Chicago Addick living in Bermuda
Tuesday 29 April 2008
  Midway A little break from the rigours of the convention and back in my hotel room in the Gaslamp district of San Diego watching the Man U v Barca game on the box. I haven't had much chance to see the city yet but I should correct that tomorrow and from what I've witnessed and heard, San Diego appears very promising. The weather thankfully has dropped about 20 degrees today after being up in the 90's on Sunday and Monday, a tad hot to be darting between meetings but otherwise tiredness aside, self-inflicted of course, I have had a good couple of days.

This part of San Diego, has seen a gentrification frenzy in recent years and they have done a nice job with the 'historic' areas. From my hotel room window I can see the huge USS Midway, which is a 1,000ft long aircraft carrier used in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm and now a museum. A reminder to visitors that San Diego despite it's charm is also home to the world's largest naval fleet. 
  Steve Waggott The announcement of Steve Waggott as the club's new CEO has shown some often lacking succession planning. I hope that Mark Kinsella and Damian Matthews are considered in the same light one day, whenever that time comes.

Waggott, in hindsight was an obvious choice to replace Peter Varney, tough as that engagement may well turn out to be. A Geordie, Waggott is certainly a football man, who understands the club and it's deep roots, even if unlike Varney, he hasn't got a lifetime of Addicks memories locked into his head.

I found this recent interview by The Express of Waggott and gives a little insight to what we might expect. "Football nowadays is like a church, a new religion. You can get unbelievable messages across by getting people’s attention through the game." (more)

The very best of luck to Steve. 
Saturday 26 April 2008
  Barnsley away. What was the score. Lost 3-0 Courtesy of and another miserable 90 minutes being a Charlton fan.

joke: something that is amusing or ridiculous, esp. because of being ludicrously inadequate or a sham; a thing, situation, or person laughed at rather than taken seriously; farce.

pride: to imply an unduly favorable idea of one's own appearance, advantages, achievements, etc., and often apply to offensive characteristics. Pride is a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect. 
Friday 25 April 2008
  Crutches and memories of Barnsley I have a couple of mates in town this weekend, so a leisurely lunch is on the agenda for this afternoon. Come on what else is a man on crutches to do? Actually long ago I booked a day off work, but instead I've come in this morning as I need to get myself organised for my trip to San Diego Sunday.

Oh, regarding the crutches. I've actually dispensed with them because last night an American friend told me that the crutches I have (good old NHS ones from Guys) are only ever used by people here that are seriously disabled. These are the type that are used by people with minor injuries. No wonder people were looking at me with pity in their eyes, even bloody Sarah Jessica Parker!

Anyway, lunch today is a male affair while tomorrow night we are going to Gibson's for a big fat steak avec ladies. Then Sunday I fly to San Diego for a work conference, which ends on Thursday where joined by my nurse we embark on a bit of a desert road trip ending up in Vegas the following Sunday.

Tomorrow of course lest we forget is Barnsley. We had a great away day there once in November 1992, the week before the return to the Valley. We lost, but for the few hundred Addicks that were at Oakwell, most taking part in a 2nd half conga, it didn't matter as all thoughts were on the following Saturday, 5th December 1992.

As if to close this circle, we ended up at a party in Ladbroke Grove after driving back from windswept Barnsley (that is one hell of a cold away end), and shall we say my mate entertained a certain young lady that night. Well my American friend and crutch expert, was talking about her last night as they are somehow friends, which was all a bit bizarre.

Tomorrow appears like an ideal place to blood some youngsters, I like others would really like to see Pards go for it with places for Wagstaff, which is the most likely, but also Shelvey and Monterio. And there is no reason why he wouldn't start with Cory Gibbs is there? I'd play Varney on the right and stick Ambrose behind Gray, in his most worthwhile position. Oh and has Halford gone back yet because I'd prefer Semedo at right back. You know it's going to be the same old team don't ya? 
Thursday 24 April 2008
  Houston, Texas Houstonians spend more time in their cars than their homes and perhaps then understandably spend more money on their car loan repayments than their mortgages! Houston sprawls for over 600 miles and is connected by a spaghetti of freeways and highways.

Two million people live in America's fourth biggest city that grew from wilderness to a booming economic centre. Only New York is home to more Fortune 500 company headquarters.

In 1901, a year after displaced Texans from coastal Galveston moved inland to Houston following a deadly hurricane, oil was discovered at the Spindletop oil field near Beaumont. Much money was then invested in the ship canals and later into the formation of the Port of Houston, now the largest in foreign imports in the US, which includes nearly all European cars sold in this country.

In 1950 Texans found air conditioning, something that if it were to disappear tomorrow, then so would Houston. With air conditioning came an impetus for companies and employees to migrate from the cold manufacturing 'Rust Belt' states such as Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to the warm south. The energy sector grew and the space industry began with NASA's space centre being established in 1961. Now known as the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, the huge complex situated southeast of the city is also the base for the Mission Control Center that coordinates and monitors all human spaceflight for the United States.

In 1961 to commerate Houston's new space age the Astrodome opened, which was the first ever roofed stadium in the world. Sadly locals now call it the 'Lonely Dome' as it is rarely now used. There is talk of it being turned into a hotel as preservationists fight against calls for it to be demolished.

