With decades of service to Tottenham Hotspur under his belt, head kit man Steve Dukes has certainly built up plenty of friends and favors to help him provide the signed memorabilia for a remarkable charity auction which begins this weekend.
Tottenham players have come and gone over the years but Dukes has been a constant at the north London club. Fans might see him dashing about on a match day or even have him watching laughing with the players at Hotspur Way in Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary series last year.
The club’s affable head of kit and equipment is one of the most popular figures at Spurs and that’s why so many have flocked to help him with the special auction that begins at Graham Budd Auctions on June 11. The huge fundraising effort comes after the 54- year-old received a phone call two years ago that nobody ever wants to take.
“Two years ago I lost my dad in a cycling accident. He was a fit, fit guy. He always did the London to Brighton and London to Cambridge rides. He said to my mum, just on a normal day, ‘I’m going to pop up to the farm to pick up some bits, I’ll be home in half an hour ‘. He never came home.
“He was found with three fractures in his skull. It was a tough one. It was so unexpected. I was here [at the training ground] on the day, Jose [Mourinho] was manager. I got the call, air ambulance were on site, “Dukes told football.london. “As soon as I heard those words I knew it was serious. He got flown to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel to the trauma unit. He was put on a life support machine. He went in on Monday and they turned the life support machine off on the Saturday. “
In the aftermath of 73-year-old Charlie’s death, as the loss hit him hard, Dukes looked for a way to focus his thoughts and he found it in trying to give something back to the Essex & Herts Air Ambulance, who treated his father at the scene and in transit, and need £ 750,000 a month to remain operational.
“I did not realize the air ambulance was a charity. I just felt that the after care they gave us was great. They came round to my mum’s house, sat down and went through everything that happened on the day, gave support on the day in the hospital and they later came round with all the reports so we could understand things, “he said.
“I always remembered that. It was a nice touch, whereas with others it felt like moving on to the next case. It did help. It helps massively and they’ve always been there. So I wanted to do something for them and for me. I struggled and my way through is to try to do something positive. It does help me. It takes my mind off of things. I’ve lost my dad but if I can help save a life with what we’re doing, it makes me feel a better. I’m doing it for my dad’s legacy. “
Last year, Dukes called in some favors and put together an auction of signed shirts from all 92 of the clubs in the Premier League and Football League and through the event and a JustGiving page, a total of around ,000 47,000 was raised, £ 34,000 of that coming from the auction.
This year’s event is expected to blow that sum out of the water though thanks to the incredible support Dukes has received from not only Spurs stars but friends across the Premier League and world of football. It’s a special 16-day timed auction running from this Saturday, June 11 to June 26 and the huge catalog of items can be found at Graham Budd Auctions.
“I’m hoping this year does well, because I’ve got some really good stuff. Last year was great, it was unique because we had one from every one of the 92 clubs but this year I’d class it as prestigious, he said. “I’ve got Sonny’s signed Korea shirt, Harry Kane’s signed England shirt when he scored a hat-trick as well as Spurs shirts for both and Hugo Lloris’ signed gloves and shirts. There’s a Dejan Kulusevski signed Juventus shirt, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg signed Denmark shirt .The players have been great and in helping me promote it.
“We’ve got a Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed Milan shirt, signed by all the squad, and they’ve just won the league. I’ve got a Lorenzo Pellegrini Roma shirt signed by the whole squad, an Atalanta squad one, Ajax. It’s a bit like a kit men’s alliance. Some have come through them. So many people have helped me out.
“I’ve got Robert Lewandowski and a Bayern signed shirt, Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo, Philippe Coutinho, Gareth Bale. Every team in the Premier League has done me a shirt this year signed by at least one of their players, like Lacazette and Smith-Rowe from Arsenal, Firmino at Liverpool, De Bruyne from Manchester City, Declan Rice from West Ham.
“I’m just really hopeful that it does well. Jan Vertonghen gave me his signed Benfica shirt. There’s also non-football things. Owen Farrell gave me his Saracens shirt and Mako Vunipol did, Finn Balor the wrestler who is a big Spurs fan gave me signed things, Jonathan Trott his signed Ashes shirt.
“There’s Conor McGregor’s signed glove, things signed by Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, Ricky Hatton, John Conteh, Joe Calzaghe and Lewis Hamilton. It’s amazing. We’ve got just under 80 lots. If I got £ 34,000 last year and I didn ‘t really promote it, I’d love to get to £ 50,000 this year. I want to get to £ 100,000 in total across the two years. “
Dukes forges strong relationships with all of the Spurs players and it’s telling that Kane, Son and Lloris all provided three items each from their personal collections for the auction and Tottenham players past and present like Bale, Christian Eriksen and even Carlos Vinicius, who was only on loan at the club for a season, all contributed as well as many stars of the European game. All of them have been sharing details of the auction on their social media channels as well.
When asked how he retained so many strong relationships with players, Dukes thought for a moment before saying: “It’s just nice to be nice. I won’t change. I treat everyone the same, whether you’re the cleaner, Harry Kane or Sonny. Everyone is the same and I’ll take the mickey out of everyone. Nobody is put on a pedestal.
“I just say it how it is. I muck about with the players. I walk in the dressing room and absolutely hammer them and they probably like that because they’re so used to people bowing down to them. Whereas I’m completely the opposite and I think they do like that. “
Dukes has been part of the fabric at Tottenham for decades, starting off part-time in 1987 and working his way up from a steward at White Hart Lane, to working in the tunnel area and essentially becoming something of a matchday player liaison.
“Then in 2005/6 I started [as a kit man], I was thrown in at the deep end, “he remembered.” When I first started I was doing the reserves and then suddenly I was doing everything from the first team down to the U8s. Football has changed from then as well, it’s become an absolute monster.
“I love it. I’ve come from doing it on my own to what we have now and now I’m head of it, so I’ve got a team who work with me. You build some brilliant relationships with people and I ‘m in a position where I can pick up the phone and speak to people in Juventus or Milan and we help each other out. ”
He added: “Sometimes I pinch myself because I’m just a normal bloke who is lucky enough to be doing a brilliant job. People see the glitz and glamor of it but it’s not glitz and glamor, it’s a job to us and it’s a really important job. People probably do not fully understand what the job entails, not just us but what most people do inside a football club. People just see us on a matchday running around and presume that’s all we do.
“Don’t get me wrong. I do feel privileged. I do pinch myself because when I was a kid I’d watch people like Joe Jordan, who I’ve now met and am good friends with, and it’s the same with Pat “Jennings. I remember him as a star in the 1970s and to class him as a friend now, it’s unbelievable.”
Dukes is already planning his fund-raising efforts in the future to take the shape of charity football matches and he has started lining up some potential star names.
“I do not think this will be an annual thing with the auctions. I’ve probably used up all my favors!” he admitted. “What there seems to be an interest in is an annual charity match. I’ve had some good feedback from people, even those like Ledley King, Les Ferdinand, Tim Sherwood and Rafael van der Vaart and Jermain [Defoe]so I’m thinking about doing that. ”
Steve Dukes’ remarkable collection of sports memorabilia will be in the special timed auction from June 11-26 across 79 different lots. You can find the auction now by clicking right here or you can simply donate to his great cause on his Justgiving page right here.