With undeniably cool fans such as Newsnight’s Grand Inquisitor Jeremy Paxman and Ralph Ineson (Finchy in “The Office“) behind the mighty Leeds United, it can fairly be said that we don’t suffer from an “embarrassing celebrity fans” problem. But, as I wrote just the other day, Man U certainly do – and on the evidence below, so do those other mid-table EPL also-rans, Tottenham Hotspur.
Celebrity fanship is a real phenomenon nowadays – much more so than back in the Eighties when being a football supporter was apt to have you marked down as a dangerous psychotic, fit only for a back-to-front jacket and the padded cell. But football is just so respectable these days – the social cachet is such that no decently self-promoting celeb can afford to be without his or her “lifelong love affair” with (insert name of club here). And whoever that club may be will come to be linked in the public mind with the celeb in question – so it’s a choice not to be taken lightly, and there’s some pressure to get it right first time or lay yourself open to charges of opportunism and infidelity – as with Zoe Ball who was a Liverpool fan but brazenly jumped ship to “support” Man U. Here are ten ‘celeb’ Spurs fans who, after another under-achieving season, might now wish they’d chosen more wisely. Swift change to Arsenal, anybody…?
10. Warren Mitchell
Mitchell isn’t all that intrinsically embarrassing as he’s a pretty good actor both on screen and in the theatre, so he only just sneaks onto this list in the least-cringeworthy tenth position. The point is, of course, that he is most famous by far for his portrayal of a West Ham fan as Johnny Speight’s brilliant satirical creation Alf Garnett. Many of his legion of fans – or Alf’s legion of fans – think he’s a genuine loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant ‘Ammer. And all the time, he’s actually a loud-mouthed, bigoted, ignorant Spurs fan! Not that there’s any other kind of Spurs fan, of course – as we shall go on to see…but still. How ironic is that?
9. Michael Fish MBE
Michael’s claim to fame is embodied in the letters following his name – which do not, as might be supposed, denote some anachronistic patrician honour. They actually stand for “Major Bloody Error”, and refer to the most outstanding meteorological cock-up of our times.
On 15 October 1987, Michael was quietly going about his business, guessing whether dark clouds might mean rain, when he mentioned that a woman had called in to the BBC, saying she’d heard a hurricane was on its way. “… well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”, smiled Fishy, reassuringly.
A few short hours later, the hurricane that Michael had failed to see coming hit South East England with a ferocity unparalleled in three centuries. Most embarrassing, of course, for Michael Fish – in fact he hadn’t been quite as embarrassed from that day till the times when “Hurricane Manchester City” and “Hurricane Arsenal” hit his favourite team Spurs and blew them away completely.
In later years, Fish fishily tried to excuse himself by claiming he’d been referring to a hurricane in Florida. Hmmm. It’s a shame Spurs couldn’t come up with so creative an excuse after that famous 0-6 debacle at the Etihad really – isn’t it?
8. Peter Purves
These names are starting to get a bit cringier now, as we move away from the more mildly embarrassing end of the list. Peter Purves was of course one of the famous “Val, John & Pete” trio, still remembered by those of my generation as the quintessential, definitive Blue Peter team. Sadly, Peter was best known for being neither John nor Val, inhabiting a sort of vague hinterland of anonymity as the other two made their names with sticky-back plastic or sky-diving. Poor Peter Purves was the least popular of the three by a distance, and indeed it is claimed that even Petra and Patch, the Blue Peter dogs, and Freda, the programme’s tortoise, got more fan-mail than he did. Purves is also reasonably well-known as an early Dr. Who sidekick, as well as for having a surname that sounds comically like “pervs”.
Speaking of which, in 2008, co-presenter on Blue Peter Val Singleton revealed that she’d had “a brief fling” with ‘Pervs’. Blue Peter indeed. I’ll let you insert (fnarr) your own “Val’s knickers” jokes here.
7. Egil Olsen
Egil Olsen is a man about whom quirky and diverse facts abound. He famously wears wellies to work, and was once sacked, partly for his scruffy appearance. He is a fanatical adherent of zonal marking, and was seen after one match, head in hands, deeply despairing that his beloved system had been so ineffective – with atrocious marking leading to two out of three goals conceded by Wimbledon at Bradford.
He was sacked on another occasion, this time by mail, for being “too nice” – by the Iraqi national team, forsooth. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of geographical trivia, his nickname as a player was “Drillo”, and he was a player once and manager four times for a team called Frigg. But most bizarrely of all, Egil is a Spurs fan. Now explain THAT, if you possibly can.