The Houston Astro's baseball team now play at Minute Maid Park, or the 'Juice Box' as fans call the 41,000-capacity stadium with a retractable roof which we saw wide open as we drove by on Friday evening as they entertained the Rockies. Minute Maid Park is actually wired for wi-fi, can you image how that would change blogging on the Addicks?

The countries 4th biggest city is well served by sports teams, sorry franchises. The Houston Texans are the NFL team, you may remember the Houston Oilers like I do, well they decamped to Tennessee in 1997, changing their name to the Titans. The beauty of franchises eh?

The very good Rockets are the basketball team with the amazing 7ft 6in Yao Ming and the Houston Dynamo's are the MLS soccer team and the defending champions incredibly winning the MLS Cup in both seasons since their formation. They average 18,000 playing at Robertson Stadium within the University of Houston campus.

Houston's sprawling landscape has mainly been allowed to happen because of the lack of zoning regulations. Therefore multiple districts have grown in different parts of the city, and with public transport being restricted to the odd bus (I saw one all weekend) and a light rail line that runs for 8 miles from the University of Houston to the business district Downtown, which is kind of an anomaly as there is more than one business district, SUV is king helping make Houston one of the most polluted cities in the US.

Downtown however has the largest assemblage of prominent companies and buildings including the JPMorgan Chase Tower, the 36th tallest building in the world (above). Many of the buildings are connected by an extensive network of pedestrian tunnels and skywalks, air-conditioned of course!

We didn't spend a lot of time exploring the main districts, spending the majority of the weekend in the car, do what the locals do, see? Trouble with that is that I never really got a good feel of the place because you just don't see anyone.

One area we did get a perspective on was the Galleria, part of what is called Uptown. Uptown is the centre of Houston's shopping and where most of the hotels are situated. The Galleria is Texas' largest mall and contains 375 stores. Okay before I lose your attention....

On Sunday we drove out to Old Town Spring, half an hour north of Houston, which was a step back in time to a charming old Texas town known for it's antique shops. The place was packed with people travelling into Old Town Spring to witness the annual Texas Crawfish Festival. Live music, fried food, fairground rides and rodeo was what people were here for and of course crawfish. I'm not sure if you've ever eaten crawfish but they are shrimp-like creatures boiled and seasoned but a bugger to shell, messy and not exactly filling once you've swallowed one!

There certainly were some sights to behold at the Texas Crawfish Festival, the crawfish were certainly not the only crustaceans boiling in the midday sun. As I said in the car on the way back to civilisation, I'm reasonably well-travelled but I will never cease to be startled by the way some people live their lifes in parts of this vast country.

On Saturday we drove out to Montgomery, a tiny place (pop: 489) but the birthplace of the Lone Star Flag. We made a short stop for a malt shake in Huntsville and bizarrely watched a rugby match for a while before carrying on to Lake Conroe for lunch. It's a pretty lake, man made and running through the Piney Wood Forest about 60 miles from Houston. This area is a booming suburb and I'd imagine in a city known for it's grisly traffic, this part of the I45 Freeway is a busy road during the week but at least you have to pleasure to drive past the aptly named Addicks Humble (below).

Conversely the River Oaks neighbourhood is very walkable. A stroll around some of the residential streets will remind you, in case you'd forgotten, where all of that money goes after you've filled the car up. Ex-Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling was a resident of River Oaks, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the USA, but he now lives in a Minnesota prison.

River Oaks Country Club was hosting an ATP tournament the weekend we were there, and my mate blagged his way in amongst the stetsons.

There is lots of window shopping here and some of the cities best restaurants. We went to Mark's on Sunday night, and although my tuna was a bit overcooked, although a good deal tastier than a crawfish, the service and the 1920's renovated church in which the restaurant is set was fabulous.

The back of the car is not the best way to judge a city but there is no other way in this huge patchwork quilt of locales which all conspire to make this spirited oil-fired city a melange of industry, architecture, shopping and space each connected by a myriad of big, big roads. 
  Star-struck I was asked the other day: "who was the last famous person you saw?" And I didn't know. The problem living here is that unless it's someone 'really' famous then I'm not going to recognise them. A soap star, a hockey player, an American pop singer, it ain't going to do it. Although the occasional 300lb black guy draped in jewels getting out of a pimped up Bentley on Rush Street is usually a giveaway.

Anyway my point is last night we went to dinner to a very nice place called Table 52, Art Smith's tiny restaurant, which has a 4-week waiting list for a table - there are only 16 - and sat next to Sarah Jessica Parker. How about that? My most famous Chicago sighting since I saw David Schwimmer in Bloomies.

I didn't notice her as I hobbled past on my crutches, but my star-struck other half did. I have always been pretty neutral to SJP, as I now call her, but my was she pretty and petite. And a quick check on Wiki, 43-years old. No way. 
Wednesday 23 April 2008
  "Stop the killing" Yesterday's front page of the Chicago Sun-Times was reversed with the headline 'Stop the killing' sending a message to the cities parents to stop ignoring the increasing gang and gun violence that witnessed 37 people being shot, including 13 school kids, in Chicago over this past weekend. Then since midnight Monday five people have been murdered and eleven more injured in ten separate incidents. Horrifying.

