In Which games and snow come in a flurry. Israel is in the Psychiatrist’s Chair and First Month Moyes Report

Post 33

Thankful for small mercies, Don and Little Don left the Bowl of Broken Dreams after the Leicester game with a spring in our step and endorphins if not exactly sprinting around our system, then at least recalling the direction of travel. You’d think we had just beaten Man U whereas we had drawn with Leicester but as I say, small mercies. Since then and the commencement of this Pulitzer Prize effort, despondency against Everton, pride at City and euphoria at home to Chelsea.

Footie, as befits our table position, is dealt with at the foot of this rather long post.


First, on the Wagner front, we look at a part of the world, Israel, where for the best part of a century, Wagner has been musically absent but in every other sense alive and kicking out for all he’s worth. Don investigates why this is (bleeding obvious ain’t it?) and whether it reveals more about Wagner or the collective consciousness of a new and traumatized nation.  As a casual observer of Israeli society over the decades and as a relative newbie to the joy of Wagner, Don feels as ill-equipped to write on this as anything else…..so here we go.

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In 1938 Arturo Toscanini, arguably the greatest 20th century Maestro, travelled to British Mandate Palestine to conduct what would become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Performances included the preludes to Acts 1 and 3 of Lohengrin. He conducted Wagner in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. He was aware of some resistance to Wagner among the populace of the then embryo of the Jewish state but he was determined to play because “nothing should interfere with music”.

The concerts were widely reported in domestic and foreign press and amid some polite resistance, were well and respectfully received. Intellectual central European Jews, of which plenty had emigrated to Palestine, were aware of the Wagner “issues” but by and large and perhaps out of deferential respect to Toscanini, he (Wagner) was judged on musical and in general positive terms. This is no blanket validation; after all, to the vast majority in mandate Palestine, both Wagner and Toscanini were irrelevant to daily life in much the same way as if The Sun canvassed views today on Daniel Barenboim.

Yet that would be the last time Wagner was played in Israel in public performance (private and radio performances have occurred) pretty much to date, excepting one performance in the 1990’s when Barenboim, amidst tumult, sneaked in a Leibestod.

Rightly or wrongly, Wagner, indelibly associated with the Nazi party, was never going to be top of the pops in Israel. Prospects were little better for Richard Strauss and Carl Orff. Yet, whereas those actual contemporaries of the Nazis (possibly even Party members), have since the 1990’s, almost without murmur, become regular parts of the Israeli concert repertoire, Wagner who died in 1883, 50 years prior to Nazi domination, remains the devil incarnate. Never actually banned; the Israeli government reluctantly but consistently asserting since the 40’s that it is not its place to interfere with the arts, a groundswell of public opinion, fanned by the media and various politicians has ensured he and his works remain beyond the pale. Even to this day, where cable TV, the internet and foreign travel mean that in private, Israelis listen to what and when they want, Wagner is not publicly performed.

It is unimaginable how one psychologically copes with surviving the holocaust; whether that survival is literal or vicariously via family or even observing from safe distance. So inevitably at the creation of a nation, in controversial and extreme circumstances, where the majority of the populace had been so affected, the Holocaust cast a giant shadow over the Israeli psyche. Accepting for now that a nation or a people can have a psyche.

At this point it may be as well to clarify that Palestinian Arab claims (many and legitimate as they may be) are beyond the scope of this musing which is really looking at the post-holocaust collective Israeli (Jewish) psyche and how Wagner fed into that. Though from the late ’70’s onward, Palestinian direct action (terrorism and/or later the intifadas – both of course loaded terms) became in that psyche, increasingly blurred with the Holocaust in creating a siege mentality.

