Last month I visited the Ben Uri exhibition on Smith Square,
Westminster. The exhibition was ‘Art Exit: 1939 A Very Different Europe’. The
aim of this exhibition was to shed a light on the experiences of those who were
vilified in Europe 80 years ago.Walking through this exhibition, one is able to
get a sense of the sheer fear and anguish that some of these artists, who were
fleeing oppression, felt at this time.
Whilst all of the pieces were both touching and
thought-provoking in their own right, the painting that intrigued me the most
was “Refugees” by Josef Herman.
Herman was born in Warsaw, Poland. He was forced to flee his native land in 1938 due to the rising Nazi oppression of Jews. After staying in France for two years he began his new life in the Welsh mining village of Ystradgynlais, whilst his hometown was being torn apart by the Nazis.
Back in his hometown, some of his family were not so lucky and did not escape as refugees, like Herman. It has been said, that the girl in this picture, may represent Herman’s sister. David Herman, Josef’s son, recently explained the resemblance between the woman painted and his aunt: “These people bare uncanny resemblance to my father’s sister, who he painted in a family portrait,” Herman said. “His family, including his sister were not refugees, they were left behind in Poland to be killed by the Nazis.”
The painting that David Herman is referring to is titled, “My
Family and I”, also done in 1941.
Perhaps this painting expressed Josef Herman’s wish for his
sister to have emigrated to Britain with him.
Herman’s own experience of fleeing the ever-growing threats
of anti-Semitism in Poland and Belgium, enabled him to perfectly paint the
scene of horror and potential bloodshed seen in this painting.
The theme of terror is amplified by the dark and dreary navy
backdrop. Snow covers the streets. The refugees in this painting were in dark,
cold place, literally too.
What’s more the child in the bottom left has a facial
expression reminiscent of “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco Goya (as said
in the painting description). The allusion to the dark and gruesome artwork of
Goya, truly displays the horrific content and context in which this painting
was produced. The world of Goya’s paintings were laws and morals
are abandoned, as a father recklessly and barbarically tears the head of his
own son, is also etched into Herman’ painting. Similarly, here laws and morals
seem to have been abandoned, as people are no longer seen as such. Like Saturn,
the Nazis are seen to be barbaric and reckless.
Another important feature of this painting is the inclusion
of the black cat. It can be seen on a rooftop behind the refugees, with a dead
mouse held in its mouth, blood dripping ominously. Herman’s use of the cat
killing the mouse, precedes the death of million of Jews, like Herman’s sister,
at the hands of the Nazis.
Interestingly, Herman also chose to use a black cat in his portrait
“My Family and I”. This time the black cat lurks on the windowsill, but with no
dead mouse drooping from its clench. The consistent use of the black cat is strange
and would seem not to be a mere coincidence. So why would Herman paint a black
cat in two paintings, when they depict vastly different scenes.
Does the black cat demonstrate the effervescent Nazi menace,
which is always present, but which may at times slip into the background? Or
does the black cat simply meant to be a figure of luck and superstition.
Potentially pointing to how Herman was lucky to escape, and his sister not.
Whatever the answer, it sparks up a variety of questions.
When Graeme Souness left his native Edinburgh to join Tottenham
Hotspur in 1970, much was expected of the young Scottish midfielder, not least
from he himself. He repeatedly told the much-loved Tottenham manager Bill Nicholson
that he was the best player at the club, and that he deserved to start every
week. Nicholson clearly had different ideas. Souness would go on to only make
one appearance for Spurs, as a substitute in a UEFA Cup tie. He was quickly
moved on to Middlesbrough in 1972.
In his 1984 book, ‘No Half Measures’, Souness elaborated on
why his Spurs career failed to live up to the expectations. “I owe that North
London club more than one excuse for the way I behaved while I was with them,”
he said, “I was still impatient, and I still couldn’t be told… As usual, my attitude
was the problem and I didn’t try hard enough to put matters right.”