"In the coming weeks, the Chicago Sun-Times will take those words to heart - "One murder is one too many" - and lead our city in what we hope will be a smart and honest conversation about what to do to quell the violence. Our reporters and columnists will investigate what we believe to be the roots of the problem - gangs and guns, to be sure, but also the social forces that turn our young people to gangs and guns - and we will ask you to offer your own best ideas." (more)

Every morning almost without exception the local news channels include a shooting within it's overnight digest. More often than not it is not the main headline. Local political intrigue, the ongoing election, a house fire, the weather or a Cubs win usually grab the headlines. Most of us Brits have a morbid fascination with gang culture being brought up on the Krays, Richardsons and American television. Gang culture in Chicago is ingrained in it's history but as the spring temperatures rise so does the violence amongst gangs on the south and west side of Chicago with members as young as 13 years old.

Chicago has always been deeply divided by race. The ghettos started in the 1920's but African American's were disconnected from the then notorious drug, alcohol and gambling gangs of the first half of the 20th century made famous by the likes of Capone and Torrio. Chicago's black families however were living in deep poverty and were turning to crime, so in the 1960's the cities politicians built housing projects to provide communities for the growing black families that had settled in the big manufacturing cities in the midwest.

These housing projects, the most famous being Cabrini Green which I still plan to write about before I leave, only served to foster violent crime and alienation from the rest of a thriving city. These projects also occupied what at the turn of the century were considered boom property areas, none so more than Cabrini Green, five minutes from where I now live, and currently being bulldozed to be replaced by fancy homes and condominiums.

The tearing down of these black communities, despite the neglected and appalling conditions of the majority of them has caused anger, bewilderment and the displacement of gangs and as they are forced into new neighbourhoods they come into direct contact with existing gangs prepared to protect their patch. The growing Latino factions is also a factor, previously keeping themselves to themselves, their own drug and petty crime markets are now being invaded by new residents looking to mark their new turf.

Therefore Chicago's neighbourhoods on the south and west side are now a patchwork of gang rivalry and drug markets, almost un-policable with critics suggesting that the establishment turns a blind eye to the cities gang culture. The Sun Times' front page says we should all stop turning our backs.

The Sun-Times appeals to all of us not just the mothers and fathers as parents of these young kids that are shooting and killing one and another. A front page headline is not enough, but perhaps it's a start and with Chicago's politicians focused on winning the 2016 Olympics, improving the cities elderly transport system might be the wrong place to spend it's massive budget.

These statistics make very scary reading and I have to pinch myself to realise I live in this same city. It should be like being part of a blood thirsty gangland thriller, but strangely it is not. Like all cities there are areas that you avoid, Chicago is no different and if you look at the map, all of these terrible instances take place a long way from the centre of this sprawling city of 3m people.

I have never once felt even slightly threatened living in this beautiful city, don't let it put you off coming, the gangs are not interested in you or me, but be aware that they do exist. Chicago will always be a home to me and I have this forlorn hope that one day this city can eradicate it's gang culture from the long list of what it is famous for. 
Tuesday 22 April 2008
  CAFC re-introduce free offer "The club has decided to repeat last year's sensational offer to provide a season's top-flight football at no extra charge if the Addicks are promoted at the end of the 2008/09 campaign." (more)

It could have been a bit more sensational of course subject to one or two little wrinkles but credit to Derek Chappell and the rest of the board for allowing common sense to prevail. For fans in the lower North they will actually see reduced season prices, equating to £12.60 a game, which is cheaper than a gig or a trip to the theatre.

It does appear that the board are going to tinker with matchday tickets, with up to £30 for some games which sounds steep. Which games would these be? Palace? Fulham? Watford? QPR? This is all to encourage fans to buy season tickets and not pick their games, which following my own little survey does look to be a favoured option for Addicks' next season.

This season's crowds have been excellent despite recently being inflated by counting non-attendant season ticket holders. 17,784 current season ticket holders is testimony of sensible pricing by the club and I guess we wait to see what response they get this summer after the dust has settled.

Looking around similiar clubs in terms of geography in our division, all encourage young fans with deals as cheap as £10 for U12's at Ipswich. In fact our £99 offer is one of the less generous that I saw.

Our most expensive seats in the central areas of the West Stand bear scrutiny amongst our peers, with relegation threatened Southampton being the highest (£644) and Norwich the cheapest (£427).

However our Covered End lower tier offering of £290 is the cheapest by some margin. To sit in the Sainsbury's at Sellout is £330, and only if you'd 'renewed' before Christmas! The price to renew now is £460, although Jordan has currently frozen prices awaiting their end of season fate.

Cheapest adult tickets at QPR are £365, Southampton £370, Ipswich £368, Norwich £350 and Watford £387. 
Monday 21 April 2008
  Bad timing Back from Houston and now on crutches. I didn't actually do much walking in Houston, probably because there is nowhere to walk to. Just a lot of back and forwards to the car, and the bar. Mind you, there was the walk around the Texas Crawfish Festival, yep honestly. More on that later in the week.

However my bloody ankle was killing me this weekend so this afternoon I went to the quacks, had it poked, squeezed and x-rayed and fortunately I haven't fractured anything just badly sprained ligaments on the outside of my left ankle.

I'm all for sitting on my arse with my feet up at home to watch a bit of Champions League football but I have a lot on this week before I depart for San Diego on Sunday for a work conference. A little bit of a road trip was planned after that for a few days so as if it ever is, the timing's not good. 
  QPR away. What was the score? Lost 1-0 Dear Mum,

I am very sorry but I will not be home the weekend of May 24th now. I know I pledged ages ago that I would make the trip back from Chicago, nothing I said would stop me. I also know I promised to take you and Dad up to town for the day and even said I'd buy you a new scarf to celebrate the occasion.

