As we all know Tottenham have many dedicated fans, but few are more dedicated than Morris Keston, a fan so devoted to the mighty Spurs that a book is due to be published about his amazing life.
The biography of Morris Keston is entitled Superfan! and it’s author is the writer and fellow Tottenham fan, Nick Hawkins.
Nick was kind enough to speak to TottenhamBlog this week about the book, Morris and his own love of Spurs. The book can be pre-ordered at Amazon where you’ll find the cheapest available price of £11.69, or you could even win a copy by becoming a fan of Morris Keston on Facebook and posting a picture of yourself in your Spurs shirt.
Nick, welcome to TottenhamBlog. For those not in the know, what makes Morris Keston a ‘Superfan’?
The fact he’s been to over 5,000 matches, 3,000 involving Spurs, makes Morris a bit special. He’s been to see nearly every FA Cup final since 1952 and has also witnessed many of England’s big games over the years.
When he was younger (he’s 80 this year), Morris would think nothing of going to four or five games a week. In 1952, he started recording every game he went to see in journals. He’s still got them today. When I was writing ‘Superfan’ with him, I’d be looking through these tatty exercise books in disbelief. A typical week for him would be, Saturday – Spurs v Liverpool, Tuesday – Plymouth v Bury, Wednesday – Bristol City Reserves v Bristol Rovers Reserves, Thursday – Worksop v Chesterfield, Saturday – Newcastle v Spurs.
Aside from his passion for our national game, for me, Morris earns ‘Superfan’ status through the friendships he’s made with the players he paid good money to watch. Of course, the game’s changed a lot since Morris’s early days as a fan. Supporters today can follow their teams all over the globe, but the closest they’re likely to get to the players might be a quick glimpse before they get on the team coach or maybe an autograph outside the ground. In the fifties through to the early nineties, Morris found it easy to mix with the players socially. He didn’t have bodyguards and agents stopping him!
Morris says, as soon as he’d made a couple of friends in football it just snowballed. It all started when he gave Spurs legend Tommy Harmer a lift to a match one day. Harmer then introduced him to Terry Medwin and Medwin “passed him on” to the rest of the Double side. Before Morris knew it, Jimmy Greaves, George Cohen, Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst were knocking on his door for a chat and a cup of tea after training sessions during the 1966 World Cup. Since the sixties, Morris has been collecting sporting superstar mates like you or I collect Panini football stickers (or is it just me that still collects those?)
How did you first meet Morris and the idea of writing his biography blossom?
In June 2008, I was writing a story for ‘Hotspur’, the official Spurs monthly magazine, about overseas tours that Spurs had taken over the years. I managed to find lots of fans that had been to games in the eighties and nineties, but was struggling to find anyone who had been on any pre-season or end-of-season trip during the sixties and seventies. The club even put an appeal out on the web site, but that yielded nothing. By chance, Morris had helped the magazine’s editor a few months earlier with a story about veteran fans, and he gave me Morris’s number.
Like most Spurs supporters out there I’ve read The Glory Game, so Morris Keston was a familiar name to me. I was actually a bit nervous before I spoke to him. Let’s face it, players come and go but Morris has been around forever. He was certainly a legend amongst the older Spurs-supporting members of my family. I remember after telling my Dad that I’d interviewed Gary Stevens, he said ‘Gary who?’ but when I mentioned Morris Keston’s name he sat up and fired off twenty questions.
I called Morris and we ended up speaking for two hours on the phone. I was totally enthralled by some of the stories he told me about his trips to places like Egypt in 1963, Israel in ’65 and New York in ’66. You name a country and Morris has been there with Spurs, usually staying in the same hotels as the players and socialising with them in between games. I was convinced that his extraordinary life in football was worth telling in a book, and to my surprise, one hadn’t been written before! That really was a shock, especially as Morris has been friendly with many of Fleet Street’s finest writers over the years. I guess I got lucky!
Was it hard to sell a biography to publishers that focused on a fan rather than a famous player or manager?
No. I was always confident that once publishers heard a few of Morris’s stories they’d be interested. Every publisher I spoke to was keen to get involved, even during the recession. In the end we chose to go with Vision Sports Publishing as they’d written a few quality Spurs books before like Boys From White Hart Lane and the Martin Chivers one with Paolo Hewitt. I also knew they had a good record of getting their books on the shelves at the main retailers, like Waterstones, WH Smith, Amazon and of course in the Spurs Shop.
The first chapter of the book reveals how Morris once came very close to being Spurs chairman. What sort of chairman do you think he would have made?
A good one, I’m sure of that. A good chairman for me is one that’s always had a huge passion for his team. He must also have a good business head on his shoulders and be capable of getting the balance right in terms of success on the field and money in the bank. Morris had his own ladies’ clothes business and was a very good businessman by all accounts, although I sometimes wonder how. He could hardly have been in his office as he was always travelling to football matches! That’s probably the sign of a great businessman, letting the business run itself!