I think its fair to say that until the late 1930’s intellectual and cultural life in Jewish Palestine was dominated by people who thought German-speaking or German influenced lands were and had been for centuries the cultural capital of Europe. The pillars of which were Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn. Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Brecht, Thomas Mann etc. In philosophy, one need look no further than Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and of course, Marx.  Such people were directors of theatres, newspaper editors, political activists and much of café society looked to replicate Munich, Vienna or Budapest. Wagner occupied an ambiguous place in their hearts. His music was loved and his genius never in doubt but it may have been their grandparents that protested the 1868 premiere of Die Meistersinger, having read his essay Judaism and Music a few months earlier. Equally, they may have been descended from Hermann Levi, the Jew selected by Wagner to conduct the 1882 premiere of Parsifal, his final opera. An example was Theodore Herzl who most would describe as the “father” of Zionism. A man prone to obsessiveness, he like Levi before and Mahler after (among thousands of other Jews), worshipped Wagner and in particular the opera Tannhäuser, in which the battle between sensual hedonism and a purer chaste love, mirrored some of Herzl’s personal demons.

swasIn any event, these middle class intellectuals had a serious wake up call two years after Toscanini’s visit. Kristallnacht. Whilst the full horror of the holocaust was still beyond human imagination, on this night, the extent to which the German state was prepared to tolerate anti-Jewish violence, even going so far as to legalize and sponsor it, became clear.

On this night, the Palestine view of Germany and things German changed, so that anything German was to be reviled. This view was robustly held by those Palestinian Jews of other descent not only because they saw Germany for what it had become but with added piquancy, resented the intellectual snobbery of the Palestinian Jews of German heritage.

From this night and continuously as World War II and the Final Solution to the Jewish Question unfolded, Jewish immigration to Palestine exploded, often breaking embargoes of the British, who were trying to maintain some sort of peace among ferociously competing positions of Arab and Jew. With partiality and prejudice…as claimed by both sides.

On his next visit, Toscanini was persuaded to drop the prelude to Die Meistersinger from the repertoire. 

It took several years for the world to comprehend the enormity of the Holocaust. Churchill had received intelligence of death camps during the war. He rejected the opportunity to obliterate certain of them on the ground that such intelligence could not be accurate. Not Passchendaele, The Somme and not Stalingrad. None of these could convince him that man could be capable of such barbarism….eventually the evidence was compelling.

Alongside this, and significantly influenced by the horror of the Holocaust, the UN voted to create a Jewish state in Palestine in 1947 and the State of Israel came into being in 1948. It was immediately attacked by five surrounding Arab nations, yet with a nascent army, succeeded in overcoming  them after a long and hideously difficult war. This is crucial in establishing the psyche of the fledgling nation and why of all things, a cultural icon would have any significance in that psyche.

It was a multi-faceted psyche for a multi-faceted people. Consider for example the following.

  1. Under Siege. Until the late 1950’s, the Jewish population in Israel, were largely people who had survived the Holocaust in one way or another. Thousands liberated directly from the camps or from ghettos, thousands more having fled during or just before the war and thousands of pioneering Zionists that witnessed the horror from Palestine or further afield and many of those had fled the Russian pogroms at the turn of the century.

Hundreds of thousands came, desolate, exhausted, directly from a systematic machine designed to destroy an entire race, into a war at the birth of Israel, in which five nations attacked with the avowed aim of driving the Jews into the sea. United against those that would destroy the Jews; Germans and Arabs, naturally a siege mentality arose, that with various peaks and troughs, survives to this day.

2.    Shame.  There have been many Israeli studies into the psychological effect of surviving. These show that many survivors were ashamed. Ashamed not to have resisted further, ashamed simply to  have survived. Consequently and bizarrely as it now sounds, the Holocaust, for not dissimilar reasons prevalent at the time in (West) Germany, was not a discussion for polite society. Notwithstanding the inauguration of Yad Vashem in 1953. Many parents could not discuss with children; the horror bottled up and buried deep. On the surface however, was hatred of anything German – language, culture, history. The abduction from Argentina and trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann in 1963 was a turning point. Not since Nuremberg had the world confronted personal accounts of the Holocaust on such scale and in such detail. For Israelis, the process was an immense catharsis. Apart from the obvious of the victim exacting some revenge, survivors were giving eyewitness accounts live on TV and before the world. Thousands were empowered to finally confront personal demons and parents would finally be receptive to enquiries of their children as to what had happened to them.  Hatred of all things German intensified and passed to the next generation. Even in Britain, Jews eschewed German goods well into the ’70’s.