6. Sid “RickAAAAAYYY” Owen
I prefer to go with a gut feeling, and base my verdict on the verifiable facts. He’s a bit of a one-hit wonder as an actor, serving a long stint on “Eastenders” as “RickAAAAYYYY”, his character being mostly engaged in slinking away round corners as a foghorn-voiced ginger actress bellowed his name repeatedly. Such is the stuff of stardom, but Sid gave it all up in 2012 after 24 years, citing heavily traumatised eardrums. It is rumoured that Eastenders writers are still trying to come up with another line that Patsy Palmer can say convincingly.
All may not be lost for Patsy though, as RickAAAAYYYY may well be back – Eastenders seeming to be his refuge of choice after failed ventures, such as Strictly Come Dancing, elsewhere. Looking judiciously at this record of poor decisions and embarrassing situations, the answer to Sid’s football-supporting conundrum appears fairly obvious: Spurs. As Jimmy Nail once said of suspected Tottenham fan Wayne on “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet” – you can just tell.
5. Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton
Emma, the product of an unlikely union between a karate instructor and a milkman, has had a chequered life and career. She was making a reasonable impression as a wannabe actress, but showed signs of the direction she wanted to take when she turned down the role of a habitual drug-user, saying that she wanted to maintain a wholesome image – presumably she felt that the drug role on top of supporting Spurs would be just too much.
Emma then joined a pop group named Touch, becoming one of five girls united by a common determination not to let a total lack of singing ability prevent them from ending up as stars. A swift name-change to The Spice Girls, and they were on their way. Bunton was dubbed “Baby Spice” due to her pigtails, her babydoll dresses and her “girly girl” image.
As someone who has made a little talent, some freckles and a great deal of window-dressing go a mighty long way, Bunton may be seen as possibly the most outstanding example of the archetypal Spurs fan – but she’s a fair old way from being the most embarrassing out there. Read on…
4. Rupert Grint
As an outstanding success in the Harry Potter franchise, playing schoolboy wizard Ron Weasley in all of the films, Grint’s embarrassment coefficient really depends mainly upon his being ginger, and of course a Spurs fan – a lethally-shameful combination. Grint had landed the role of Ron Weasley at the age of 11 by sending in a video of himself, rapping about his reasons for wanting the part. Despite his previous experience amounting only to local theatre groups and school plays, the casting team asked to see him – and the rest is history.
As with the other two of the three main characters, Grint grew up with his role, and became closely identified with Ron Weasley. Rarely can an accident of hair colour – though the ginger gene is extremely dominant – have led to such a successful and unheralded career.
Rumours abound, and what is known as “fan fiction” too, about Ron’s supposed romantic entanglement with the disconcertingly cute Hermione Granger. All of this would not normally cause too much interest in the world outside Hogwarts – but in the context of Spurs’ pallid performances since they sold their only half-decent player, it’s positively riveting. And, let’s face it – we had to have at least one ginger in an embarrassing celebs article.
3. Bruce Forsyth
The stance of this article could be summed up in Orwellian style, thus: “Arsenal fan good, Spurs fan bad”. But Bruce has gone way beyond the pale, claiming to be a fan of both clubs. This heinous position is comparable to that of a solider who claims to support both Confederate and Unionist sides, or someone who claims to be – and I shudder to even write these words – both Leeds United and Man U. Grooogh. It’s THAT bad.
Apparently, Brucie – known as “Boy Bruce, the Mighty Atom” at the start of his 75-year (and counting) showbiz career – originally supported Arsenal, but when the Gunners’ ground was requisitioned in World War II for air-defence searchlights, their home games were played at Spurs’ White Hart Lane – and this apparently led the then youngish Forsyth to support both teams – the act, we may agree, of an unnatural freak.
In a lifetime’s career as an old-style vaudeville entertainer, Brucie has never been anything other than in demand, proving that, for the type of people who like Bruce, Bruce is just the kind of performer they like. Latterly, his act has been mainly about catch-phrases, speculation around the health of his various toupees, and the increasing prominence of his chin. He will still eagerly essay the odd dance step here and there, even at the age of 106 – before tottering off to his bath chair with his latest blonde nymphet.
Bruce may claim to live on both sides of the Arsenal Spurs divide – but with a CV like his – he’s just GOT to be Tottenham.
2. Richard Littlejohn
What we have here is a real-life Alf Garnett, and not the cosy, satirical creation designed to heap ridicule upon an ignorant, racist bigot – but the genuine article; a man whose views are so disgusting that it is a national disgrace he has a platform of any sort to expound them.
