Tag Archives: Leeds united

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?


A bad year for Israel in the UK has also been a bad year for many of those who have briefed so viciously against Israel.

Nick Clegg, who called for Israel to be disarmed during Operation Cast Lead in the wake of thousands of Hamas rockets hitting Israeli towns, became Deputy Prime-Minister in the coalition government but has since had his new found credibility shattered having reneged on a pre-election promise that had won his party the student vote; not to increase tuition fees.

Clegg and his anti-Israel Liberal Democrat party will find it difficult to be taken seriously in future, including on Israel.

Lauren Booth seems to have hit financial rock bottom with her bankruptcy and George Galloway lost his national radio slot on Talksport and was ousted from Parliament at the General Election along with Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine.

Woe betide those who fall from power. The pro-Arab Lobby will have no use for them and will end up looking elsewhere.

So one man’s loss is another’s gain and the new anti-Israel voice on the block is Andrew Slaughter, who retained his seat in the election.

Although Slaughter is Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister that didn’t stop him recently meeting Hamas; the organisation that likes to send Palestinians into Israeli restaurants and discos primed with bombs to murder as many Jews as possible.

It has been a year where the picket of Ahava in Covent Garden has taken root, with the objective of closing it down.

In a way it has been a sad but fascinating experience to see the type of person that turns up to picket a Jewish owned shop.

Less attention has been paid to the regular thursday evening anti-Israel picket outside Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street whose objective is to stop people shopping there on the basis that M&S was a chief funder of Israel’s creation and growth; proof if it ever was needed that Israel-hate is not premised on concern for international law but on Israel’s existence per se.

It is also interesting to note how many of the Ahava protesters are loathe to be filmed, constantly covering their faces.

One must also question if they are solely concerned about human rights why they don’t picket Iranian, Egyptian, Russian, Chinese and Sudanese businesses.

If Ahava does close even the protesters will be disappointed as they will be forced to find another Israeli outlet to vent their anger against.

Other low points of 2010 were:

1. The EDO case, where a judge somehow found it within himself, during his summing up to the jury, to show admiration for those who had smashed up a British arms-making factory.

2. Phil Woolas losing his Parliamentary seat after his Lib Dem opponent ran crying to the courts accusing Woolas of lying about him, when lying on political leaflets is, sadly, a part of British election culture. There was also MPAC’s sinister intervention against Woolas.

3. Mick Davies, head of UJIA, using “Apartheid” in relation to Israel.

4. The Law Society allowing itself to be taken over for a weekend Israel hatefest in the form of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

5. Hearing “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz” at Elland Road.

Thank you to those that have given their encouragement over the last year (including Oyvagoy, Jeremy Havardi, MelchettMike, CIFWatch, ModernityBlog, Harry’s Place, ElderofZiyon, The London Jewish News, The Jewish Chronicle and The Jerusalem Post) and many other individuals, including some incredible commenters from whom I have learnt more than I could imagine.

It has also been a year in which England retained the Ashes but lost a World Cup.

Ken Bates, Leeds United’s Chairman, summed up the World Cup debacle perfectly in his recent programme notes for the QPR game:

“FIFA finally lost all credibility when they handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. That idiot Blatter said the object was to take football into new territories. The Qatar episode should be fun with the Persian Gulf on one side and (a) million square miles of desert on the other. Don’t make me laugh! Money talks – but to who? If Qatar wanted to make a lasting impact on the world they could help their fellow Muslims in Palestine to end 60 years of misery and enable them to establish a Palestinian state. A few bob to help rebuild Afghanistan wouldn’t go amiss either.”

Finishing on a high note Israel has just struck gas; £61 billion worth of the stuff, which sent the Tel Aviv stock exchange to an all time high. This should give Israel energy independence for 90 years and could allow for exports to Europe.

As James Hider of The Times comments the old joke about Moses leading the Jewish people to the one place in the Middle East that does not have oil is not so funny anymore.

Happy New Year everyone!

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

Miliband E.: A disaster for Britain, a disaster for Israel.

New Labour leader, Ed Miliband (middle).

New Labour leader, Ed Miliband (middle).

Ed Miliband’s (EM) election as leader of the Labour party while in opposition to the Conservative-Lib. Dem. coalition is a disaster on many fronts.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. His warmer, more charismatic brother, David (DM), was supposed to win.

The coalition is loving the result. It will be easy to paint the new leader as Red Ed and as in thrall to the unions who, in effect, made him leader.

EM does not have the support of either the majority of ordinary Labour members or of Labour MEPs and MPs under the arcane tripartite electoral system that Labour uses.

It was the three main trade unions; GMB, Unite and Unison, that won it for EM. Although it was a free vote the leaders of these three huge unions publicly backed EM and that was enough.

The trade unions favour the working class but their problem is that they would rather the country got poorer as long as everyone was more equal. They give no credence to capitalism whatsoever.

A form of communism-lite is still their preferred way forward. Being in government is not of great importance as long as they can go on strike and bring the country to its knees. Margaret Thatcher recognised the damage they can do. She smashed them but they are back with a vengeance.