3. Race relations.  In Arab nations, where as a generalisation, Moslem and Jew had co-existed semi-comfortably for generations, from the birth of Israel, Jewish life became increasingly untenable. This reached an apex (nadir) in 1956 with the Suez Crisis and consequently many thousands of Arab Jews poured into Israel. These were generally speaking, comparatively poor, less educated, though rich in culture and far less aware of the Holocaust. These people and in particular their children would in the late 1970’s re-direct the nature of Israeli society but for now they were a burden on the new and impoverished nation, several rungs below the influential Europeans. In terms of psyche, Israeli society shapers would be forced to confront their own racism towards other Jews, never mind Moslem and Christian Arabs.

4. Socialism and secularism. The early Zionists were influenced by Marx as much as anyone else and  from the 20’s to the 70’s (much as many ignore this now), Zionism was tinged with socialism in many respects; from political leadership, to the Kibbutz movement, urban co-operatives and the hugely influential Histadrut (trade union movement). Inevitably the military was an incredibly important social institution and this too was dominated by a left of centre leadership. Allied to this was a feminist movement arguably in advance of Western Europe equivalents. Also worthy of mention in contrast to the victim/siege/holocaust mentality, is the idealistic and optimistic notion of building a new and better society. The phrase “Light Unto the Nations”, was oft banded about. These idealists were setting out to make the desert bloom and create society free of many of the failings of the ultra-structured religious shtetls from whence many came and free of centuries of discrimination whereby Jews were by law, limited to money lending type functions and denied purer occupation, say working the land. Ironically it was such lofty ideals that led to the displacement of many Arab Palestinians because whereas first wave Zionists (pre-WW1) were often content to hire local labour to do the dirty work, for the socialist “second wave” (1920’s) it was by dint of idealistic purity, vital that they did manual labour themselves, women too.

5. German relations. In the 1950’s Israel was trying and by and large failing, to house and incorporate into society tens of thousands of Sephardi Jews from Arab lands. Not trying very hard according to most Sephardi’s at the time and fuelling resentment that burst forth in the 1977 election. But a real obstacle was that the country was broke. Its balance of payments was terrible and the military was sucking out any surplus. At same time in the late ’50’s, the German Chancellor Adennaur , was making tentative overtures that the new generation in West Germany was ready to face up to responsibilities. He sought a thaw in relations. This would entail Israelis evolving into a nation that could not only confront “the annihilators” but would accept millions of Marks in reparations and so which over the next 20 years, moved from the utter exclusion of anything German to more Volkswagens than one could shake a stick at.  One of the largest ever Israel TV audiences watched West Germany play East Germany at the World Cup in 1974…on their Grundig colour TVs. Remembering of course that only two years earlier, eleven Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists, in West Germany. What does that lot do to your psyche???

6. Super (not to say Greater) Israel. The wars in 1967 and 1973 , the rescue of the hostages from Entebbe in 1974 and the airlifting of virtually all Ethiopian Jewry from the mid ’80’s famine all fed into the transformation of the national psyche from the defenceless victims of the Holocaust to a player on the world stage and evolving regional superpower, capable of anything. (The Yom Kippur war being a huge generalisation in that statement, seeing as the Prime Minister and most of the cabinet were sacked in the aftermath for taking the country close to Armageddon). Add in the huge territorial gain made in 1967 which changed the country from plucky little Israel, darling of Western media to occupational force. At a stroke, thousands of non-Israeli Palestinian Arabs were under Israeli control. This had major implications for the rule of law, democracy and how Israel saw itself. How the various factions in society reacted to and coped with that occupation, haemorrhages pain in Israeli society to this day.