However my plans have gone awry, I should never have made promises that I couldn't keep. I am very disappointed at how events have changed and it is very painful because I am a good and honest person but ultimately I was over confident and misread the dire and depressing situation I now find myself in.

However I have realised my flaws and will correct them in the summer. I hope I didn't raise your expectations too much?

Love from
Chicago Addick xx

Who was at QPRhahaha: All Quiet.
Reports: Sunday Mirror; Daily Telegraph; Times Online;; Kent Online; Loft for words (some very too close to home comments about us in this report)
What did Pardew think of it: "Our record against the top 10 sides is the best in the Championship, but when we should have won, we didn’t."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Matt Holland. Captain, er sensible....
Thursday 17 April 2008
  We're done. Aren't we? "We've got a fighting chance but we have to win to be in it on Saturday, it's as simple as that. The only thing we can do is win the games that remain." (more)

Oh blast, do we have to? I've enjoyed this week. You know, I'm at peace with myself, not having to worry about the play-off's, not being made to fly home the weekend of May 24th, looking ahead to next season, hoping for Foolham and not Reading. And now Pards still says we have a chance. So does Kings Hill. The scenario is almost believable, well except for us winning the 3 games bit - be the first time since November, but hey Pards say's "we're stronger now." Then again so is the smell of bullsh*t.

Saturday was a game I had pencilled in for a return to blighty. A raw old London derby with QPRhahahaha. But now I'm going to Houston instead. I hope the 2,500 odd Addicks get a show, I hope Ambrose gets to play in an advanced role. I hope Gray and Lita give us something to smile about. I hope Varney gets a run out. God I hope they don't draw me back into the play-off web. I'm over it, I really am. 
Wednesday 16 April 2008
  Sneakers I've had my fill of daytime television and am back at work today wearing my trainers, it's a cool look, very American in fact. However I have taken heed of some good advice and this afternoon I'm going drinking - if I fall over and further damage my ankle, then I will know who to blame.

Tomorrow night we have planned our footie team celebratory drinks, then on Friday afternoon we fly to Houston to visit some friends for the weekend. A couple that we befriended here in Chicago, who then went back to London but are now going to be living in Houston for a couple of months after his company sent him on another transatlantic jolly, sorry assisgnment.

Fortunately one doesn't do much walking in cities like Houston, as people's SUV's become an attachment of their bodies, so it shouldn't hinder our exploring of what they call the Space City due to it's importance to space exploration.

Houston we have a problem, we have a dude here wearing sneakers.... 
Tuesday 15 April 2008
  Well done Shots Really pleased for Aldershot tonight. Back in the early 1970's before my Dad finally buckled into taking me to The Valley, a highlight of a weekend staying with some family friends in Camberley was a trip to their local ground, The Recreation in Aldershot to see my first ever football match.

We sat in a rickety old stand in a ground surrounded by trees as high as the floodlights, which cast shadows over the pitch. I am sure the final score was 2-2, and the opposition was either Southport or Stockport, or was it Chesterfield? Or Workington. Ah, never mind but I remember The Rec well. I've never seen Charlton there, although according to Soccerbase we have lost in all four visits, but I did see another game there in later life.

Not helped by a 19-year old fantasist called Spencer Trethewy, who I remember being on Wogan, Aldershot FC went bust in 1992. Trethewy ended up in prison but is now owner and manager of Chertsey Town! A ground swell of local support from fans and honourable businessmen helped recreate the club as Aldershot Town just a few months later. They dropped 5 divisions and started again.

One of those in the thick of the Shots rebirth was an old work mate of mine called Graham Brookland, who I'm glad to see from their website is still working at the club. I used to love talking to him about football because, well he got it didn't he? And he is still living his dream.

Congratulations to everyone involved with Aldershot tonight. There is a 1,000 of them winding their way back from Exeter and I bet one of them is Graham. Back in the football league after 16 years, enjoy the Scrumpy! 
  I've been Americanized - part 1 in a new series
Coffee. Yep one of those American pastimes that got me. I hate to say this but I am actually going to miss Starbucks when I go to Bermuda. To think I used to avoid the place like the plague when I was in London. Give me Cafe Nero anytime.

There is a lot to dislike Starbucks for, but it does consistently knock out a decent cup of Joe, although I'm an americano man myself as I prefer the sharper and stronger taste and not that weak old crap they tout. A cafe americano, $2.21, once a day, first thing in the morning and lasts me about 3 hours. In Bermuda I will have to revert back to the independent coffee house, which after my taste buds have got used to it, will be no bad thing.

Starbucks the global monster is of course trying to re-invent itself into the coffee-house experience it probably was in Seattle 30 years ago. The thing is, it's not easy making 15,000 formulaic stores into individualistic neighbourhood cafés.

Chairman Howard Scultz is giving it a go though, notwithstanding his plan to have a Starbucks on every street on the planet. Last week they implemented a (temporary) retro logo getting away from the familiar green and showing a bit more boob, although the mermaid's breasts look a bit far apart d'you think? Not that I've met too many mermaids.

And then there is the new coffee - Pike Place Roast, named after the Seattle location of the very first Starbucks store. It's alright, a bit sweeter I would say, a bit like McDonalds others say. Not the neighbourhood experience Schultz was hoping for then?

