A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
Did you know that WB Yeats would have been celebrating his 146th birthday today? No, me neither until my neighbour earnestly informed me earlier. It's such a tragedy the man was cut off in his prime I tentatively offered, not really knowing how to respond. You're right, my neighbour nodded in agreement, 73 is no age at all.
To be fair, Yeats did win the Nobel Prize for Literature as late as 1923 and was rampantly servicing a pretty young actress well into his seventieth year. In every sense, some of his best work was cranked out in those last fertile years of his life. I've already referenced Second Coming a few times in this blog over the years but it is another of his poems, Leda and the Swan, that most frequently comes to mind whenever I hear his name. There is something about the imagery, even without knowledge of the story that inspired it, that haunted my schoolboy mind. Even now I have a deep mistrust of swans. When the murderer in Nineteen Seventy Four developed a habit of stitching swan's wings to his young victims' backs it created in me a peculiar kind of horror that went beyond anything that David Peace could reasonably have intended. Yeats taught me one of the two things I've ever needed to know about swans; namely, never turn your back on a randy one. The other thing I learnt, courtesy of Half Man Half Biscuit, is if you don't turn your back then one will probably break your arm anyway.
At this point, you might be wondering what all this has to do with West Ham United. Well, I'm not going to lie to you; the connection is so tenuous even Ted Rogers would have dismissed it for being too contrived. In classic 3-2-1 style, remember I told you that Yeats would've been '146' years old today. If you take those figures and add them together you get the number 11. That is the number of footballers in a team; it is also the number on the back of Thomas Hitzlsperger's shirt. According to an article in today's Telegraph, the German, along with Demba Ba, has officially activated the relegation clause in his contract allowing him to leave this summer on a free transfer. Scott Parker has formally told the club that he definitely wants to go also.
Hitzlsperger joined West Ham on a free transfer from Lazio last summer, on a three-year deal, but the midfielder’s season was decimated by injury. The 29-year-old German international is understood to earn £45,000-a-week and although he can also leave on a free it’s understood that manager Sam Allardyce is less than concerned about his departure. The news comes just a week after the German midfielder was made an offer by David Sullivan and David Gold, the owners, to become club captain and the focal point of the team.
It had been thought that Ba would join Newcastle United this week, writes Jason Burt, but they are now facing strong competition from Everton, although they are less willing to pay the £46,000-a-week being demanded by the 26-year-old Senegalese striker. West Ham have already reported Sunderland to the Premier League claiming they made an illegal approach for Ba — which is hotly denied — but cannot stop him leaving for free once he activated the clause. The player has already been offered a new £50,000-a-week contract plus a £500,000 signing-on fee to commit himself to the Hammers. Ba’s history of failed medicals may prove a problem for some clubs and his original deal to West Ham was complicated by his injury record.
Meanwhile, Burt states Parker has already turned down a move to the Turkish club Fenerbahce and wants to remain in the Premier League. The Guardian reports a highly placed source at Upton Park has confirmed that Parker and fellow England internationals, Carlton Cole and Robert Green, are yet to be the subject of an official approach from any domestic clubs. Offers for Parker are still expected from Tottenham Hotspur and, possibly, Arsenal, insists Burt, while Liverpool made a tentative inquiry for the 30 year-old but are no longer believed to be interested. A stumbling block is that, given his age, clubs are reluctant to pay the £8 million-£10million being demanded by West Ham for the player who has three years left on his contract. Green is thought to be interesting Aston Villa, and Cole is believed to be wanted by Queens Park Rangers, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke City.
Allardyce is quickly assessing the West Ham squad with bids already made for Newcastle United midfielder Kevin Nolan and a £1.25 million offer for Blackpool striker DJ Campbell, which also activates a relegation clause allowing him to speak to other clubs. Burt understands that West Ham will have to significantly raise the offer for Nolan to interest Newcastle — a fee of £4 million has been mooted — while Campbell is reluctant to play in the Championship having had a successful season in the top-flight. West Ham are also considering moves for a number of experienced players who are available on ‘Bosman’ rulings have seen their contracts expire including the experienced Ricardo Gardner, who worked under Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers’, as they desperately try and ensure an immediate return to the Premier League.
The Mail think it is another Gardner who is interesting the club; with Allardyce looking to hijack Birmingham City's move for the former Tottenham defender Anthony Gardner. The centre-back is a free agent after his contract expired at Hull City. Alex McLeish had lined up the 30-year-old for a move to St Andrews before the Scot's shock departure on Sunday left the player in limbo. Now the West Ham manager is reportedly planning to take advantage while Crystal Palace are also keen after Gardner spent last season on loan at Selhurst Park. The same paper also reports that the Hammers have rekindled their interest in Everton striker Yakubu, 28, as Leicester are struggling to meet his wage demands of £35,000 per week. Yakubu joined Leicester on loan in January and went on to score 11 goals in 20 games.
Finally this evening, like Leda's egg that hatched Helen and would bring about the birth of modern history, so the coupling with Allardyce has produced the first signing of a brave new era. The official site confirmed Abdoulaye Faye has become the club's first signing of the summer. It marks the third time, the Hammers boss has bought Faye after stints at Bolton and Newcastle. He will arrive at Upton Park when his current deal at Stoke City expires at the end of this month. The centre-back said he is relishing the prospect of linking up with the former Blackburn boss once again as the Hammers bid to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking. "I am very happy to be here at West Ham - this is a great club, a big club and I cannot wait to get started here," Faye told the club website. "For me to come here was no problem, I had other clubs' offers, but I was happy to come here. People may ask why, as the team are in the Championship, but I am excited at the challenge to help get the team back to the Premier League, where I think the club belongs."
When asked about linking up again with his former boss, Faye said: "Sam is a very good manager and I am very pleased to be playing for him again- he gave me a chance in England and he is someone who gives you confidence. He is also someone who I know the players will respect and I think he will bring a lot to the club- the fans will see this also. I can't wait now to get playing for the club, for Sam and for the fans and do my best for everyone."
Faye was released by Stoke at the end of last season, following an injury-hit campaign in which he was restricted to just 16 appearances. The 33-year-old defender had been with the Potters for every step of their three-year Premier League journey and manager Tony Pulis said of him: "His contribution to getting this club to where it is today should never be forgotten. He loved this club and the supporters loved him, so in many respects it is sad to see him move on. But we are moving on and there are times when you have to make tough decisions."
So Alladyce's first signing is a reliable defensive bulwark with Premier League pedigree and lionized to legendary status by those fans he's leaves behind. Although increasinly injured and clearly a star on the wane, Faye brings his imperious presence to the Championship for what is hoped will be a crescendoing swan song. In the words of Tennyson...
The wild swan's death-hymn took the soul
Of that waste place with joy
Hidden in sorrow: at first to the ear
The warble was low, and full and clear; ...
But anon her awful jubilant voice,
With a music strange and manifold,
Flow’d forth on a carol free and bold;
As when a mighty people rejoice
With shawms, and with cymbals, and harps of gold...
By the way, did you know Alfred would've be 202 years old this year, if he hadn't been so cruelly cut down at the age of 83?