A striking contrast between Souness’ situation and that of
Everton’s new Italian striker emerged before The Toffees game against Wolves
recently. It seems as if Souness is a specialist at highlighting a player’s
attitude, even if it’s his own. The Scotsman, whilst working for Sky Sports
claimed that Kean’s move from Juventus to Everton has set ‘alarm bells off’ in
Souness continued: “Juventus are the wealthiest club in
Italy, given that they’ve got an older strike-force you’re selling a 19 year-old
who won’t be hurting you wage wise. They haven’t got £100 million plus for him.”
His flowing criticism was briefly abrupted as he quizzed
Jose Mourinho on whether Juventus have a buy-back clause on Kean: “Do you know
if they’ve got a buy-back clause, Juve?”
His knowledge, or lack of surrounding the details of the
transfer, suggests that Souness is not in the greatest position to make such a
scathing attack on Kean.
“It doesn’t make any common sense if you are Juventus,”
argued Souness, “which would suggest his off the field activities are not the
Souness wrapped up his point by comparing Kean to the once
wantaway Arsenal striker, Emmanuel Adebayor: “Just about to enter his best
years, Wenger sold him to City,” he said, “they’re not selling him because he’s
not a very good footballer, it’s because of something not quite right
Souness has played for Sampdoria in Italy, whilst he has
also managed Juventus’ neighbours, Torino. Furthermore, his own attitude
problems, previously alluded to, may provide him an insight into a teenage footballer’s
mindset. This suggests that the Scotsman is well informed on football matters,
and specifically Italian football matters to make a sound judgement on this
That is not the case. Despite Souness’ pool of footballing
experience whether that be as a manager or a player, in England or in Europe,
his opinion on Kean is both wrong and dangerous.
First off, Souness’ argument is littered by vague phrases, allowing
him firstly, to make his point by not actually researching what he is about to
say first, and also so he cannot objectively be proved incorrect. ‘Off the
field activities’ is indicative of this unsubstantial argument.
Souness’ first point that “Juventus are the wealthiest club
in Italy” is most likely true. This summer they have signed Matthis de Ligt for
close to £80 million. They’ve also signed a few Serie A defenders for upwards
of £20 million: Crisitian Romero, Luca Pellegrini and Merih Demiral. Add to
this the free signings of Aaron Ramsey, Gianluigi Buffon and Adrien Rabiot and
it seems that Juventus are flexing their financial muscles once more.
However, Juventus are facing an uphill task with Financial Fair
Play (FFP) regulations, following their colossal signing of Cristiano Ronaldo
last summer. As a result they have needed to balance the books somewhat. Kean
was one of 10 Juventus players that was sold for £5 million or more. Most
notably, their star right-back, Joao Cancelo was sold to Manchester City. So
Souness is correct that Juventus are wealthy, but it is not a simple ‘black and
It was also evident this summer that the club tried to
offload Paolo Dybala to both Spurs and Manchester United. Whilst Gonzalo
Higuain was defiant in his wish to stay in Turin, despite Juventus’ wish for
him to depart to Roma. Thus, this is not an issue over Moise Kean’s attitude,
but Juventus’ desire to sell players that they do not view as integral to their
Souness was perplexed as to why Juventus could not command a
fee of at least “100 million” for Kean. Again, a little research into the
situation and Souness’ worries would be cascaded. Kean only had one year left on
his contract. His agent, Mino Raiola is also known to favour his players
running down their contracts, so he can command a greater fee. This was seen in
the case of Paul Pogba, who shares the same agent. So Juventus were either
forced to sell now, or keep Kean for one more season, and lose him for nothing.
For a club pressured by FFP, the latter option was clearly not viable.
His apparent guess that Juventus do not have a buyback
clause on Kean is correct. There is no buyback clause, but the clubs share a
good relationship, and the deal reportedly includes a ‘gentleman’s agreement’
which will allow Juventus to match any future offer for Kean.
Moreover, Souness failed to consider the situation from
Moise Kean’s perspective. He wants to be a starter for a big European club, at
Juventus he was not that- only making 13 Serie A appearances last season. It
was rumoured that Arsenal were interested in Kean, but he rejected their advances
as they too could not offer him first team football, with Pierre Emerick
Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette already at the club.