Labour is also in financial trouble and multi-millionaire backers like Lord Sainsbury and Lord Alli could be set to lower their donations leaving Labour looking for even more support from the unions.

Labour has emasculated itself by voting for EM giving the governing coalition five years of an open goal with which to do as it pleases unchallenged. This is not good for us.

We will have to put up with five years of uncompetitive politics.

DM’s campaign must have suffered from complacency. But he showed his sharpness, warmth and humour yesterday when trying to evade a media scrum.

“Please ladies and gentleman, I am leaving,” he complained to which a reporter asked “Are you really leaving, Mr Miliband?”. DM turned around with the broadest of grins and replied: “I’m leaving the building”.

If DM does leave British politics for another job he will be missed. His brother is dull and uncharismatic by comparison.

More than that his brother has been an MP for just five years to DM’s nine and his only major brief was as Climate Change secretary. In contrast DM was Foreign Secretary and has striven the world stage gaining respect and experience. I doubt few overseas politicians would know EM.

And being in thrall to the unions does not bode well for Israel either. We know that many unions are ignorant of the true complexity of the Israeli-Palestinians conflict but their knee-jerk reaction is to be anti-Israel. Recently they voted to continue a boycott of Israeli settlement goods at the TUC conference.

This demonisation of the settlements and the settlers (both of which are perfectly legal) doesn’t help anyone. It entrenches the Palestinian position and leads to more dead settlers as we saw recently with the killing of four innocent Israelis near Hebron.

But thank goodness for small mercies as a full boycott of Israel was expected. Next year maybe.

In addition to communism-lite at home the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also gives the trade unions the chance to play Trotsky/Lenin abroad. Due to increasing cooperation with the Palestine Soldiarity Campaign a one state solution, where the Jewish state would disappear, is becoming the default position of many union members.

It is hard to see EM opposing any of this knee-jerk trade union anti-Israelism whereas DM, being a Blairite, would have been more open to persuasion and more independent.

None of this takes into account the background of the Milibands, whose late father, Ralph, was a Marxist academic and whose mother Marion Kozak is a leading member of the anti-Israel Jews for Justice for Palestinians (anti-Israel in the sense that they prefer that one-state solution).

With David “Gaza is a prison camp” Cameron, William “Israel acted dispoportionately” Hague and Nick “Ban arms sales to Israel” Clegg in the three most important positions of PM, Foreign Secretary and Deputy PM respectively and Ed Miliband as opposition leader and David Miliband, currently as shadow Foreign Secretary, things don’t bode well over the next five years for Israel.

It was DM who, while Foreign Secretary, took the decision to expel an Israeli diplomat from Britain over the assassination of a self-confessed Hamas terrorist in Dubai, without the allegation being proved, but he seems to be far more preferable to his brother for both Britain and Israel.

EM could surprise us and prove to that he isn’t in hock to the unions. We need a strong opposition. I hope to be proved wrong, but I am not hopeful.

And I hate to criticise a Leeds United supporter.

Ken Bates responds to anti-Semitic chants

Ken Bates, Chairman of Leeds United (Daily Mail)

I wrote to Ken Bates a few weeks ago after seeing a child give a Hitler salute and hearing some fans around me singing “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” at the Leeds v Spurs FA Cup replay at Elland Road on February 3rd.

He very kindly telephoned me a few days later and the gist of what he said is as stated in his programme notes on the subject for tonight’s home game against Walsall. They are as follows:

I had a complaint from a Leeds fan who lives in London about the anti-Jewish chanting when we played Spurs. The substituting of “Auschwitz” and “Belsen” when the Spurs fans were singing that they were “on the road to Wembley” is so old hat. The Second World War ended 65 years ago and I had to contend with the same nonsense nearly 30 years ago when I was at Chelsea. Do me a favour, please grow up.

In case you don’t know it Leeds is a club with strong Jewish connections. In fact I am one of the few non-Jewish chairman going back as far as I can remember. I don’t have a problem with Jews. I was, in fact, the only gentile in Jerusalem at a bar mitzvah and looked so Jewish with my beard, little black hat and overcoat that I was asked to join other ceremonies.

There are a few exceptions (I could name one or two) but by and large they are a talented race who punch above their weight in all aspects of society. Mind you, the north London lot don’t help themselves by describing themselves as “Tottenham Yids”. In the old days they even wore badges to that effect.

However, it is not good enough to write to me some days later complaining after the event. Around the ground at Elland Road there are boards advising you of the text number 07946 362117. If you have a problem, use it – whereupon our response team will be quick to react. Remember, for evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.

You’re only here to watch the Leeds

Phew. That was close. I am just back from Brisbane Road where I went through the indignity of sitting with the Orient fans (it being impossible to get an away end ticket with these division one grounds being so blooming small).

Max Gradel breaks free with the ball.

With Leeds totally dominating typically they went behind. But just as the Orient fans around me were preparing to celebrate the final whistle they were hilariously silenced when Charlie Daniels lashed the ball past his own goalie.

