Filed: Friday, 16th September 2011
By: Staff Writer
Jeremy Nicholas has recently released his latest book, Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium, which recounts his first decade as West Ham United's public announcer. We managed to get Jem to take a few moments out of his busy promotional schedule in order to answer a few questions...
KUMB: Jem - thanks for taking the time out to talk to us. This is the age of social-networking; please describe MMHLTS in a Twitter-friendly 140 characters or less?
JN: Itís a funny football book with lots of stories from behind the scenes during my first eleven seasons as West Ham announcer.
KUMB: In your book, you refer to your (brief) time as a stand-up comic; do you think you will ever give it another try?
JN: Yes, in the book thereís a chapter about my six months as a stand up on the London circuit. I love telling funny stories and prefer doing the after dinner speaking nowadays. However I have done some stand up in the last couple of years and Iíve plans to do some more in the future.
KUMB: You refer to the play-off semi-final against Ipswich as 'the best atmosphere I've ever experienced' in MMHLTS; has there ever been a time when it's been so bad you've wondered why you bothered?
JN: I loved the Ipswich play-off, but I think the atmosphere is still pretty good. Not as good as in the old days of standing, but compared to other grounds weíre still noisy.
KUMB: The book is scathing of one or two individuals; was there anything you wanted to publish but weren't allowed to? Either for fear of legal reprisals or being admonished by your employers?
JN: I didnít want to say anything that would reflect badly on the club as Iím not only a supporter, but an employee. However thereís a few people who do get a bit of stick in the book for obvious reasons; Scott Duxbury for sacking me, Glenn Roeder for relegating such a brilliant squad and Nigel Reo Coker for sulking.
KUMB: You describe your relationship with our former CEO [Duxbury] as strained, at best; do you ever afford yourself a little smile at the fact that you are still here whilst he got the boot?
JN: When Scott brought me back after five months in the wilderness he told me I had a job for life. So in that sense it was a shame that heís now gone. I wouldnít ever smile at someone losing their job but Iím much happier under the current owners.
KUMB: We were both present the night Brian Glanville branded Alan Curbishley 'pathetic', which you recount in the book - what's the most unprofessional act you've witnessed since becoming the club's announcer?
JN: Curbs is one of my favourite managers but it was a bit daft to take on the press like that. I think Benni Big Mac not being able to get down to his fighting weight was ridiculous. How lacking in motivation do you have to be not to be able to slim down for a World Cup the one time itís held in your own country?
When Benni described Karren Brady as Ďthe devil with titsí, I loved her reply that she was meant to have them and he wasnít!
KUMB: You talk about how you used to take a fair bit of stick from the Boleyn crowd. Do you think that supporters' attitudes towards you have changed or mellowed over the years?
JN: I got a lot of stick in early on in my career, but after I was sacked they tried three different announcers with mixed success. After years of dreading reading the message boards, I was suddenly getting positive comments and Iíll always be grateful to posters on KUMB who called for my return. I think people have realised Iím not that bad as announcers go.
KUMB: You've state how you finally got a full-time place in the dugout upon your return to the club in 2009. What's the funniest thing you've heard whilst sitting 'on the bench'?
JN: Yes, Iíve sat in the dugout since the days of Alan Pardew. Itís the one thing Iíll always be grateful to him for. Oh and promotion! Thanks Pards. As for the funniest thing, I remember someone behind me shouting Ďhit him Alaní during Pards' squaring-up with Arsene Wenger incident. It made me laugh for ages, especially as Pards looked scared stiff of Arsene, whoís quite an intimidating presence close-up.
KUMB: You say you're a stickler for certain things. What's the most annoying term - 'Hammers', 'they reach the sky' or 'Upton Park'?
JN: I prefer ĎIronsí and the ĎBoleyn Groundí because I think that marks you out as a West Ham fan, while the other terms are more generally used by other football fans. but I certainly donít mind ĎThe Hammersí or ĎUpton Parkí as they are perfectly acceptable alternatives.
However Ďthey reach the skyí drives me mad. It completely takes away the sense of the song. Itís Ďnearly reach the skyí. I donít suppose anyone will listen as itís been wrong for years. It doesnít even scan if you say Ďtheyí. I will always sing Ďnearlyí along with my fellow pedants, but as long as itís sung loud and proud I donít really mind.