Kean has featured in every Everton game so far this season,
and he started his first Premier League game against Wolves at the start of
September. His decision to move to Merseyside clearly seems to be highly
charged by a guarantee of football.
Surely this is something that should be applauded, not
looked down upon. A young prodigy who has chosen to move from the comfort of a
European giant, to a new country, all to gain more footballing experience, and to
work his way up the footballing ladder. Yet this is something that Souness has
chosen to lambast.
More importantly, Souness did not touch upon the abhorrent
racist abuse that Kean was subject to, whilst playing in Serie A. In an away
game against the infamous Italian club Cagilari, Kean, who had only just turned
19, was subject to monkey chants from sections of the home crowd throughout the
match. Kean went on to score before holding out his hands in a passive
celebration in front of the Cagilari supporters. Following the match, his team-mate,
Leonardo Bonucci made the spectacular claim that Kean provoked the fans, and
the blame was “50-50”. It would not be surprising if Kean felt that he was not
Perhaps, Souness should have touched upon this fact, and how,
although racism is still present in English football, it is a galaxy away from
the situation in Italy. Just take the example from the Inter match on the same day
that Souness made these comments. Former Man United striker, Romelu Lukaku was
also subject to racist chants, once again, by Cagilari supporters.
Thus, it is a much more delicate and serious situation than
just the players “off the field activities”. Souness, whether deliberate or
not, ignored this.
His comparison of Kean to Adebayor is arguably the most
puzzling aspect of his entire argument. The two players are separated by six
years from the time they departed their respective clubs. And Arsene Wenger
actually wanted to keep Adebayor at Arsenal. Once more, there are holes in
To rub salt in the wounds, the Scot failed to discuss the
transfer of Patrick Cutrone to Wolves. The situation has many parallels with
that of Moise Kean’s transfer. Cutrone is also from Serie A, he also moved for
a modest fee (£16 million), he is Italian, and he is young- only 21.
Similarly, he had no qualms about the attitude of Spurs’
Christian Eriksen, despite the Dane desperately seeking a move away from North
London all summer.
“I don’t know him at all, I’m
assuming he’s not been a problem around the place. I’d play him.”
He does not know Kean at all either.
Does Souness’ criticism of Kean have deeper racial
undertones then? It would be wrong to accuse him of this. But his views should
still be criticised, for implanting an idea into the vast audience that he has,
that Moise Kean, a black footballer, has ‘attitude problems’ off of no basis.
Instead, Kean’s move to Everton should be celebrated.
Firstly, the Premier League is getting a classy young striker, who will only improve.
His courage to make the move from Italy to England and just 19, due to his
desire to play first-team football should be commended, not criticised. The
only “alarm bells” that should be ringing should be inside the heads of Premier
League defenders, as they gear up to face Moise Kean this season.
Last weekend Sheffield United came back from two goals down to gain a heroic 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It left the club with a respectable five points from their opening four games, following a win against Crystal Palace and another draw away to Bournemouth. Sheffield United’s progressive tactics have played a big part in their results so far this season.
Chris Wilder has lined ‘The Blades’ up in a 3-5-2 formation
this season, when going forward this formation fuses into a 3-3-2-2. Wilder has
adopted this set up so the team can maintain triangular patterns across the
right and left sides of the pitch, enabling the man on the ball to always have
a passing option available. A crucial aspect of this system is the use of
overlapping centre-backs, who can often be found in the right and left
Of course, if Sheffield United lose the ball in the
attacking third, then they are vulnerable to the counter-attack as their centre-backs
push on. As a result, they aim to win the ball back or, at least stop the
opposition from attacking as soon as they lose the ball. Sheffield United have
committed 57 fouls, only Crystal Palace (60) have committed more fouls this
season. If they do win the ball back though, Sheffield United are able to reignite
their attack, and this has been something that they have been successful at so
far. At the end of gameweek four, no team starts their attacks higher up the
pitch than Sheffield United, with a higher press than the likes of Man City,
Tottenham and Liverpool.