7. Menachem Begin and religion.  Even in the context of what had previously occurred, 1977 is a if not the pivotal year in the country’s history. Menachem Begin, was swept to power on a wave of nationalist and religious fervour and for the first time, Israel had a Prime Minister not of the intellectual, genteel Left but one who spoke, despite his Polish origin, for the underprivileged Sephardi Jew. The parents, downtrodden in Arab lands, had come to Israel and faced at best snobbery and glass ceilings and at worst, effete racism. Their children though, not only learned to read and write in their new country of which they were intensely proud but also to vote. They weren’t going to be pushed around any more and neither on a world stage, were Jews.

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So when Begin, always a man of action before words, started talking in bellicose language about Arabs, the US or Europe and most fundamentally, of a Greater Israel incorporating the Territories, he found his constituency. And such talk (retaining the Territories), was not because of some military and temporary expediency but rather because of biblical and therefore permanent right. Whether he was cause or effect, he caught the zeitgeist in Israel of increased religious influence, increased militarism and aggression. And so an invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was considered a justifiable protection of interests in a way that would not have been contemplated a decade earlier.  In parallel (and maybe because of) we have seen since the mid ’70’s an explosion in and world recognition of, (Arab) Palestinian identity, driven home at various times in political and terrorist terms. Increased radicalization has continued for a generation (on both sides) in which we have seen countless loss of innocent life (on both sides) and the assassination of an Israeli Prime Minister…by a Jew .

Interim report. Skipping a few decades, the patient on the couch is victim turned regional super-power. Anti-German yet embracing of all things German. Occident and Orient. Disappointed idealist. Hawk, Dove, Left, Right, Religious, Secular, Tolerant, Fundamental. Hi-tech ultra wealthy along with breadline poor. Expansionist yet has returned to Egypt land equal to the area of the entire country….oh and throw in about half a million Russians.


How does Wagner fit into all this madness?

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The Case Against Wagner….is easy. He thought lots of bad things and what he thought he tended to say and what he said either he or his second wife wrote down.

These have been catalogued ad nausea, including in this blog and does not bear repeating, though we alight on some aspects below. Check it out further if you wish.

The anti-German sentiment spawned in the aftermath of Kristallnacht and which engulfed the country as news of the Holocaust unfolded, naturally extended to rejection of contemporary German composers Richard Strauss and Carl Orff but also to the long dead Richard Wagner, regarded as the spiritual inspiration of the Nazis.

Every now and then, broadly once a decade, the scar would be ripped open by an occurrence which would erupt the debate; usually it was the Israel Philharmonic announcing it proposed to play something by Strauss or Wagner. Cue huge angry and emotional debate in the media, calls for the government to intervene before invariably the orchestra relented and excluded the piece and all was quiet until the wound re-opened some years hence. A full account of this history in which dramatis personae include Jascha Heifetz, Zubin Mehta, Leonard Bernstein and naturally Daniel Barenboim, is set out in Na’ama Sheffi’s – Ring of Myths

Arguments on both sides remained broadly consistent over the generations with little originality introduced. In general terms the pro-Wagner camp argued music is music and the country’s lead orchestra should, by way of national pride as well as the advancement of culture, play the most challenging and serious pieces. They dissociated Wagner’s personal views from his art and Strauss’ and Orff’s actions from theirs. If any pieces gave personal offence, people were free to switch off the radio or walk out; no offence taken.  The anti-Wagner side’s views were equally predictable; the Germans were the annihilators; nothing German should be tolerated never mind celebrated and in particular, survivors and their families (and of course out of respect for those perished) should not have to re-live unimaginable trauma of hearing music played in the camps (see below).

In time (the ’90’s), emotion relented toward Strauss and Orff, particularly when it was established that the Nazi Party may have been something forced upon both of them, particularly Strauss, rather than the other way around and that Strauss had a Jewish daughter-in-law and so Jewish grandchildren.

But Wagner never. Hitler was infatuated with him from his teenage years and undoubtedly found soulful if not political inspiration in his art. Whether Wagner intended anything like such effect upon a fascist is another matter.

Why does he inspire such intense feeling for and against? Particularly in Israel.

For those seeking an answer beyond he was a bad and horribly anti-Semitic man (and surely that alone is insufficient – Henry Ford, Walt Disney and the jury’s out on Shakespeare)…..there is no single answer but consider the following..

