You may have heard of the game, The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon – http://snipurl.com/w8izl – 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.
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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.