The fluidity and ingenuity of Wilder’s system have led Sheffield United to two promotions in the last three years. Not only has the club improved significantly under Wilder’s tenure, but it is also clear to see that they play an attractive brand of football. Since the 2016/17, only Pep Guardiola has accumulated more points in the English Football League than Chris Wilder.
However, Sheffield United’s success and style of play has
been not only downplayed, but actually attacked by the British media. Before
the season even began, ex-Man City full-back Danny Mills, most famously
remembered for being left red-faced by Thierry Henry at Anfield, suggested that
Sheffield United would struggle this season. “They’ll be similar to Cardiff,”
stated Mills, “it’s not the most glamourous way of playing. They might play a
little direct at times.”
The comparison to Cardiff is baffling and insulting to
Wilder’s way of playing. Whilst, the two clubs spent similar amounts of money
in the Premier League, Sheffield United aim to keep the ball on the ground, and,
as we have seen press incredibly high up the pitch, an antithetical way of playing,
when compared to Neil Warnock’s tow flat banks of four tactics at Cardiff. Obviously,
Mills had not done his research, it is questionable whether he had ever watched
Sheffield United in either League 1 or the Championship before offering his ‘hot-take’.
Likewise, Garth Crookes belittled Sheffield United last
Saturday, during their match against Chelsea. Crookes predicted that Sheffield
United would struggle this season. A fair assessment potentially considering
the club’s perceived lack of renowned Premier League goalscorers. However, his
insight on United’s play was less fair. “Their style of football is quite basic
for the Premier League”. Despite, claiming to watch Sheffield United three
times this season, the ex-Tottenham man dismissed Wilder and his progressive tactics.
Crookes failed to take note of the club’s high-press, novel use of centre-backs
in the wing-back role, or the fluidity of their players in the attacking areas.
We have seen already, two criticisms not only of Sheffield
United’s quality, but also their style of play. So why do British pundits fail
to recognise they obvious heroic achievement by Wilder, an English manager. And
the manner in which Sheffield United have achieved success, with a brand of
progressive and attack-minded football?
Perhaps the answer opens up more on the consequences that
are attached to the way that football, and 21st century life are
progressing. It is fanciful to suggest that Mills and Crookes have watched much
of Sheffield United, even if they claim to do so. Their opinion is based of
what they ‘think’ is true. In the case of Mills, this may be a lingering
attachment in his head between Sheffield United now, and Sheffield United when
they were last in the Premier League. After all, their manager then, Neil
Warnock is the Cardiff manager now, thus explaining the ‘similarities’ between
Sheffield United and Cardiff. However, that was in the 2006/07 season, nearing
on 15 years ago. The club have been transformed since, and any opinion that
links Sheffield United now, to the team when they were last in the Premier
League is both false and bemusing.
Maybe Crookes pins Sheffield United down to the same canvas
of Neil Warnock’s football, just like Mills?
Crookes opinion on Sheffield United’s ‘basic’ style of play
is a reflection of a wider problem in football punditry today. Sheffield United
don’t hold the financial capabilities of the likes of Man City and Liverpool. They
do not hold the same calibre of player. The club and the results are instead built
of Wilder’s tactics and the belief in the ethos that the ‘whole is greater than
the sum of its parts’.
Invariably now, discussions on popular broadcasting channels
such as BT Sport’s ‘Gone in 60 seconds’ or Sky Sports ‘The Debate’ feature debates
over the Top 6 and VAR, but constantly cascade the equally important tales, such
as Wilder’s Sheffield United.
This is indicative of the obsession with topics surrounding
money, or ‘quick’ debates, such as ‘was that VAR decision correct?’ No longer,
are there discussions actually on football, and the way it is played,
especially amongst the less popular teams in the Premier League.
Mills and Crookes may have coagulated Sheffield United now
with Sheffield United from 2006. Or they have no real interest in Sheffield
United, or the way the play football, as they are not a ‘Top 6’ club, they do
not have limitless financial backing, and their manager isn’t a Dutchman that
plays an attacking 4-3-3. Their clear disinterest with the story of a club that
doesn’t have a £500 million costing starting XI displays both how some pundits fail
to actually watch football that does not involve the elite clubs, and how their
perceptions of teams revolve around the ‘glamour’ of finance.
