You may have heard of the game, The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? I propose a new contender as the centre of the Small World Phenomenon; his name is Morris Keston. And he knows everyone worth knowing.
Morris has co-authored a book with Nick Hawkins, entitled “The amazing life of Morris Keston, Superfan”. His is a 66-year old story that is unlikely ever to be comparable to contemporary fanatical fandom, especially as everyday access to footballers is now nigh on impossible. With a few pennies in his pocket, a patient and understanding wife and a tenacity borne of his love for Tottenham Hotspur, Morris Keston has journeyed globally to follow the team; he has won the hearts of many a footballer and celebrity and appears to have kept his feet on the ground nonetheless. Prior to writing his own book, he even gets a mention in Hunter Davies’ “The Glory Game” of 1972; you will find him included in a chapter about ‘hangers-on’ but he has proved he means so much more to the players than that.
If you bumped into him down the local, this is a man whose stories all football fans would gladly listen to, not simply of Spurs but many great English, European and World teams. And Morris would almost certainly buy the most rounds in.
We have the next best thing to the man himself – his book. Packed to the terrace rafters and back with anecdotes, opinion and humour. He experienced being the butt of a Freddie Starr practical joke (he was accused of being Freddie’s gay stalker whilst enjoying a night at the Sportsman Club in central London); and he was wound up by a West Ham Reserve player in the 1964/65 season who told him, “Spurs could get relegated without Dave Mackay” – that player was Harry Redknapp.
He has not been without influence either. He talked Terry Venables out of becoming Arsenal manager in 1976, was asked by Greavise to chair the Committee for his Testimonial (one of many he has organised) and from the numerous quotations of well-known and much loved footballers in his book, appears to have become their trusted friend, advisor, and confidante.
His love of Spurs was brought closer to home than he ever thought possible when one night, his daughter dropped in on the pub Terry Venable’s owned in the East End, only to meet and later marry Paul Miller. He has clearly always felt Spurs to be family (with the exception of a few Directors) and the feeling appears to have been reciprocated by the players; his parties and generosity were always appreciated, never taken for granted, and players would ditch the official club celebrations and parties for Morris’s instead.
You do not get to know so many footballers without bumping into a few other famous sportsmen and celebrities along the way – and get a few cheeky photos for good measure – Morris fake-punched Muhammad Ali, met Frank Sinatra and flew in his private jet as well as befriending Stirling Moss and nearly losing his breakfast as Moss reversed his car at 90mph.
His love of football even went so far as a religious conversion. In 1962, Morris travelled to Egypt to watch Spurs in a Friendly. At the time, he was unable to enter the country legally as a Jewish man. Luckily for Morris, it was only a form-filling exercise; he quickly noted ‘C of E’ on the form and thus was allowed to continue his worship of Tottenham Hotspur in the land of Pharaohs unimpeded.
There is only really one thing missing from what Morris calls his, “66 year journey of fanaticism”; and that is Bobby Moore’s 1966 World Cup Shirt. You know the one – he is wearing it as he holds the cup aloft at Wembley. Bobby gave it to Morris shortly afterwards. Many such shirts have raised a great deal of money at auction since ’66. What did Morris do with his? … He lost it! (Maybe he should have got the famous dog Pickles on the case?)
Whether you are interested in reading about the games Morris attended and kept note of in his journals from 1952 to 2010 or prefer to know about the footballers, sportsmen and celebrities who have had his name in their address books for years or simply want a book that is interesting, fun and easy to read, then I highly recommend Morris Keston’s “Superfan”; by the end of it, you will feel like you have known the man for years too.
Oh, and in case you are interested, I have a ‘Bacon number’ of 8 and a newly-formed variation inspired by Morris – I have a ‘Keston number’ of 3. See.., the Superfan has made it an even smaller and friendlier world than any Hollywood actor could achieve.
The atmosphere is electric, the pitch an impossibly brilliant shade of green and Spurs, in all-white of course, are playing with that famous swashbuckling style, zipping the ball off the greasy surface with devastating precision and purpose.
Their quick-passing game rips open the usually immaculately drilled defence of their illustrious European opponents and, as the ball hits the back of the net, White Hart Lane erupts in a thunderous, jubilant roar which echoes with magical memories from 50 years of fantastic, floodlit European evenings – the glory glory nights!
European football has a special resonance at Tottenham Hotspur. The spirit of adventure, the romance of taking on the very best, matching their style and technique and, when it all goes to plan, blowing them away with skill, pace and passion, has always fitted in exactly with what Spurs are all about. To dare is to do! In 1963 Spurs became the first British team ever to win a European trophy when they beat Atletico Madrid to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup, and in total the club has won three trophies across more than 50 seasons of European campaigns.
The Glory Glory Nights tells the story of every one of them – from the first competitive foray onto foreign fields when Bill Nick took the great Double side into the unknown of the European Cup to Bale, Modric, and van der Vaart marauding their way to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the 2010/2011 season.
The complete and official story of Tottenham Hotspur in Europe, this beautifully put-together book is packed with spectacular photography, much of it previously unseen, match reports and statistics from every European game the club has ever played, plus first-hand memories and recollections from club legends like Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves, Steve Perryman, Martin Chivers, Ossie Ardiles and Gareth Bale.
On top of that there are new and highly illuminating conversations with some of the greats of the key decades in Spurs’ European history – Cliff Jones and Terry Dyson on the Sixties, Martin Chivers and Phil Beal on the Seventies, Micky Hazard and Paul Miller on the Eighties and Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson on the 2010 Champions League campaign.
The Glory Glory Nights is a spectacular and fitting tribute to Spurs’ glorious European history – specially published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the club’s 1963 European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph.
Doug Cheeseman is a freelance graphic designer specialising in illustrated sports and photography books. He is three-times winner of Best Illustrated Book at the British Sports Book Awards and his books include the acclaimed 1966 Uncovered – The Unseen Story of the World Cup in England, 61: The Spurs Double and Engineering Archie – Archibald Leitch, Football Ground Designer.
Martin Cloake is a journalist and author who has supported Spurs since the early 1970s. He was editorial consultant on and a major contributor to The Spurs Opus, is the author of The Pocket Book of Spurs and co-author with Adam Powley of a number of other books on the club, including the acclaimed The Boys from White Hart Lane and The Spurs Miscellany.
He has written extensively for Tottenham fanzines and websites and contributes to Sabotage Times.Adam Powley is the author of over 20 books, several of them on Spurs. He co-authored The Boys from White Hart Lane,The Spurs Miscellany and We Are Tottenham with Martin Cloake.
He is the author of When Football Was Football: Tottenham Hotspur and the award-nominated When Boxing Was Boxing. He has written for a number of publications including The Times, Sunday Mirror, The Guardian, Four Four Two and When Saturday Comes.