup. To come into our situation must have been very, very difficult and I think he is beyond criticism. I also understand he was exceptional at Anfield, which showed he amongst one or two others were more relaxed after our relegation.
STAY or GO? His future at Arsenal is unclear, although he is under contract until 2010. I would love to see him sign, but would think he will hold out at The Emirates. However perhaps another loan is not out of the question. STAY if possible.

Rurik Gislason
Often cited as the next best thing by reserve watchers. Not sure Pards thinks so.
STAY or GO? Should have stopped in Iceland. GO

Alistair John
Has failed to make an impact and I have a theory about the players that Pards was happy to have out on loan.
STAY or GO? Will probably end up at Ebbsfleet United, formerly Gravesend & Northfleet and the home for failed Charlton youth products. GO

Dennis Rommedahl
I have tried to stick up for this nob, time and time again but Romm goes down in the long line of elusive talent. There was that last minute goal at Selhurst though.
STAY or GO? He's already stated his intentions and I don't hear anyone standing in the way. GO.

Jerome Thomas
Too many step overs, spends too much time on his fat arse, thinks he's better and more famous than he really is and oh, lose that 12-year old bum-fluff.
STAY or GO? Under contract until 2008. Rumours of Matt Jarvis coming will I think send Thomas packing. I understand Fulham will be challenging for honours next season..... GO

Lloyd Sam
Has impressed when given the chance but another that has suffered with injuries.
STAY or GO? I think he could be useful a step down. Under contract to 2010. STAY.

Myles Weston
Another player who Pards sent out on loan, which equals not rated in my book.
STAY or GO? Contracts up. GO

Zheng Zhi
ZZ often showed his naivety but I thought he really 'wanted it' in games and I liked he's attitude and commitment a lot.
STAY or GO? We have an option on signing him permanently and I would like to see that. I suppose it just depends on whether his agent can shift him to a Premiership club such as Everton. I hope not, STAY.

Darren Ambrose
One of those that I thought noticeably improved under Pards and Parky. Can get goals too, and I think will be important to us in the fizzy pops.
STAY or GO? Under contract and willing I expect to give promotion a crack. STAY

Darren Bent
I will probably get shouted down saying this, but because his age and the level that he has played and succeeded at, I reckon he's better than Mendonca and Hales. 38 goals in 77 matches for the Addicks.
STAY or GO? Sadly a GO, with all the thanks in the world.

Marcus Bent
Never will be or never was a 'Charlton player'. A Curbishley legacy, ta very much.
STAY or GO? GOod Riddance.

Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink
I was one that trumpeted his arrival and I understand his attitude off the pitch was good, shame the fat one didn't show it in front of a crowd.
STAY or GO? Already decided. GOne.

James Walker
Released by the club, I guess under Curbs' recommendation but then brought back by Dowie. He has been out on loan all over the place but strangely won the 'young player of the year' award, when I thought it should have gone to Kevin Lisbie.
STAY or GO? Out of contract. We are so short of strikers that he may stay. Otherwise Ebsfleet here you come. STAY

Kevin Lisbie
Don't get me going on 'Super Kev.' Really that hat-trick against Liverpool will not keep you in stories of your glittering football career with the grandchildren Kev!
STAY or GO? GO, please, go.

Chris Dickson
A promising professional debut but undoubtedly has lots to learn but hopefully Pards has unearthed a gem.
STAY or GO? Hopefully the future, STAY

And what happened to the players that were released this time last year? Well Chris Perry and Jay Bothroyd are currently doing battle in the play-off's. Perry may think there is some kind of justice if West Brom go up, and who can blame him? Bothroyd has scored 9 goals in Wolves' march to the play-offs, although he still doesn't seem to be able to last 90 minutes.

PFA chairman Chrissy Powell, who gave travelling Addicks an superb response at Vicarage Road. He played 15 games and joined us in relegation heaven. Now 37, he has said he wants another year playing.

Was Shaun Bartlett worse than Marcus Bent and JFH? My old neighbour signed for Kaizer Chiefs in August. They currently sit in midtable with just one game left. Bartlett has scored 4 goals in 13 starts. His old striking partner JJ had more luck in Sweden with Malmo, where him and Jari Litmanen formed a formidable strike force. JJ scored 12 goals in 15 league games.

Youngsters Mark Ricketts and Alex Varney are both at Ebsfleet United FC, nee Gravesend & Northfleet. Ricketts has been offered a new extended contract, whilst Reg's son was only on a short-term deal. 
Sunday 13 May 2007
  Liverpool away. What was the score? Drew 2-2 It was nice, think that is the right word, to sit at home this morning relaxed in the knowledge that our fate had been sealed. The West Ham game was on here live and a mate called to tell me that we had taken the lead at Anfield as I was oblivious to the going's on up there.