Should anyone doubt the depth of Littlejohn’s prejudice and hate, there’s a clue in the fact that he writes a twice-weekly column for the Daily Heil, a publication that depends heavily for material upon the British Government’s many hate crusades, which they then faithfully preach as fact to their readership of nasty little suburban fascisti. He previously contributed similar garbage to the Sun.
A count of the number of references Littlejohn makes to homosexuality in his columns has been recorded, in the Guardian‘s annual “Littlejohn Audit”. This stated: “In the past year’s Sun columns, Richard has referred 42 times to gays, 16 times to lesbians, 15 to homosexuals, eight to bisexuals, twice to ‘homophobia’ and six to being “homophobic” (note his scornful inverted commas), five times to cottaging, four to “gay sex in public toilets”, three to poofs, twice to lesbianism, and once each to buggery, dykery, and poovery. This amounts to 104 references in 90-odd columns – an impressive increase on his 2003 total of 82 mentions. There is, alas, no space for us to revisit the scientific study which found obsessive homophobes more responsive to gay porn. But Richard, we’re begging you: talk to someone.”
Littlejohn was forced to adopt a temporarily lower profile when, in December 2012, he wrote an article criticising teacher Nathan Upton for returning to the same school – after announcing gender reassignment surgery to become Lucy Meadows – instead of going for a different post somewhere else. In March 2013, Lucy Meadows was found dead, apparently a case of suicide. A subsequent inquest found press coverage of her sex change to have been “ill-informed bigotry” and that Richard Littlejohn (a nom de plume intended to deflect attention from his embarrassing real-life name of John Littledick) had “…carried out what can only be described as a character assassination, having sought to ridicule and humiliate Lucy Meadows and bring into question her right to pursue her career as a teacher”. Petitions calling for Littlejohn to be sacked gained 240,000 signatures.
Richard Littlejohn: hack writer, bigot, homophobic bully, racist, pedlar of hatred and, last and least, Spurs fan. Not a pleasant creature, is he?
1. Iain Duncan-Smith
And now we have one of the very few candidates for a person who plumbs even greater depths of depravity and loathsomeness than Littlejohn. Iain Duncan-Smith is the discredited Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in Cameron’s government. He is also a failed former Tory leader.
In his current role he, too, has blood on his hands, with his hated and widely-criticised “Bedroom Tax” driving many to the brink of despair – and at least one person allegedly to suicide. IDS is not a man to take disagreement or contradiction at all well. He tends to dismiss criticism of his policies with an airy “I feel I am right”, despite anecdotal evidence mounting up in support of the contrary view. If pressed on any point where he feels some difficulty in defending his position, he tends to resort to snapping curtly at the questioner, having a tantrum and stomping off. He has, however, been caught bang to rights in misrepresenting official statistics with a view to supporting his claims that the policies he has pursued have been effective. In this, he has been shown to be, at best, incompetent and deluded; at worst, a barefaced liar without any scruples at all.
Famously, when Duncan-Smith was asked if he would be able to live on state benefits of £53 a week, he responded “If I had to, I could”. Immediately, a petition was launched by Dom Aversano, a musician, challenging IDS to do just that. After the petition went viral and collected thousands of signatures, IDS beat an undignified retreat, calling the petition a “stunt” and insisting he had nothing to prove, having subsisted on benefits earlier in his life. It later transpired that, in at least one of the periods when IDS claimed he was living on the breadline, he was knocking off an heiress and living rent-free in her flat. Mr Aversano’s petition eventually closed with 482,756 signatures, which is certainly quite a well-supported “stunt”.
Iain Duncan-Smith is a testy former Tory leader, who appears to relish the misery he is currently inflicting on thousands of people who can neither hit back, nor defend themselves. He is a bully, a cheat, pathologically fanatical about punishing the poor and succouring the rich, and a proven liar. He is also a Spurs fan – which, contrary to my usual views, might just be the nicest thing about him. Since the overdue demise of Thatcher, (the Iron Chicken or ‘Attila the Hen’) IDS has risen to the very top of many people’s “Party at my place when so-and-so carks it” list. Needless to say, he’s top of mine. Speed that glorious day.
Every truly big club has its share of celebrity fans. And, as you’ve seen above, so has Spurs. But some are just embarrassing and – as the more reprehensible end of this list has shown – some are truly appalling. I’ve had the odd go at Spurs in the past, largely because – even though I’m Leeds through and through – I have a great regard and respect for Arsenal. But writing this article has given me a surprising feeling of sympathy for Tottenham. Any club with Richard Littlejohn AND Iain Duncan-Smith among its aficionados merits our empathy, our understanding, even our pity. No-one deserves to be tarred with that brush – not even Tottenham Hotspur.