To my mind a coffee shop should be a stop-off from the monotony of another busy day. A welcoming environment that is neither work nor home. The trouble is Starbucks has become that monotony. Maybe those little family run coffee shops in Bermuda will be a good thing.
Monday 14 April 2008
  A bag of broccoli for my pains Early Monday morning and I'm sat at home on my sofa with a frozen bag of broccoli on my ankle - no work for me today. Yesterday was the final day of my indoor football season, it was the finals of the spring season play-off's. We came 2nd in the league table losing just one game in 9 but of course in good Yankee spirit the league then finishes off with two weeks of play-off games. Unfortunately for the team that finished the league season top and unbeaten they didn't walk away with the winners prize because we did beating them 2-1 in a fast paced and punchy final. Unfortunately I sat the majority of the game out after turning my left ankle over in the semi-final before. And bloody-hell does it hurt.

After the exuberence of winning ended when I got home, I realised that my ankle had swollen to the size of a tyre. Various frozen veg was used to bring the swelling down before I had a very uncomfortable night's sleep.

It has got me seriously reconsidering my 'soccer' career. As my ice-nurse said to me last night - maybe it's time I took up golf!

I love the team I play in, and am going to miss the great group of people when we move to Bermuda. I've played 'soccer' ever since I got here in late 2003, but this team which formed 2 years ago and named after the birthplace of my mate and the team's manager - Bari FC, has been very successful and a load of fun. However I am the oldest in the team by 10 bloody years. One of the boys, aged 29, was bemoaning his old age last night in the car journey home!

Enquiries have led me to believe I can still play footie for fun in Bermuda, and I think it will be more of a veteran crowd as opposed to our group of late 20-something ex-college players. But I don't know, my ankles have been weak for a number of years and it is playing havoc with my dancing career! We'll wait and see how this broccoli works out today. 
Saturday 12 April 2008
  Southampton at home. What was the score? Drew 1-1 How very predictable. I was extremely disappointed with the starting line up today. We had to win the game didn't we? So then pick a team and a composition that will score goals. I mean clearly we are going to let one in, so at least give us some hope from the kick off that we might score ourselves.

Last week's team ground and battled out a result against the odds. The odds were different today and by all accounts Southampton were poor and there for the taking. No pace out wide, ZZ out of position, two holding midfield players, no positive forward contributions from the full backs just long balls and a centre forward who is very static. And on a different vain, Elliot really should have kept his place shouldn't he?

I would have liked Varney, Ambrose, Thomas, Moo2kil and Youga to have started today to try and win the frickin' game. But alas, as I said, how very predictable.

Pace and width have long been missing from Pardew's line ups. Varney has to start, even if it is out on the right. When was the last time we scored with a open play cross? In fact we have become a set-play team, it's almost the only time we score. Anyway it sounded better 2nd half and I'm pleased for Andy Gray, hopefully he can become important to us next season.

Finally I heard there was trouble before the game when our history with the Saints reared it's ugly, I hope fellow Addicks escaped unhurt. However today's crowd was excellent, despite our dreadful home form. 11,000 more at The Valley than at Selhurst, lets hope Pardew can inspire some belief amongst us during the summer because we might not see many 26,206 attendances next season.

Who was at The Valley: Drinking During the Game; Blackheath Addicted; Marco on Dr Kish; Kings Hill; Addicks Championship Diary; Covered End Choir.
Reports: This is London; This is Hampshire;;; Telegraph; Sunday Mirror.
What did Pardew think of it: "I can't keep making excuses for our failure to win at home, but I think I know why and I have to put it right."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Andy Gray. His first goal in over 5 months, lets hope we see a couple more before the season's out. 
Thursday 10 April 2008
  The play-off's - what it takes Teams are self-extinguishing as quickly as the Olympic torch in the Championship. Stoke and Bristol City each contrived to lose last weekend and then Watford blew it last night at home to Barnsley, booed off by 16,000 people at the end. Get them. But this sure is a crazy old league.

Mind you the people's champions WBA finally got their act together in the last 9 minutes at Bloomfield Road to grab top spot Tuesday and it is hard to imagine that they will now not go on to take the title, especially if they can beat Watford on the box Saturday evening.

The only other real form team are bloody Hull City. They have won 7 out of their last 9 games scoring 21 goals in the process. They have a game in hand too, away at Barnsley next Tuesday and if they can take 6 points from QPR at home this weekend and then at Barnsley, then the top tier will finally welcome the biggest city never to play at the highest level and probably for good reasons.

Of course we don't need to concern ourselves with all that title talk, that was back in August, but the play-off's do hold a small beacon of light. However it is ourselves not Tibetan protestors who have made it just a small spark. We know all about the play-off's and so does Mr Pardew and undoubtably what happened in the previous 42 games doesn't mean one iota, if we can scrape into the top six by the evening of May 4th.

The play-off's are a wonderful thing, invented by the American's, who also now give graduation parties to 4-year olds at pre-school, there is no such thing as a loser. Just four not quite winners. Fortunately they put us out of our misery in England and the play-off's only last 14 days, unlike in the NBA or the NHL, when they go on for about 3 months.

The play-off's are all about the form team and to me it's about having a player or players who can grab you that vital goal out of nothing in a one-off cup tie. And having a confident settled team converging into the all or nothing game post-season or best out of 21 if you're talking baseball!