He is convenient. There is a Yes Minister episode where James Hacker wants to take a moral stand against a particular smallish country on a matter of principle. Why Sir Humphrey asks, if it’s a matter of principle, don’t you take the same stand against the Soviet Union for the same action? Well replies Hacker, they are just too big and too powerful.

When government takes the gut wrenching decision that the time is right (for Geo/economic reasons) to accept reparations from West Germany, something has to fill that void in the soul. And where government, in such excruciating circumstances, feels it is the custodian of the nation’s soul, it has to listen to the anger and try to placate. Music is the soft underbelly of fascism. I may drive into Tel Aviv in my Volkswagen but I will not listen to Wagner on the car radio. It’s something to hang onto, something on which to pour out vitriol and grief. And who can deny that to Holocaust survivors?

Moreover, music is emotional, evocative. It stirs the soul whereas Volkswagens go from A to B. Wagner is far from a unique composer in this regard, yet many, Don included, contend that he had special qualities when conveying depth of feeling and life experience. Contrary to the popular conception that his music is mainly loud, bombastic and long it is often in fact anything but…ok it is long. Therefore whilst arguments about money generally and the Israeli GDP in particular can be held at a rational level, arguments around music rip at the soul of the nation. For a soul in torment, that cannot be tolerated.

More so, as was regularly maintained, Wagner’s music was played at the death camps where it was used to torment inmates, who even had to march to their death to its nationalistic strains. On a recent visit to Auschwitz my daughter was told by a tour guide that on arrival prisoners were greeted by an orchestra playing Wagner. So it has been given some historical credence but…Did this happen? Is it more than apocryphal?

Validation of anything concerning concentration camp life has an essential evidential difficulty; few lived to tell the story. But that must cut both ways. Proving a negative is also difficult. But of the thousands of  testimonies given at the trials at Nuremberg and Jerusalem, there is little reference to  Wagner’s music being played. One reason may be, why would prisoners know or care? Like today, beyond perhaps Ride of the Valkyries, relatively few would know Wagner’s music if they heard it. It would have been another piece of classical and probably German nationalist music.

In the early 1930’s at Dachau (and elsewhere but especially there), by design, German music was used to intimidate, upset and even (they thought!) culturally improve prisoners but in those early days, inmates tended to be political opponents, not Jews qua Jews, this being well before the Final Solution was implemented or even conceived. See this article of Holocaust Music for further reading on the use of forced and voluntary music in the camps.

Such testimony as there is, tends towards music being heard from officer quarters several hundred yards away. If those officers were into opera, then Wagner was by far the most popular opera composer of the time. But there is little to suggest that Wagner was used as an instrument of torture in any sort of systematic way. Though Ben-Zion Leitner, an usher of the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv and anti-Wagner protester, always maintained so, from personal recollection, whilst other Israeli survivors are equally vehement that it was not.

This of course is not a seriously researched piece but others such as Na’ama Sheffi, also conclude that there is little or no conclusive evidence that Wagner was “weaponised” in this way. The probability is that he and no doubt Strauss, Beethoven and a plethora of German nationalist street songs were used in a vindictive way on a personal and ad-hoc basis.

What also made Wagner so difficult to take, was the extent to which, generally at the whim of Hitler, he was the Party composer of choice and that he represented the soul of the new fascist Germany, with anti-Semitism at its heart. All true.  Yet also significant was the politicisation of Bayreuth after Wagner’s death, initially by Cosima but forcibly so by his son-in-law Stuart Houston Chamberlain and his daughter-in-law Winifred Wagner (nee Williams), both British. The former, a proponent of Arthur comte de Gobinau’s racial inequality theories (rejected by Wagner), who happily extracted from his father-in law’s writings what he needed to suit his purposes, a salient one being the aggrandisement of the Wagnerian dynastic myth and its place in the new Germany. The latter, Winifred, embraced Nazism in every respect and was infatuated with Hitler personally (irrespective of her husband) and all he stood for.  Wagner was long dead, could not have foreseen the Nazis and there is as much to suggest he would have rejected them as the opposite of a Feuerbachian or Schopenhauerian ideal. Also worth noting while on the subject, that his last opera, Parsifal was banned by the Nazis because of its Christian overtones, albeit it has many other interpretations, including what one would have thought would have been a rather useful line concerning pure blood. Don can find little (or no) evidence of  the Nazis highlighting an anti-Semitic message in Wagner’s operas and one expects that had they thought it there, they would have done so.