The goals were flying in around the country adding to the fact that more goals are scored on the last day of the season than at other day of the season. The BBC website tried to keep up with the relegation scenario's and the calculators first came out as Wigan took the lead, then Sheff U equalised. One team not looking like scoring was West Ham, but sure enough that little £5.5m devil finished well to give them the advantage on half time completely against the run of play. The possession stat was something like 66%-33% at that point.

Meanwhile our reports were glowing and despite Liverpool getting back on level terms Benty crashed home a neat volley, a fine swansong and the 1,500 Addicks at Anfield deserved to see a performance they could be proud off, just a shame they got that very late penalty. I haven't seen it but it puts another little question mark over Magic in what has been a difficult transition for him.

I was so pleased to see Darren Randolph have a fine debut, lets hope that after a long wait we have unravelled a real young star. I think Lloyd Sam will prove a very good Championship prospect too. It sounds like our weekend transfer is on ice and the next couple of weeks will be interesting.

Back at Bramall Lane Paul Jewell's Wigan broke the hearts of the home team, who most thought were inches from safety after the point I witnessed them get at The Valley 3 weeks ago. I'm glad 'plucky little' Wigan stayed up, I think Jewell is a good manager and it royally pisses me off when fans of other clubs say they don't deserve to be in the division.

United fan's will be heartbroken, because frankly they should have been safe long ago but they were the team that both Pards and Curbishley were talking off after Christmas that they will try to reel into the mix and their lack of quality and experience was their undoing.

The West Ham saga will drag on and what will be, will be but credit to Curbishley 7 wins out of 9 is title winning form. It was interesting to hear him say after the game that 9 of the players that have been part of that winning run were "here when I arrived." Funny, because the first thing he did when he arrived was slag off the previous management for signing them in the first place!

I thought maybe Curbishley might have had a word for us, and he still might, but undeniably the fact is Dowie, Reed and Pardew were not as fortunate to have a bedrock of decent and hungry players, that Curbishley inherited from Pardew and a little bit of alleged dodgy dealing to build on.

But rebuilding is the word, let it commence.

Opinions of those who witnessed a proud end: BBC Sport; The Sun; Independent; Times; Addicks Diary.
Super Al: "The players can hold their heads up high and I feel we've gone down in the right manner and that's a consolation for us. It's important now to restructure for next year."
  Rotating doughnuts It might work in Dubai, but would a merry-go-round building in the sky cut it in the windy city?

Architect David Fisher has designed a 68-story hotel and apartment building currently being constructed in Dubai where the floors would rotate 360 degrees. Each floor would rotate independently, creating a constantly changing architectural form. Each story of the tower would be shaped like a doughnut and a single rotation would take around 90 minutes. (more)

This is what we have come to expect in Dubai but Fisher was in Chicago recently and has said to identified a site near the NBC Tower just east of Michigan Avenue on the river with backing to boot. Now how's that for a visual treat in the skyline?
Saturday 12 May 2007
  Wet Sham I have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to our claret and blue friends across the river. In fact I have three, perhaps even four different persepctives about their game on Sunday.

The football fan in me thinks that the whole Tevez and Mascherano situation stinks and there will be a certain justice if Sheffield United and Wigan play out a draw at Bramall Lane, knowing that the Hammers are losing at Old Trafford. That is certainly not right but nor is what the previous board at Upton Park did. I and every other sane person in the country knows that they have got away with football murder. It is laughable and although we got relegated fair and square, quite obviously one of two other clubs will not.

Another grumble of mine is that the self-proclaimed 1966 world cup winners have a innumerable amount of baby booming supporters in the media, in fact and I'm just making this up, but a straw poll would probably have West Ham come out by miles as the best supported club in the ranks of the press, not to mention their links within the FA.

One of the worst offenders has been London's Evening Standard with sports editor Ken Dyer's cringe-inducing one dimensional reporting of the subject. During the week he described the protesting clubs as "whingers". Now, who does Mr Dyer support I wonder?

Of course back in the day West Ham were fine landlords to us after year's of hopelessness and misery at Sellout, the Blackwell Tunnel aside, and even Terence Brown couldn't 'fix' that!

I also have a load of very good mates who are staunch Hammers and I have a real infinity with them and because of them have always wanted the team that they love as much as I do mine, to do well but not of course at the expense of mine. The fact is that the Tevez and Mascherano debacle has nothing to do with their fans but as always they, we are the biggest losers in all of this and no player or director or administrator gives a flying fuck about that.

Lastly lets be honest, all that aside, who would we rather be up against next season? Watford, one of Wigan and Sheffield United or West Ham with all of Egg Head's millions?
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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