After last weeks shocking revelations in our Unsung Heroes of football series involving the screen operator, this week we turn to the man who is responsible for literally setting the tone before, during and after the game. The stadium announcer is the link between what goes on on the pitch and the crowd. We know many of these fine individuals all of whom have magnificent tales to tell, but what better person to add to our gallery of heroes than Jeremy Nicholas, a man who has outlasted 5 managers now at Upton Park!
So to put the myths to bed, let’s head on over to E13 and see what goes on during a match at Upton Park.
To many fans you are Mr West Ham. A matchday is not the same with you on the mic on the edge of the pitch. West Ham is known to have a few famous fans (Russell Brand, Kiera Knightly, Ray Winstone and Courtney Mitchell from Eastenders) so who is most famous in your phone?
Tommy Docherty who I used to co-present with on TalkSport
You did the stadium announcing in the background for FIFA07. Did you slip in a few ficticious names? And were you tempted to mention Mr Moon?
I’ve been the voice on FIFA 06 The Road to the World Cup, FIFA 07, FIFA 08, FIFA 09 and FIFA 10. I’m waiting to hear I’m on FIFA 11. I usually slip ten announcements of my own into every game. Mr Moon arrives and departs on FIFA 10. Every car I’ve ever owned has left it’s lights on or is illegally parked in one or other of the games. I’ve also mentioned friends as lost kids and congratulated colleagues on their weddings.
Talking of our astrological friend, Do you ever find out why Mr Moon is in the ground?
The legend of Mr Moon is shrouded in secrecy. He doesn’t usually stay very long and then he goes. I think he’s a fair-weather fan.
Your background is in radio presenting – including a prestigous Sony award. So what is the biggest gaffe you have made on air?
Before they were famous I introduced a song by The La’s calling them The L.A.s
I am sure most fans think you simply turn up at 2.55pm on a Saturday, grab your mic and stand by the pitch. Now is your chance to debunk that myth. What does you typical matchday look like?
I have a meeting four hours before kick off with the rest of the matchday team. That’s 11am on a normal Saturday.
What about research on the players – “making his 150th game for the Hammers today is…” who does that for you?
I do my own research.
Do you ever meet up with your fellow announcers to swap tips? And have you ever been asked to “fill in” at a game when the regular announcer loses his voice?
There’s never been an official meeting of announcers, but I know a few socially. We all do things differently.
I was once asked to announce at Leyton Orient when their man was not available. They’d been given permission to approach me by West Ham. I turned it down, because I’m not an Orient supporter. I often went to watch them as a kid, but it’s not the same as being a fan.
The only other announcer’s job I’d consider would be England. I did have talks about being the England announcer when the new Wembley was being built, but they decided to go with the Manchester United announcer, who’d done a fine job when England played games at Old Trafford.
Maybe I’ll get the call up one day. I did the second half when England played Australia at the Boleyn Ground, because the former England announcer left early to go to his sister’s party. Australia were two nil up at half time. We won my half by a goal to nil and I announced the debut appearance of a young Wayne Rooney.
What is the strangest request that has ever been handed to you to announce?
I’ve had lots of wives go into labour during games. I don’t announce them as they are obviously wind-ups, especially as they usually happen during Sky games when people sitting at home can hear them.
I also have to look out for birthday messages for people with names like Mike Hunt or Hugh Janus.
Have you ever been in involved in a bet to slip in a particular word or song title. a few years ago working at Twickenham we managed to slip in the word Pengiun for a £50 bet.
Not as a stadium announcer, but we used to do it in football commentaries during my local radio days. I remember fitting the word ‘leg-over’ into a commentary and nearly losing it.
Real Madrid famously gave its employees and accredited press a branded fold away bike for a Christmas present a few years ago. What is a typical West Ham gift?
I’ve always wanted a Brompton folding bike, but no luck so far. For the first few years in the job, I was given a West Ham desk diary every Christmas. I don’t think I’ve had anything recently. You may not have heard, but we’ve been in a bit of financial trouble, so belts are being tightened and rightly so.
Being a consummate professional I assume that a pre-match beer is a complete no no?