So ignoring the top 5, unless Watford really have sprung a leak and 1 win in 10 does suggest a requirement for a plumber, which teams in contention for a play-off place are in the best position to be that 3rd promoted team?

Lets take a look at what we've got:

Crystal Palarse
Last 6 games: WDWDDW
Games left: 4
Top scorer: Morrison 14
Players used: 38

Last 6 games: DLWWDW
Games left: 6
Top scorer: Ebanks-Blake 9 (in 14 games)
Players used: 27

Last 6 games: LWWDLD
Games left: 4

Top scorer: Counago, Walters 12
Players used: 29

Last 6 games: LLLDLW
Games left: 4
Top scorer: Iwelumo 10
Players used: 36

Last 6 games: LLWDLL
Games left: 4
Top scorer: Ebanks-Blake 11 (left in January)
Players Used: 33

Last 6 games: DWLLWL
Games left: 4
Top scorer: Gray 11 (yes folks, the very same)
Players used: 26 players

Sheff Utd
Last 6 games: WWWLWD
Games left: 4
Top scorer: Beattie 20
Players used: 31

Last 6 games: WDWWDD
Games left: 5
Top scorer: Parry 9
Players used: 25

Hum, doesn't look good for us does it? Nor Plymouth. Hate to say it but Cryst.... oh nope, can't bring myself, what about Wolves? Two games in hand, a settled side, a shit-hot striker and a manager who has been there before, just like, errr Pards. What do you think?
Wednesday 9 April 2008
  Bull-derdash The Bulls finally bowed out of play-off contention last night humbled by the atrocious Miami Heat, a team with the worst record in the country. Heat were also without the injured Dwyane Wade and mostly playing young prospects they beat the Bulls 95-88, this despite the Bulls being 11 points ahead in the 3rd Quarter.

Rumours abound of a total clear out in the summer months in an effort to raise money to rebuild the team. In my time in Chicago I have seen this group of young players prosper to create a buzz that said this team could go all the way to the NBA finals this season. But they didn't, the season has been nothing short of a disaster and the local media is full of stories of Hinrich, Gordon, Thomas, Deng and Nocioni all moving on. Gordon and Deng have already turned down extension contract offers of $50m (yes, you read that right). I personally hope Luol Deng stays, and he maybe the most likely.

We will however still see the Lewisham born Deng in a GB shirt at the European Championship qualifiers in September. Deng is fully committed to the cause, spending the majority of last summer with the GB squad, whilst staying at his Mum's house in South Norwood (he's a Gooner so don't get the wrong idea).

Meanwhile the ambivalent Ben Gordon, born in Hammersmith, has yet to commit to the GB team despite being named in the recent squad. It probably sums the attitudes of both Deng and Gordon up. Deng said after the Miami defeat: "This is the end of the year. The damage is done. It's really how it builds you up as a competitor now." Compared to Gordon: "I was shocked pretty much the entire season. Now you just kind of get numb to it."

Ok, probably taken out of context but I know who I would rather have pull on a GB shirt. 
Tuesday 8 April 2008
  Looking into the stars Why Palarse were pissing over our mini parade I was at the Adler Planetarium gazing at the stars. I won't tell you what they said but put it this way, the tea-leaves in my cup of splosh when I got home were probably best left unread. Anyhow, it is pretty simple to what is required by the Addicks. More on that later in the week.

Thank you for all of your kind comments on our upcoming move to Bermuda. We have a real sense of a clock ticking now, and with Spring finally arriving this last weekend in Chicago and it being my more organised other half's birthday, we took Monday off work and had a touristy weekend in the city.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Adler Planetarium, built in 1930 and the oldest in the western hemisphere. The Planetarium is sat on an island in Lake Michigan and it's dome is visible from every point of the city's lake shore.

The Adler is unusual in that it has two two full-size planetarium theatres, one of which, the Sky Theater hosts Night Sky Live which accurately reproduces the movement of every aspect of the night sky above the city of Chicago. This was the trip's highlight. Sat in complete darkness, a huge projector cleverly showed each star and their constellations as bright as could be after a man with a switch of a button masterfully turned off all of Chicago's lights, which is no mean feat considering it's one of the world's most illuminated cities.

The second planetarium theatre showed a film on Black Holes. To be honest there wasn't much else to see apart from the shows. I'm sure families would get a kick out of the newly opened 3D Fly Me To The Moon show but otherwise the Adler didn't grasp our attention and a couple of hours was enough, although it does also contain some of the world's finest collections of astronomical artifacts, including an impressive sundial display.

The day before we did something very American and went to the Sunday Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues, so popular they have three sittings each Sunday. It was $40 for as much southern style food that you can eat, free Mimosa's and then a live performance from a gospel choir, that was a bit too audience participation for me, if you get my drift. Fortunately our seats were at the back but it was a fun and rousing way to spend a Sunday morning. 
Sunday 6 April 2008
  Leaving Chicago
After four and a half years I will be leaving Chicago and moving once again, this time to the island of Bermuda. Immigration has yet to be approved, so there is a still a chance the British Colony turns us down but all being well we will only be in Chicago for another 6 to 8 weeks, sad as that is to think about.

This has been going on for some time, and although I have been to Bermuda a number of times since I came to the States, I spent two hectic days down there in January to discuss the opportunity presented to me by my company and then just this week we returned on Wednesday evening after spending 5 days on the island with a relocation company representative, realtors, human resources, my new boss and new colleagues. It was an exhausting, eye opening affair.

