An Englishman in New York
Earlier this year, Luke Rodgers completed a dream move to the New York Red Bulls. Here he tells Kris Heneage about settling into a new culture...
I remember the day I received the news my visa had been granted on appeal. I was stood outside the US Embassy in London, excited to know that I was now on my way to New York. To say itÃ¢ÂÂs been a whirlwind few months would be an understatement.
I still canÃ¢ÂÂt believe IÃ¢ÂÂm training alongside the likes of Thierry Henry and Rafa MÃÂ¡rquez. IÃ¢ÂÂve watched Thierry for years in the Premier League, heÃ¢ÂÂs one of the best goalscorers the Premiership has seen.
HeÃ¢ÂÂs on fire in the league right now as well with nine goals already, making him the league's top scorer. His goal against New England was classic Henry, cutting in from the right before sliding it home.
Unfortunately I had to come off after 60 minutes with plantar fasciitisÃ¢ÂÂ basically a tightness in the arch of my foot. I hadnÃ¢ÂÂt trained all week but it was a great result for us and put us right back at the top of the table. Unfortunately the injuries kept me out for most of the month meaning IÃ¢ÂÂve been been partaking in the most frustrating side of football: watching it!
I actually made the shortlist with MÃÂ¡rquez, Henry and three other team-mates for the MLS All-Star side. I would have loved to play against Manchester United on July 27, as it would have been a nice warm-up for our games in the Emirates Cup at Arsenal in JulyÃ¢ÂÂ¦ and itÃ¢ÂÂs my daughter's birthday the day before.
My family have been over to visit me and were also able to see me play, which is nice. Everyone at Red Bulls have made my transition here really smooth and I canÃ¢ÂÂt thank them enough. IÃ¢ÂÂve also had some of the English lads like Sam Craven and Sam Stockley at FC New York [a third-tier team inaugurated this year] to relax with, which is always nice.
When IÃ¢ÂÂm not playing or training I like to go out into the city with the lads and do some shopping or get food. WeÃ¢ÂÂve been to see the New York Knicks once or twice with a few of the other lads. The whole country was gripped with the NBA finals Ã¢ÂÂ even I got involved, whereas back home IÃ¢ÂÂd probably struggle to watch more than two minutes.
Titi takes in some b-ball at Madison Square Garden
There really is so much to do here every night of the week. Adele was here recently performing at Madison Square Garden. YouÃ¢ÂÂre never bored in New York, thatÃ¢ÂÂs for sureÃ¢ÂÂ¦.
And football, soccer, whatever you want to call it, is massive here. On average we get 18-20,000 for a home game; when we played LA Galaxy it was a 25,000 sellout. No disrespect to Notts County, as I loved it there, but I was playing in front of at most 7,000.
It truly is a huge sport here and itÃ¢ÂÂs constantly growing. The LA game was a great experience as we came away with a point and I met David Beckham, with whom I exchanged shirts.
With America being so big we have to fly to pretty much every game, which in itself can be quite tiring Ã¢ÂÂ my longest journey in England was maybe Plymouth or Carlisle. The club is really good about getting you there just before the flight to reduce your wait time. I normally just get out my iPad and have a bit of craic with the lads to pass the time. IÃ¢ÂÂll be honest, I love travelling Ã¢ÂÂ seeing all the new places and that kind of thing. The other week I got to go up the famous Rocky steps in PhiladelphiaÃ¢ÂÂ¦
"Cor, there's loads of 'em..."
IÃ¢ÂÂve had a few former team-mates ask me about MLS, what America is like and the quality of the league in general. IÃ¢ÂÂm always honest and personally I think itÃ¢ÂÂs similar to the Championship both in terms of quality and attendance.
But there are also some great players here. Looking at the squads available youÃ¢ÂÂve got the likes of Juan Pablo Angel, Eric Hassli, Julian de Guzman and David Beckham. TheyÃ¢ÂÂre all quality players that could do a job in EuropeÃ¢ÂÂs top leagues. To play against them is a real pleasure and I feel really lucky to be able to do it.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs not all great, though: just like any foreign player I do miss things from home. Even though IÃ¢ÂÂm in New York, the best city in the world, I just canÃ¢ÂÂt get brown sauce out here. Thankfully I get my family to bring it over for me. What is it they say: "You can take the boy out of BirminghamÃ¢ÂÂ¦"