The ref blew up 20 seconds later. A famous victory was denied them and the two teams are unlikely to ever meet again. 

Despair after conceding a 95th minute own goal.

I was sat opposite the huge Leeds travelling support who delightfully kept singing “Leeds are going up” to the tune of K.C & The Sunshine Band’s “na na na na na na na na na na Baby give it up“.

And as ever they also directed “You’re only here to watch the Leeds” at the Orient fans (which is probably true seeing as the crowd of 8013 was by far Orient’s biggest of the season).

You're only here to watch the Leeds

Finally, the lads travelled back north happy and left the Orient fans with the Leeds anthem “Marching on Together” ringing sickeningly in their ears.

The huge travelling Leeds support.

On another note I had a phone-call from Ken Bates this week. I had written to him out of concern over the Nazi salute I had seen and Belsen chants I had heard when Leeds played Spurs in the recent FA Cup replay at Elland Road.

He suggested I should have done something myself like contact a steward, ring the number in the programme or even remonstrate with the culprits myself. 

He said he would have had the culprits banned from Elland Road and then quoted me Edmund Burke’s “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”.

He had a point although after a three hour drive I’d rather enjoy the game than have to explain to a steward who said what and where. As for remonstrating myself (I did actually try briefly but gave up) even he agreed that “it was likely that I would have had my front teeth pushed in”.

He told me about his visit to Israel and to the Western Wall for a barmitzvah. After 20 minutes he wished me well and told me he would address the issue in his programme notes.

Just before ringing off he asked me what I do. When I told him I was a journalist he suggested I should get a more respectable career like becoming a coke-dealer or a pimp.

It was good that he called me though. I don’t think too many Chairman would take time out of their busy schedule to speak with a fan over their concerns.

I also took the opportunity to express my worry over our current league form. “We’re working on that,” he replied.

So if you are going to Leeds V Walsall this tuesday please let me know what his programme notes say. They normally make an interesting read anyway as they focus on world events in addition to the footy.

Leeds United and anti-Semitism

Leeds United (epltalk)

I read a fascinating but sad piece by Jessica Elgot of the JC on the racism she encountered at the Spurs v Leeds game last weekend.

I thought it would be the normal diatribe about Spurs fans singing “Yid Army” being anti-Semitic. It really isn’t. Spurs fans sing it week in week out and there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism about it. Spurs basically has always had a large Jewish following and a Jewish board of directors. The fans mean nothing sinister and if it allows them a good singalong (something severely lacking at their north London neighbours) then so be it.

The only thing that Spurs fans can really be accused of is thinking that Spurs are better than they really are.

But Jessica noticed something much more sinister: Some Leeds fans singing “Spurs are on their way to Belsen”.

Jessica writes: “But the Leeds fans went nowhere around White Hart Lane without being chaperoned by about twenty police officers per fan. Most were singing these chants in full view of the police. Who did nothing. No warning. No arrests. Nothing. What did the Tottenham door staff do, as the Leeds fans entered through the turnstiles, singing about gas chambers? Nothing. It was easier to keep their heads down and shut up.”

I have to admit that I was safely tucked away surreptitiously among the Spurs fans so I was immune to this chanting while biting my nails everytime Spurs won one of their many freekicks on the edge of Leeds United’s penalty area. But it doesn’t surprise me.

Leeds United have come a long way. When I was at Leeds University I used to go to every Leeds home game and always used to pass a member of the National Front selling the current issue of its magazine. Once I encountered a Leeds fan with a swastika tattoo.

These days there is nothing like that at Elland Road, just a good feeling of being surrounded by friendly, down-to-earth Yorkshire folk. Elland Road is one of the best places in Britain where whites, blacks, asians, Muslims, Jews and Christians sit down in unity to cheer their team on. There is no sectarianism or racism. 

Lucas Radebe (golplanet)

But Leeds on the road is a different affair.

When I went to see Millwall v Leeds a few years ago the Leeds fans booed their way through the minute’s silence for George Best, so much so that the referee had to call an end to the silent respect for a once great player after just 30 seconds. And on the way to the train afterwards a Leeds fan was literally singing the horrendous Munich 1958 plane crash song right in front of a policeman.  

This is all just a minority of fans and Leeds is not an inherently racist club. There is no racism ever about black or asian players and Lucas Radebe will always be loved by every Leeds fan for his commitment to and passion for Leeds United (the Keiser Chiefs, huge Leeds fans themselves, named themselves after his South African club). 

Leeds have always had a hooligan element; Leeds thugs are known as the Leeds Service Crew, also known as the Risk. But while the hooliganism and racism has mainly gone there is still an element that prevails. 

There is probably not much Leeds can do about this element. Now it is probably down to society to educate more about the horrors of the Holocaust and Holocaust Memorial Day this wednesday is a good start but not enough.

Maybe Ken Bates could have a say in his programme notes at the Leeds v Spurs replay on February 3rd about the sinister chanting that Jessica heard.