Yes I never drink when I’m broadcasting, speaking or announcing. Afterwards I’ll have a cider or a vodka. I have a gluten intolerance so beer is out. As a member of the London media set, it’s expected that you have some sort of fashionable allergy, so I chose gluten.
You were born in East London so when did you first taste the matchday atmosphere at West Ham, and did you hear the announcer at the time and say “Dad, one day that will be me”?
I was born in Cambridgeshire and moved to Clayhall in East London when I was six. I was very shy as a kid, so I don’t think I would have dreamt of becoming the announcer.
What is the best part of your job? I assume the worst it picking off Sir Alex Ferguson’s chewing gum from your shoes after we’ve played Manchester United?
The best bit is announcing a West Ham goal. We’re all going nuts but I’m the only one of the thousands who’s got a microphone. I know when I announce the goalscorer, everyone will cheer. That’s a real buzz.
Do you go to away games, and if so do you sit with the hob nobs?
Because of the gluten intolerance I’m afraid hob nobs are out. Which is a shame as I really liked the chocolate ones.
Being an after dinner speaker and events host, I’m busy at weekends. As it is I pass on a lot of gigs to fellow speakers, because of West Ham home games. I mainly speak in the South East, so the away games I can usually fit in with an evening event are Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham and Chelsea.
Last year you spoke with our good chums at WestHam Process. You made a couple of predictions I’d like to remind you of – “Savio was class” and West Ham would finish in the Europa League spots and maybe a club…Remind me never to ask for a Grand National prediction! So this season what are the expectations?
The Savio quote was, ‘I haven’t seen him much, but the word is, he’s going to be class’. The Europa League quote was, ‘can see us with a fully fit side again pushing for one of the Europa League spots’.
Clearly we had horrendous injury problems. Whoever said Savio was going to be class must have been meant he was still in a class, as he looked like a boy out of his depth to me.
When West Ham sign someone new, how do you get to know them? Does anyone introduce them to you?
I usually just go up to them and say hello.
A move to the new Olympic Stadium or a redeveloped Chicken Run?
I was married in 2006 at the Boleyn Ground, so it’s going to be a wrench to see it go, but it has to be the Olympic Stadium. I went on a tour round the site with a TV crew recently with Olympic triple-jump champion Jonathan Edwards. It’s hard not to be excited about it when you see it. The travel links are going to be brilliant. It will hold more spectators and it will give us the clout to take on Spurs and Arsenal.
When you worked for BBC Radio Nottingham, Brian Clough hit you. Ever been assaulted by any other famous people?
Cloughie is the only one to have punched me, but we had a laugh about it later and he’s still one of my heroes. I’ve had run-ins with Matthew Kelly, Christopher Lee, Gordon Strachan and a few others, but nothing physical.
Some people may not know that West Ham is only part of your working life. You also own a company that prepares people for life in the media spotlight. Any interesting names that you have trained and then seen them demonstrate the skills on TV?
I devised a system called Talking Toolbox, which teaches speaking skills for TV, radio and live audiences.
I also run training sessions on how to add humour to business presentations. This came about after years of listening to boring business speakers in my role as a business events compere. You can find out more about my training sessions at www.TalkingToolbox.com
I also wrote a book called MediaMasters which is interviews with 26 people in the public eye who I think are masters of the media. There’s a couple of Hammers in there, Phill Jupitus and Iain Dale.
I’m still doing TV reporting for East Midlands Today, Inside Out, BBC News Channel and various other outlets. My forte is the And Finally feature. It’s the bit at the end of the bulletin that sends you to bed smiling, forgetting the politics and murder at the start of the news.
My favourite reports are David Beckham’s head on a melon, the crossbow divorce couple and the Face of Elvis on a piece of Stilton cheese. You can see them all on my website www.jeremynicholas.co.uk
Jeremy Nicholas has been the West Ham United stadium announcer since 1998. During the season we will also be featuring the “Jeremy Nicholas Column on the blog – the thoughts and reactions from everything going on in football, and not just at Upton Park. You can read his blog about West Ham at www.MrMoonHasLeftTheStadium.blogspot.com as well as his regular column that will be featured on these very pages. Hats off to Jeremy!