Tag Archives: Anthony Clavane

The People Of The Ball.

I spent a lovely couple of hours at the Jewish Museum in Camden walking around 4-4-Jew, the exhibition on Jewish involvement in British football.

I admit I thought that after half an hour I would be out of there. I always used to think that Jews in British football started and stopped with Barry Silkman, who played for Crystal Palace, my dad’s team.  But I was still there after two hours and time flew by. It was wonderful.

I sat on an improvised mini-football terrace and watched a 20 minute film  in which pundits, ex-players and ex-Chairmen spoke about their own Jewish involvement in the beautiful game in Britain.

Author and journalist Anthony Clavane related that in the sixties Leeds United fans used to complain that while Leeds Rugby League club had the great Lewis Jones they only had Jewish loans. It was true. But, as Clavane said, had three Jewish Leeds United directors not given Leeds United interest free loans of £10,000 each then Leeds United would have gone bust.

David Bernstein, ex-Chairman of the Football Association, related how the reason he came to support Manchester City was because he loved their Sky Blue shirts. There’s a board at the exhibition on which you can write why you support the football team you do. We each have our own story to tell.

There was a fascinating corner on the time England played Germany at White Hart Lane in 1935. Footage showed the two teams facing each other before the game. During both national anthems and Abide With Me the German team gave the Nazi salute.

How could the FA let this game take place. The Star newspaper described tensions leading up to the match and how Barnett Janner MP (father of Greville) went to the Football Association to protest on behalf of British Jews.

A 1965 Arsenal football programme contains an apology to Arsenal’s Jewish supporters for playing an FA Cup match during Passover. How times change. A few weeks ago Spurs played a game on Yom Kippur without even a word. Maybe Spurs recognised that some Jews would go to that game.

The question left hanging was did football change us or had we changed enough already for that game to have taken place on the holiest day in Judaism?

On the walls were mini screens which showed old footage that lasted no longer than three minutes each. Chief Rabbi Sachs tell the hilarious story of when he went to see Arsenal v Manchester with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are both Gooners, but Arsenal lost 6-2 at home!

There was a sense at 4-4-Jew that for British Jews football and Judaism are both religions; equally as important. But it shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. Clavane described how Leeds Jews would hide their cars around the corner from synagogue and go off to Elland Road after synagogue. No one admitted it, but they all did it.

And he told how his rabbi bumped into Don Revie, the late Leeds United manager, at a Jewish wedding. The rabbi told Revie that they had the same congregation; he has them in the morning and Revie had them in the afternoon.

You see, it didn’t have to be all or nothing as in keeping Shabbat 100% or not at all. By going to synagogue and then being taken to football at least Jewish children got a sense of the importance of  Shabbat.

There was also a corner of the exhibition analysing Spurs fans singing of “Yid Army” (or the “Y” word lest we offend). There were many quotes from both sides of the argument but how can anyone argue with this quote taken from The Guardian website:

“As a Jewish Spurs fan, it has always been a badge of immense pride to hear 35,000 people at White Hart Lane proudly use an otherwise offensive term as a badge of honour.”

The only thing not to like about 4-4-Jew, for me, is the title of the exhibition. Why did they not call it The People Of The Ball, which I took as the headline for this piece off one of the posters at the exhibition?

“Jew” is also used disparagingly. I can understand the use of “Jews” to describe a collective of people. But “Jew” is used when “Jewish person” is far more preferable.

“Jew” implies that religion is a person’s defining characteristic, when “Jewish person” implies it is one of many. It is a term just as potentially explosive as “Yid”, but no one is banning the “J” word. Even 4-4-Jewish would have been preferable.

So here’s the question for David Baddiel, who wants Spurs fans banned from singing “Yid Army”: What if those fans chanted “Jew Army” instead? It would still invite  sick chants of “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” from opposing fans.

Would Baddiel then campaign that the “J” word be banned as well?

My trip to the Promised Land

Next to statue of Billy Bremner who died in 1997 aged just 54.