Finally (finally for Don’s idling at least), there was his fervent nationalism. He was a nationalist and yearned for the reunification of Germany which indeed he saw in his lifetime. But nationalism, in modern negative terms, was not necessarily so then and his politics were generally “Left wing” on  his terms and in his context. His nationalism grew out of being born in Saxony, under the yoke of Napoleon. In his town alone, in excess of 50,000 Saxons were killed by the French before he reached puberty. His nationalism was fuelled by Young Germany; a romantic movement looking to throw off the shackles of a hierarchical religious and codified society. It revered nature, free love and women’s emancipation. In a funny way, reminiscent of some of the early Zionist youth movements and the lyrics of some of their songs don’t sound so good when taken out of context. Yes, anti-Semitism was never far from the surface at the Young Germany festivals. Such were the times, not only there but across Europe. One expects that few movements of self-determination, then and now, would stand up to scrutiny if put under the microscope.

Concluding thoughts..

So as ever with Wagner, matters remain controversial and evidence inconclusive.  We know he was a genius, it is undeniable that some of his music, poetry and the messages they convey are some of the most profound subtle and important ever written.

He was an anti-Semite but history is littered with worse. However they tended not also to be a musical maestro. Or if they were, their timing was better and they didn’t precede a fascist dictatorship. Or if they did, that dictatorship wasn’t so successful at genocide. It seems to Don, that Wagner’s greatest crime was drawing all these strings together into a neat bundle. A manageable bundle to be used by all sides. It is undeniable and readily understandable how and why his music came to be symbolic of the Third Reich. But it also goes to show that Wagner could be used and iconized by the victims of the Holocaust as much as by the perpetrators; whilst logic dictates that, long since departed, he can only be neutral and oblivious.

Personally and as a Jew, even leaving to one side the sheer joy gleaned from his art, there is when watching a Wagner opera, maybe an infinitesimal extra burst of pleasure attributable to Hitler’s wish to deny Jews…. Period; and yet here we are, free to like it or loathe it. It’s like kicking Hitler in the ball; his one and only..


Enough with Wagner, Israel and Nazis, time for something controversial. Whisper it but the David Moyes effect may actually be happening and not only in a bad way.


So at last to Stratford and a review of David Moyes’ first month.

First home game, Leicester and it looked like business as usual; we start ok, the opponents score with first attack, confidence drains, Dementors suck life from the crowd save those plucky chaps that remain up for a bit of booing and the team eases seamlessly to another home defeat. Same shit, different manager. Except the crowd held its nerve and just before half time Kouyate used various anatomical parts to bundle home something we thought extinct – a goal in the first half. Cue split second of suspended belief while we checked in which half we were playing, then pandemonium, relief, half time whistle, cup of tea.

Also a touch of Schadenfreude towards the 5000 so-called fans for whom its obligatory to leave the stadium temporarily on 40 minutes and permanently on 80.

In the second half, raucous support infected the players which in turn bounced back to the crowd. It’s not often the crowd merits a mention on Match of the Day but we did and we got one.

