Harpo Marx was a happy Hammer! New exhibition lifts lid on celebs and their teams

Todays Tales

Osama Bin Laden was a big Arsenal fan. John Lennon had an unswerving love for York City. And Harpo Marx enjoyed nothing more than cheering on West Ham United at the Boleyn Ground.

Hard to believe? Absolutely. That is until you delve into a recently discovered archive of information relating to football teams and their celebrity supporters. The evidence is there in black and white, red and white and in some cases, blue and white. And all of the amazing revelations have come to light thanks to one man’s obsession. For 73 years, Simon Cheetham, himself a devoted Luton Town fan and definitely something of a Mad Hatter (geddit?), trawled the world for details of superstar fans of the clubs we love and, indeed, those we love to hate.

Of course, there will be loads of love and hate around this weekend when the play-off finals take place at Wembley over the Bank Holiday weekend.

As for Simon, no amount of effort was too much as he traversed the globe for decades in search of the information that would complete his body of work. Yet for years, unmarried Simon refused to release the details into the public domain. It wasn’t until he died last May that anyone other than his man servant, a chap named Kevin O’Brien, got to see the exhaustive findings.

Now, all that has changed. And fans can find out for themselves just who of any importance followed their particular favourite team. Simon’s 54,000 pages of notes, documents, photos, telegrams and correspondences are now on show at the V&A Museum in London in an exhibition curated by Wayne Rooney’s mum Edna. Here you will find that Archduke Ferdinand was a Bantam (Bradford City), JFK was a big Exeter City follower and Eva PerĂ³n was a Coventry City season-ticket holder.

Expert Andrew Doublet, an auctioneer with prestigious London firm Updagun Ners Ltd, says the collection is both fascinating and intriguing. He said:

“The collection is both fascinating and intriguing. It is breath-taking and must be worth a small fortune I wouldn’t wonder.”

Rotherham United fan Bill Melater spent nine hours perusing the items on show and he was astonished to learn that the Millers enjoyed the support of a clutch of famous people, including Ronald Reagan, Buffalow Bill, Annie Lennox and Charlie Chaplin.

“The level of detail Simon has acquired is almost unfathomable,”

said Bill, a warehouseman from Burley, in the New Forest.

“I came here expecting to be amazed and I was actually doubly amazed.”

Other notable celebrities and figures from history who had an unusual affinity with football clubs include diva Tina Turner, who is a big fan of Huddersfield Town; movie star Clint Eastwood, a former season-ticket holder at Plymouth Argyle and former Prime Minister of Vietnam Ho Chi Minh who was once a regular on the terraces at Preston North End.

Celebs and their teams: An exhibition is on at the V&A until October 31, 2019.