In my opinion, Alan Sugar and Irving Scholar each had one of the two attributes needed to be a great chairman. Morris may have had both, but I guess we’ll never know!
It seems that over the years the Spurs hierarchy have kept Morris at arms length, when other clubs offered him places on their board. Why do you think this was?
Morris was offered directorships at Derby, Fulham and Stoke, but he turned them down, as he couldn’t stomach missing Spurs games.
It’s a question we explore in the book. Sidney Wale who was the chairman in the late sixties and seventies seemed to see him as a threat to his position, but chairman since then have all got on well with Morris. In fact, even Wale got on well with him later on and was a guest when Morris’s daughter married Spurs defender Paul Miller in 1981.
I know Morris wouldn’t have turned down an offer to sit on the Spurs board, but at the same time, he has never coveted a position either.
What was it about Morris that lead to Spurs players and other top stars allowing him to enter their circle?
He’s got a great personality. I must say that the best thing about working with Morris has been the friendship that I’ve developed with him. I can totally understand why three generations of Spurs players have all taken him to their hearts.
In the 20 months that we’ve been working on the book, we’ve been through a lot together. Sadly, my father died suddenly a few months into writing ‘Superfan’. One of the first condolence cards that arrived on my doormat was from Morris and his lovely wife Sylvia. They’d do anything to help their family and friends in times of trouble. Terry Venables said the same when I interviewed him for the book’s foreword.
Many ex-players and their families have benefitted from Morris’s kindness. He has in the past organised fund-raising memorial matches for the families of Cyril Knowles and Dave Clement (QPR), and also testimonial games for the likes of Bobby Moore, Sir Geoff Hurst, Gordon Banks and Alan Mullery, to name just a few.
Morris recently invited me to the 25th anniversary dinner at the Dorchester for the 1984 UEFA Cup winners. I witnessed for myself that night the love and respect the players have for Morris, with the likes of Steve Perryman, Ossie Ardiles and Keith Burkinshaw all coming over to our table and embracing Morris like a long-lost relative. The players from all of Tottenham’s great teams share a strong bond today and Morris is very much part of that.
Morris features in the chapter of The Glory Game entitled ‘Hangers On’? Was he annoyed at being described this way?
Yes. In fact he called Hunter Davies up to take umbrage with him about it! Morris reckons it was the players who used to hang around him! He doesn’t hold grudges though, and like me rates The Glory Game as the best football book ever written. We are hoping to set up a magazine or newspaper interview with Hunter and Morris to help promote ‘Superfan’. I hope it comes off, as it should be an interesting reunion!
What is your favourite Morris Keston anecdote from the book?
There are so many, honestly, it’s hard to choose. Sylvia won’t like me saying it, but it’s probably the one about a dangerous liaison that Morris had with a girl in Vienna. You’ll have to buy the book to find out what happened, but it’s every man’s nightmare.
As you’ve mentioned, you’ve written many articles for the club’s ‘Hotspur’ magazine. Who were you most excited at being able to interview?
Pat Jennings. I interviewed Big Pat last month and it was a special moment for me. I was born in 1970, when Spurs had the great side that won two League Cups and the UEFA Cup. As a toddler, my auntie Pam would sit me on her knee and recite the Spurs team to me over and over again in attempt to get me to talk. She’d say, ‘Number one Pat Jennings, number two Joe Kinnear, number three Cyril Knowles…’ well, the first word I apparently said was ‘Pat’. I must admit, I was going to tell Jennings that, but bottled it at the last minute. I’ll tell him next time, unless Morris tells him first!
Is there any former Tottenham legend that you haven’t interviewed, who you’d love a chance to talk with?
Jimmy Greaves. I never saw him play, but he’s like a God to me. I’ve got pictures of Greavsie hanging in my hallway and office at home. He actually used to play for the same football club as me when he was a schoolboy (Manford Way in Hainault, Essex). That makes him even more special. I’ve met him at book signings, but have never interviewed him for the magazine. Hopefully, Morris will sort that one out!
A lot of your articles look back over the history of the club. If you could pick one player from the past to complement our current squad, who would it be?
Most seasons I’d say Greavsie, but with Jermain Defoe we’re doing OK in that position. It would have to be Glenn Hoddle, my second favourite Spurs player. Hoddle in the middle of the park, instead of Huddlestone, would see Spurs challenging for the title.
Final question. What do you think that Tottenham will achieve this season?
I’d love to see us finish in the top four, as I’m certain that we’re capable of finishing above City, Villa and Liverpool. I’d sacrifice all that though to win the FA Cup. It’s a crime the way that the FA Cup has been devalued over the years and would ‘love it’ if Harry and the boys gave the fans a day out at Wembley to remember.