Don and Little Don sit in that mass of humanity known affectionately at the Stratford Bowl-eyn, as the East Stand. We’re generally a polite lot, don’t like a lot of noise, occasionally a whistle or polite applause. Frankly the main observed activity seems to be smart Alecks trying to smuggle a pint passed those fearsome (sic) stewards. Little Don does his bit to stir emotion and occasionally its a duet with Don but generally and more’s the pity,  its library-esque. So it was a funny thing mid-way through the second half, when for no apparent reason, everyone went berserk. Everyone was at it and not just singing….dancing. For fuck’s sake, dancing! What the hell was going on? The game stopped to have a look, cameras panned over the crowd as the ground reverberated, aircraft flying overhead tipped their wing. It was quite something; the sort of something that happened in the last ten home games at the Boleyn (but not much before – lets not kid ourselves) and we all remembered we have a voice and it’s not an offence to use it. My it was liberating! Don used the cover of general loud cavorting to slip in an unconnected Spurs slur and insulted a couple of unreceptive would-be girlfriends from 30 years ago.  By god it was good to be alive.

And then …Everton.

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Goodness me it was dross. And not just from us. Don’t let the score kid you, they too were awful. Five attempts on target and four goals. Actually four attempts when one considers two were bound up in Rooney’s penalty. But that is deflecting from our drudgery. The first half was one of the worst performances I have ever seen. The second half we actually played some football and any football was enough to send Everton into a tizzy; that’s how bad they were. One could say luck deserted us; Creswell hit the bar and Jordan Pickford had the nerve to palm Lanzini’s penalty safely away rather than conveniently back into his path as per Hart/Rooney. Manners!

And then that Rooney magic against the run of play and it was 0-3 and game over. Lets not fuck around with sour grapes. It was amazing skill from one of the best players of his generation.

Apparently the players were all getting fitter but that doesn’t happen over night…well something needed to happen and quick…

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Don’s not much of a gambler but even he was tempted by circa 100-1 in a two-horse race. Fortunately as we were one of the runners he thought better of it, too busy wondering what bitcoin was.

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Lambs to the slaughter bla bla bla, bah bah bah.

Ensconced safely behind the couch that we put behind another couch, Don and Little Don zapped on the TV and awaited incoming. Decked out in funereal black, the boys tentatively entered the fray.

But bugger me sideways, that’s West Ham for you. Has Don learned nothing since 1969? Optimism constantly crushed and just when one expects annihilation, they put in a creditable performance.  Declan Rice deserving special mention in dispatches. Yes we lost but moral victory was ours and that, after all is what really counts….

Chelsea.

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Were it not for Spurs, this lot would be top of the list when Don is king of the world and its comeuppance time. Don spent the day cavorting on Watership Down for a 60th birthday bash (I kid you not and lovely it was too), so it was left to Little Don and his grandfather to fly the family flag. As no one needs to read a report from an absentee, I won’t bother. Suffice to say the Wellington Arms in Berks/Hants was treated to a fine and drunken rendition of Bubbles much to the annoyance of all present.

And I would also add that Creswell looks much more at home in the back three and King Arthur can wreak havoc knowing he has some cover.

A few weeks back, Don purveyed the fixtures and predicted the Hammers would not only be bottom but also detached by Christmas Eve. Delighted to report that seems unlikely (though never underestimate our ability to implode) and we approach the Arsenal game in surprisingly good heart. We’ve beaten off Chelsea, we’ve beaten the snow…..now bring on the Gunners.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI! 

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017

In Which Don learns to cope with disappointment and stinking the place out.

Post 23

March 1970. Don was 9 and a half years old. Life to that point had smiled upon this little boy. Immediate relatives all alive and in good health, no major crisis. Yes, tonsils and adenoids had gone missing at Whipps Cross hospital several years earlier but the plethora of toys garnered as a result more than made up for the loss. Unlike the East End a generation earlier, Clayhall did not suffer a Luftwaffe blitz, Don was not plucked from his family and evacuated to Bedfordshire and West Ham had won most trophies on offer, both on domestic and world stage. The sun generally shone. What could possibly burst this bubble of contentment?

One of Don’s heroes upped and left, that’s what. Martin Peters transferred to Tottenham for a then record of £200,000 with an ailing Jimmy Greaves coming the other way. Up to that point, it was inconceivable to Don that anyone would want to leave the Hammers, never mind to Spurs. £200,000?? What did money even have to do with football?