Last summer my company suggested that I might like to live and work in San Francisco. I wasn’t keen, nothing to do with the location because San Francisco is beautiful, but it was too far from the UK. I turned the chance down but it got me thinking about my future and evidently it got my company thinking about it too.

I moved to Chicago at the end of 2003 for a number of reasons, most if not all I have talked about in this blog over the years. This has been a very hard decision because I adore Chicago, and I love my home, on which I have spent a lot of money on upgrading it to the point it is now the end result of the dream I had when I bought a tatty, uncared for large brick loft in what was an old lamp factory 3 years ago. We’ve decided to keep it though because the Windy City will forever be a home for me and I can’t bear to sell it, not to mention that the sub-prime environment we are in will make that task awkward.

I have had many sleepless nights and have beaten myself up pretty badly emotionally about this move. I have a son in Kent who I miss intensely. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel guilt, however it is a relationship we have developed and all he has known, however wrong that maybe.

London would have been my first choice. It is where my mates are, my brother, my football team, and it is 70 miles from my parents. They have been very supportive but I would love to live nearer to them, and one day I will. London however was not where the job opportunity was that offered itself in Bermuda. Career wise, financially and excitingly the next chapter of my life, with the person who loves me more than I have ever known, is on a little island (It’s actually 181 islands) in the Atlantic Ocean 21 miles long and 2 miles wide.

Bermuda was described to me as a bubble last weekend. At times life is not real, dreamlike one minute and nightmarish in another. It certainly is not for everyone, I would never have gone there in 2003 on my own. It is a place for couples and young families or retirees. I know it will take a huge adjustment. Flick through my archives on the right hand column of this page and tell me how much I adore big cities, flash restaurants and tall buildings.

Bermuda though is one of the British Empire’s best preserved legacies. Discovered in 1503 there is history, beauty and culture everywhere and after more than four amazing years living in America, I can’t wait to be engulfed by the Britishness of Bermuda. Cricket (two days are declared a national holiday in July to watch the two ends of the island play each other), rugby, pubs, tea and a sense of humour that only we understand. Furthermore being 2 hours closer and 500 miles nearer to my family and friends in the UK was certainly a big factor.

Then there is football, not soccer but football, the world’s game. I walked past a pub on Saturday afternoon and people were spilling outside onto the streets, there was cheering inside, football was on the television. I already know one other Addick who lives on the island, that is already one more than I knew in Chicago.

Bermuda’s motto is 'Quo Fata Ferunt' or 'Wherever the fates will take us.' Well it’s taken me and this blog to Bermuda; I hope you come with me.
Saturday 5 April 2008
  Plymouth Argyle away. What was the score? Won 2-1 I had this strange feeling of relief after Plymouth scored. Of being put out of my misery. And I was thinking selfishly of the money I would save now the season was over. That was me though sat on my arse in my apartment. I'd imagine if you were sat in the Barn Park End, then you may have felt differently because you were witnessing a brave performance by the Addicks. An old school performance where the players were giving everything for the shirt and those 1,000 blinded by faith when they made their collective way to the south-west this morning were giving every ounce of support back.

A excellent result then, and credit to the players and the manager for proving that they still care with a ballsy display against the odds. I have been particularly cruel and negative recently but it was good to hear that fans and players celebrated wildly at the end, well done to them both.

Hats off to young Rob Elliot, he took his chance well despite a few nervy moments it seemed, but he made a save at the death that he'll be dreaming about tonight. He's a lifelong Addicks fan too and would have enjoyed throwing his shirt into one of his own at the final whistle.

Of course the play-off's are still a huge ask but this division is so unpredictable that anything can happen. I'm not getting too carried away because, well because we have all had our fingers burnt this season on too many occassions but lets welcome back the Charlton we love, for tonight at least. Come on you reds!

Who was at Home Park: Kings Hill.
Reports: Kent Online;; Plymouth Herald; Sky Sports; Times Online; Independent.
What did Pardew think of it: "It was great to see so many fans here and was nice to celebrate with them at the end. We bonded with them afterwards. If I was a Charlton fan I'm not sure I would have wanted to travel down here after the recent run."
A bottle of fizzy pop for: Leroy Lita. Both goals needed a bit of luck on our part, but he was there where it mattered. 
  MLS kicks off The MLS 'soccer' season started in the US last weekend. My inherited boys, Chicago Fire have had a decent start to the season, drawing their opening game but then hammering last season's nemesis New England Revolution 4-0 at home on Thursday. Polish newcomer Tomasz Frankowski scored twice in front of a 15,000 crowd. The game was live on ESPN and was followed by LA Galaxy beating the league's newest team San Jose Earthquakes 2-0. I watched the first half and saw David Beckham score the opening goal (below), his first in the MLS, all of his others coming in either exhibition games or one of the strange cups.

It was rather weird seeing Ruud Gullitt on the sidelines in his Armani rain coat managing the Galaxy. Geordies would have smiled knowing that in his first game in charge last Saturday LA got hammered by Colorado 4-0.

San Jose's highest profile signing was ex-Fire playmaker Ivan Guerrero, the best player on the pitch when I saw them play with my son last summer in a drab goal-less draw. What has not happened this summer is the sudden influx of (ex)superstars. The Beckham Rule or more officially the Designated Player Rule allows each club to sign one player outside of the salary cap. And so far only six teams have taken up that option, with Galaxy's Beckham obviously being the most high-profile. Chicago have a lump called Cuauhtémoc Blanco, although every single Mexican would widely disagree with me.