Next to statue of Billy Bremner who died in 1997 aged just 54.

On Saturday I escaped the chaos in London caused by the heavy snow and went to Leeds, aka The Promised Land.

Leeds and Leeds United are the subject of a fabulous new book by Sunday Mirror Sports journalist Anthony Clavane (or Clavansky as his eastern European ancestors were known). It’s called The Promised Land: The Reinvention of Leeds United.

It tells of how Eastern European Jews escaped poverty and pogroms for a new life in Leeds and how they helped to transform Leeds from a dour Rugby League town into a vibrant football loving city.

Although, as Clavane makes clear there is still, sadly, so much poverty in certain areas of Leeds, including around the football ground.

Until the sixties Leeds United, and their predecessors Leeds City, had won nothing.

In 1961 Leeds United were on the verge of going bankrupt but interest free loans by three local Jewish businessmen kept the club afloat and with Don Revie as manager they reached their first FA Cup final in 1965 (they lost) and, finally, became League Champions in 1968/69 for the first time.

Under the Don they won the League Cup in 1968, the FA Cup again in 1972 and the League Championship again in 1973/74, as well as the Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971.

They reached a host of finals and were, incredibly, league runners-up on five occasions under Revie before 1975 became an annus horribilis for the club.

The Don left in 1974 and Cloughie followed for his notorious 44 day stint before Jimmy Armfield took Revie’s team to the 1975 European Cup Final in Paris where they were robbed on the verge of reaching the Promised Land.

First, Clarke was hacked down in the penalty area but no penalty was given and then Lorimer had a good goal disallowed when Bremner was judged to have been offside. He wasn’t.

Bayern Munich went on to score two goals against a now demoralised Leeds.

Leeds supporters still ironically chant “Champions of Europe” at every match to this day.

Violence broke out after the Paris game and Leeds were banned from playing in Europe for four years but went downhill from there and eventually got relegated seven years later.

Leeds fans became regularly involved in violence at matches as well chanting racist abuse. The National Front sold their newspaper outside Elland Road.

Leeds did get back up and won the League Championship for the third time in 1991/92.

And in the Champions League of 2000/2001 they once again stood on the verge of the Promised Land after drawing 0-0 in the first leg of the semi-final with Valencia. However, days before the away leg UEFA inexplicably banned Lee Bowyer. Bowyer had been the powerhouse behind Leeds in Europe and Leeds got duly thrashed in Valencia.

Huge disappointment again led to disaster with Leeds almost going broke again before getting relegated, this time twice!

Having totally outplayed QPR and winning 2-0 they stand second in the Championship as of today.

The Promised Land beckons again.

No doubt something will go wrong between here and the end of the season but Elland Road was a happy place on Saturday and on sunday morning I went to meet Anthony Clavane who was doing a pre-Christmas book signing at Waterstone’s in Leeds.

He said that this is a book for every footy fan, not just those of Leeds: “If you enjoyed reading Fever Pitch but aren’t an Arsenal fan you would enjoy my book, even if not a Leeds fan.”

I loved the book. It made me realise that when I connected with Leeds as a boy I was connecting with a club with a big Jewish heritage and which wouldn’t have been around today if three local Jewish businessman hadn’t come to the rescue in 1961.

Anthony is confident Leeds will do well under Simon Grayson and he tells in his book of a sign that used to be up at Leeds train station which read “Welcome to Leeds, the Promised Land Delivered.”

He told me that if Leeds get back into the Premiership he will campaign to have the sign reinstated.

I’ll be right behind him.

Available in club shop. Cute, eh?

Available in club shop. Cute, eh?

Meeting Anthony Clavane on Sunday morning in Waterstone's in Leeds

Meeting Anthony Clavane on Sunday morning in Waterstone's in Leeds

Meeting childhood hero, Eddie "The Last Waltz" Gray.

Meeting childhood hero, Eddie "The Last Waltz" Gray.

Leeds and QPR shaking hands

Leeds and QPR shaking hands

Elland Road on Saturday

Elland Road on Saturday