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Martin Peters, born Plaistow, grew up at West Ham, idolised by the fans. Yet there he wasn’t. Gone. It was a watershed moment. It dawned on Don that it was possible that players’ relationship with the club was different from fans’. Whether concepts such as ambition, career advancement, security and family planning (steady), formulated properly in Don’s mind or simply huddled into a general queasy feeling, history does not record.

Either way, Don was disappointed and grew up a little. And so must we with Dimitri Payet. Of course these days your average nine year old is so well versed in FIFA football finance, they could draft his new contract so it is the under sevens and over 30’s that deserve our sympathy. He is going and we won’t see his like again down the London Stadium for a long time. Despite (or perhaps because of) the bitterness currently festering, we mustn’t lose sight of what a wonderful player he is. Like Tevez, it was a bit of luck that such genius wound up with us and we must cherish the golden season we had. Last season was always going to be epic but none of us could have anticipated the quality of the football, results and memories created by the team, largely instigated by Payet. He was our Toscanini, our von Karajan.

This season the genius has gone missing. Can we cope without this Payet? Easily. In creative terms he has been average and defensively a disaster; time and again losing the ball in dangerous areas and exposing a dragged out of position defence. Can one replace Payet of last season? Impossible for a club like us. Domestically, only Coutinho comes close. I wouldn’t put Özil or Erikson in the same class, good as they are.

And cope we did against Crystal Palace.

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Don missed it, visiting a daughter who is being a hippy in the desert, so it was left to Little Don to represent the family. By all accounts a stirring second half performance incorporating (inevitably as Don wasn’t there), the goal of the century. I won’t go on – who needs to read my account of not being there?

Earlier in the week it was with great pleasure that Don returned to the Stop!Hammertime studios to record a podcast looking back on various recent defeats – so a laugh a minute. Actually not as depressing as it sounds and if you didn’t catch it, you can do so here:  Mike Dean: Schrodinger’s Prat .

To compound matters, we have our transfer activity. Little annoys Don more than seeing our constant and even official communications on what business we are trying to do. Its like we have a policy of keeping Daniel Levy in the loop so he can scoop us at the last minute. Fortunately (sic), they have I fear, moved out of our league on the transfer front but I swear other clubs are not as vocal as we insist on being. I read with disappointment and amazement Jacob Steinberg’s piece in The Guardian, that in the history of the Premier League we have not had a 20 goal a season striker – that’s 25 years! Read the full horror here . So why am I surprised we have failed to nail down that sharpshooter in the last window or this? Misery doom and gloom; and all this before we have seen Trump in action.

And yet, in what we at Don Towers assume is now PPE (post Payet era), does one detect a new cohesiveness and bunker spirit, hitherto absent? Its almost as though the stadium needed a jolt to set it on fire and maybe this has been it. There is a yearning among the support to be passionate but needs a catalyst. Passion is needed from the team to unleash passion from the support. We have had a taste. Slaven in his almost tearful press conference is a rock on whom one can rely in difficult times. Several skillful members of the squad, now out of Payet’s shadow, seem to be chomping at the bit to show what they can do, .

So there you have it, despite a week of disappointment, Don is really looking forward to the next few games.

It should not be hard to link Wagner to a post on disappointment. It characterised most of his adult life as project after project failed for every conceivable reason other than himself, until finally getting it right. But I’m not sure I am going to. This is about Payet.

There is much to look forward to re Wagner in future posts. Die Meistersinger is coming to town in March and as well as seeing that (several times), Don is looking forward to a one day study guide to that masterpiece in February. The wonderful Opera North production of the Ring Cycle is coming to our screens. Don saw that last summer in Nottingham and reviewed it extensively on here. Why one would watch semi-staged on tv I’m not sure but there we are, more on that in real time.

So there you have it. We’ve shed tears, we’ve rented our collective hearts asunder and we’ve cracked heads on walls. All fun activity no doubt but none of it shall return us the Payet of last season. So lets get what we can for him and move him on asap. Don doesn’t always agree with Redknapp but Harry had it right when he said if Payet plays for us again, he’ll stink the place out.

If you have been, thanks for listening.

COYI!

©DonnertheHammer.com 2017