The biggest name to join the MLS this winter was Argentinian Marcelo Gallardo, who signed from PSG. Gallardo has hardly had what can be described as a glittering career. He was once the French player of the year whilst at Monaco and has 44 national caps spanning almost 10 years but he will earn $1.87m this season playing for DC United, the 3rd highest MLS player salary after Beckham and Blanco.

Recently Derby agreed to let Laurent Robert leave after it became clear he was worst than what they had already! The Frenchman packed his sulky face off to Toronto FC where he will play for Mo Johnston.

Kenny Deuchar's move from poor Gretna to Real Salt Lake got quite a bit of sports press here, especially after he scored twice against Rangers in his last game in Scotland. Last season Deuchar spent 5 months at Northampton scoring 3 goals and the qualified doctor will continue to serve the probably more financially beneficial medical profession whilst living in Salt Lake, all a long way from Beckham's Hollywood lifestyle. Not so publicised was Houston's signing of Tony Caig, yes the same one who played one game for the Addicks. The 33-year old was also signed from Gretna.

Other new MLS faces, slightly known only with the help of Soccerbase are Tomasz Frankowski, who signed for Chicago from Wolves, although he had been on loan at CD Tenerife. Columbus Crew signed defender Gino Padula, who had 3 reasonably successful seasons at QPR but was last in France.

So not quite the Ronaldo's or Figo's that fans had hoped for but I think the league will get markedly better, what with improved television coverage and the sustained growth of teams. Seattle will take up membership next season with Philadelphia the year after. 
  Iced bug I thoroughly enjoyed last night's ice hockey. The Blackhawks won 3-1, all the goals coming in the first 12 minutes. The team were welcomed on to the ice by cheering fans evidencing the turnaround this season and promise of better things to come, helped by their best home record in 8 seasons. And the 21,000 sell out stayed to way after the game as Hawks players gave their shirts away to some lucky fans.

Goalie Patrick Lalime was outstanding and stopped, blocked and caught everything thrown at him by Nashville as Chicago were eventually out-shot 30-20.

Ice hockey was an American sport I really thought I would get into before I came, as an outlander I thought it would be the closest thing to football with teams lining up in similar formations, the game is fastpaced and with less of those god-awful stoppages. I saw one game at the end of the 2003/04 season and I think I was tainted by how rubbish the Blackhawks were and the crowd reaction. Then the next season was the players strike, and then these last two have kind of passed me by, exalted by the complete lack of interest from friends and colleagues. Well Mr Miller I think I have finally caught the bug! 
Friday 4 April 2008
  Hockey sticks Off to see some ice hockey tonight at the United Center. I've not been for a long while so I'm looking forward to it, although unfortunately last night Chicago Blackhawks' very slim play-off hopes ended after tonight's opponents, Nashville Predators grabbbed the final Western Conference spot after beating St Louis 3-2. If Nashville had lost, it would have set tonight's game up perfectly. With just two games of the regular 82-game season left, Chicago's famous but long time rubbish Blackhawks can at least look back on a much improved campaign. This being no coincidence after the ownership of the franchise passed to Rocky Wirtz, brother of long-time owner "Dollar" Bill Wirtz, probably one of the most hated men in Chicago before his death last September.

Bill Wirtz was known for his frugality and for forbidding Blackhawks home games to be shown on TV since the early 1970's, unless they were picked up by national broadcasters, which only happened when the Blackhawks made the playoff's and this has only happened once in 10 years (16 teams reach the NHL play-off's so its hardly exclusive). During a minutes silence to respect Wirtz's death, Blackhawks fans apparently booed throughout. Rocky Wirtz recently announced that all of their regular games next season will be shown on local TV.

Back in the day the Chicago Blackhawks were one of the most successful franchises in North America and are one of the NHL founders, however it has been 47 years since they last won the Stanley Cup, the longest drought of any team in the NHL.

The last time I went to a match, they were terrible and I didn't even know the rules, but even I could tell they were bad and the notorious Blackhawks fans booed from very eary in the 1st period. On that basis as a Charlton fan I will probably get in free tonight, but in all seriousness from what I've read the players and new owner should get a good reception from a sell-out crowd at what will be the last home game of the season. 
Tuesday 1 April 2008
  Pards to join fans at Plymouth I was searching around the internet tonight and found an interview on a new football website called stating that Alan Pardew has offered to sit with Addicks fans at Home Park on Saturday. After his team talk he will join the travelling Addicks behind the goal in the Barn Park End before kick-off.

"I have been practising my singing, that C-A-F-C one is a bit tricky, but I plan to get behind the team despite how awful it may look from behind the goal," said Pards.

"While it's still mathematically possible to get in the play-off's we'll give it as good a shot as we can, but the players are only playing, it is really down to the fans to motivate the team. If we don't get up this season they will have a lot to answer for."

Pards went on to say, "I will do my best to cheer the players on, even the crappy loan ones that I made a mistake in bringing in. You won't hear me booing, well not unless they make me pay to get in"

It is not known whether Pardew will go back to the dressing room at half-time. "I may stay and get a pie and a pint," he said. "I mean how easy is it being a fan eh? We've only sold 1,000 tickets, when I was at West Ham we would have taken at least 1,200." 
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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