The 1999/2000 season in the Primeira Liga finished in a similar fashion to all the previous campaigns. Sporting Lisbon won the league, four points ahead of Porto, and eight points clear of Benfica. It seemed evident that for the next season the top of the league would paint a similar picture- only differing if the top three were to juggle positions. This had been the case for so long in Portugal- the last a team outside of the ‘Big Three’ won the league was back in 1946 when CF Belenenses were champions. This was soon to change, however.
Boavista FC were founded in 1903 by British entrepreneurs and Portuguese textile workers (hence the chequered pattern). They have yo-yoed through Portugal football division, but they remained firmly in the Primeira Liga in the decades leading up to the turn of the millennia. Boavista’s success in the league did not come to fruition overnight. Their fortunes gradually improved thanks to chairman Valentim Loureiro, who was at the club between 1972 and 1995. Eventually his son, João succeeded him- it was here when the club’s golden hour had begun. João Loureiro appointed former FC Porto and Portugal midfielder, Jaime Pacheco as their manager in 1997, and soon the club’s league position ascended. They were the team that occupied the place below the ‘Big Three’ in 1999/2000. Despite their position in the league granting them entry into the UEFA Cup Qualifying Round, there was a mild sense of disappointment surrounding the club. The previous season Boavista had finished second to Porto, accumulating 71 points in the process- 16 more than they managed in the preceding campaign. Still, Boavista’s back-to-back finishes in the top four showed that they were a club on the up and ready to challenge for titles, although, it still seemed unlikely that they would ever get their hands on the coveted Primeira Liga title.
Pacheco’s team certainly had talent. Boavista’s goalkeeper,
Ricardo, went on to make 79 appearances for Portugal. At the heart of their
defence was Pedro Emmanuel and Litos, with the former going on to win the UEFA
Cup and the Champions League. Boavista’s midfield was equally talented- the
diamond jewel of it was Bolivian midfielder, Erwin Sanchez, dubbed as ‘Platini’
for most of his career- indicating the South American’s skilful and graceful
style of play. At the base of the midfield was the Portuguese pair of Rui Bento
and Petit- who provided an added industry to the team. The latter would go on
to play 148 times for Benfica and 57 times for Portugal. The more eccentric
players came in the forward positions, Duda, Silva and Martelinho, who offered pace
and creativity going forward. Pacheco had created a wonderfully balanced team,
filled with dynamism, ingenuity, and a resilience that made them incredibly
difficult to beat, and clinical going forward.
Despite this, the club at the time were still in the shadow
of the ‘Big Three’ in Portugal. Midfield starlet Nuno Gomes was sold to
Benfica, as was the proficient forward João Vieira Pinto. Meanwhile, young
forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was sold further ashore- to Leeds. It did not
seem that the club was soon to break the power-fold that had been present for
over 50 years in Portugal. The fact that many of their players were poached by
other clubs was unsurpirisng given how well the Boavista team had been
performing, and the lack of financial might that the club had to keep their star
assets when bigger clubs came calling. In Portugal, Boavista were dwarfed by
the ‘Top Three’ in terms of finances. These clubs could offer players greater
salaries, as well as higher quality training facilities. The record transfer
fee of Boavista by 2000 contextualises the lack of funds available. They spent €700,000
on Elpídio Silva. Benfica’s record transfer fee by 2000 was in excess of €6.7
million spent on Brazilian midifielder Roger. The gap between Boavista and the
top teams in Portugal was profound- making their achievement even greater.
So how did they do it? It started with a win, a convincing
one, beating Beira-Mar 4-2. This was immediately followed up by an emphatic 4-0
drubbing of União de Leiria. A draw and defeat followed, but the club responded
like champions beating Benfica 1-0. In what proved to be their crucial part of
their season- Boavista went on a 15-match unbeaten run, crucially during this
period they were able to beat the city neighbours, and closest challengers FC
Porto, once more the scoreline read 1-0, thanks to a 31st minute
goal from Martelinho. Following a defeat to Braga at the beginning of the year,
the club once more responded by not losing in 12 and winning 10 of those games-
accumulating 32 points from a possible 36. They had wrapped up the title with a
game to spare, which no doubt allowed everyone associated with Boavista to
breathe easy, as they faced second placed FC Porto on the final day of the
season. Despite FC Porto thrashing Boavista 4-0, the league title was already
secured and the shackles were off- the club had made history.
There were several key parts that made the Boavista machine
tick. The defence was solid and robust, and they conceded five goals fewer than
any other side, and four of those goal came after the title was already
secured. Going forward the team was also clinical, scoring 63 goals. The vast
array of goalscorers that Boavista had typified the collective spirit and
attitude of the team. No player scored more than 11 (Silva, Duda), but the whole
was greater than the sum of its parts. The quality of hardwork and defiance definitely
was not lost on Pacheco and the Boavista team. Capello later remarked that, ‘no
other club in Europe runs as much.’
Boavista’s famous Primeira Liga win was the pinnacle of their
success. Although, they did not immediately fall off the pace, the club started
to regress in the following seasons. A respectable second place finish in the
2001/2002 season may have suggested that the club would become a staple at the
top of the Portuguese league, as the club amassed 70 points, and conceded a
mere 20 goals. Furthermore, their Champions League campaign put them in the
limelight on the biggest European stage. Two draws against Liverpool, as well
as victories over Dynamo Kiev and Borussia Dortmund enabled Boavista to progress
from the Champions League first group stage. Despite failing to qualify from
their second group stage, the Portuguese club put in a respectable performance,
but fell short to Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Boavista did progress further
in European competition in 2002/2003- this time in the UEFA Cup, but the club
were knocked out of the semi-finals by a late Henrik Larsson goal, which
prevent an all-Oporto final. This success was not shared on the domestic front,
as Boavista slumped to 10th place.
Whilst the club enjoyed some success on the pitch, they were
struggling off it. Winning the Primeira Liga and competing in both the
Champions League and the UEFA Cup meant that the club had to give out improved
contracts and big bonuses. The poor financial situation was compounded by the
need to construct the new club stadium (Estádio do Bessa XXI) in time for Euro
2004 which was to be held in Portugal. The Portuguese government failed to live
up to the financial support that it had promised for the stadium, and the club
plunged into debt.
In 2004 Pachecho was let go by the club, as they once more
lurked in the mid-table of the Primeira Liga. But worse was yet to come. In
2008, via the ‘Golden Whistle Enquiry’, it had emerged that both FC Porto and
Boavista FC were involved in the alleged bribery of referees in the 2003/04
season. In 2008 Boavista were relegated to the Liga de Honra (Second Division),
due to the verdict that the club had ‘coerced’ match officials in three Liga
games, versus Belnenses, Benfica and Académica. Former president João Loureiro
was suspended for four years, and the club was fined €180,000.
A long five year spell, battling in both the Liga de Honra
and the Segunda Divisão (Third Division) finally came to an end in 2014, when
the Portuguese Professional Football League made the decision to promote
Boavista back to the Primeira Liga following several judicial reviews, as the
club leapt forward two divisions. Around the same time João Loureiro rejoined
the club, and he helped to cut the debt from the ‘Golden Whistle Enquiry’ in
Under the guidance of former midfielder, Petit, Boavista
finished a respectable 13th in the 2014/15 season, as the club looked
to consolidate their Primeira Liga status. Since then performances have
gradually improved as the club has gone on to finish 14th, 9th,
8th and 8th once more last season. And whilst the club
are miles away from winning the Primeira Liga, fans will be grateful to experience
the top Portuguese division once again. Meanwhile, it seems that the ‘Big Three’
are set for another spell of dominance- no club other than Sporting, Benfica
and Porto have lifted the trophy since Boavista’s triumph at the start of the millennium.