Hands-on: Greeting the Boleyn faithful
KUMB: You've had to announce a series of minutes' silences/applause over the years for departed footballing legends - but what is the most difficult announcement you've had to make?
JN: Reading the news of Bobby Mooreís death on BBC Greater London Radio was tricky. The script was a bit wetter than usual by the end. My voice almost went when I called for a round of applause for Jack Collison after he played against Millwall in the cup just after the death of his dad.
KUMB: A reference to KUMB.com was one of ten surprise/hidden messages that could be heard in your commentary for FIFA 10. Any clues as to who we can expect to hear about in the new version, FIFA 12, which goes on sale shortly?
JN: Itís great to be the voice of the announcer on the FIFA games. I always smuggle in announcements of my own for each new version when it comes out. I canít reveal whatís on FIFA 12, but my favourite ever announcement was on an earlier game, it was a wedding announcement for my friends Dave Cheeseman and Nicola Underdown. Iím sure people thought Iíd made the names up, but I didnít. You can check, theyíre in the acknowledgements in the front of the Mr Moon book, because they both read and commented on early drafts of the book, when I was still finding my writing style.
KUMB: You bemoan the fact that your hair has virtually disappeared since becoming West Ham's announcer - have you never considered 'doing a Rooney'?
JN: No Iím proud of being bald. I think Rooney is betraying his roots. If he has any roots left!
KUMB: Why do you think the atmosphere at top-flight football grounds had disappeared - and what do you think can be done to improve it?
JN: Because people have to sit down now. I donít think it will ever be as good as it was unless terracing comes back. Having said that as someone who was at Hillsborough commentating on the game that turned into the disaster, I would never want to stand at a game again. However I think itís worth looking at safe standing systems like they have in Germany. Iíd support that at the Olympic stadium. But personally Iíll be sitting down.
KUMB: Worst Cockney accent - Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins) or Charlie Hunnam (Green Street)?
JN: Dick Van Dyke. My views on Green Street are robustly expressed in my book and I have no wish to give it the oxygen of publicity.
KUMB: Who are your three favourite stadium announcers - and why?
JN: David Hamilton at Fulham because heís the Daddy of us all. Or should that be the Diddy. He was sacked once too and when he came back Al Fayed gave him a bottle of whisky and some Viagra as a welcome back gift.
Mark Dennison at Nottingham Forest is very good, although I wish he didnít play music after goals and Iíve told him that (we will never play music after goals at West Ham - You have my word on that). Alan Keegan at Manchester United and England games is always very good, I think.
KUMB: West Ham United's failure to win at Anfield since the early '60s is a running theme throughout the book. Do you think you'll ever see West Ham win there?
JN: Yes. Iím sure weíll be back at Anfield very soon and surely a win canít be far away. The last time we won I was only a few months old, back in 1963.
KUMB: If you were a regular supporter once again, what area of the Boleyn Ground would you sit in - and why?
JN: Middle of the West Stand Lower about halfway up. Iíve always sat in the West Stand and I like to be able to walk down to the front before the game to watch the players warming up.
KUMB: Apart from writing books and being West Ham's announcer, what are you up to these days?
JN: Iíve just made the shortlist to be the stadium announcer at the London 2012 Olympics, so thatís very exciting. David Sullivan gave me a lovely testimonial in my initial application last year.
I do a lot of after dinner speaking now, mainly sports stories and funny stuff from my life in broadcasting. You can see videos etc on my website. Discounts available for KUMB posters, if anyone is planning an event, just send me a personal message. My KUMB login is ĎJeremy Nicholasí, funnily enough! The stories that go down best are ĎThe Day Brian Clough punched meí, ĎThe Day I was held up on air by a man claiming to be Jesusí and ĎThe Day I met the other Jeremy Nicholasí.
The rest of the time I work as a freelance TV reporter for BBC news, mainly covering sports features and funny And Finally type stories. Iíd love to be back on the radio again. My best times were presenting on BBC London, 5Live and TalkSport. Iíve done lots of radio interviews promoting the book and itís reminded me why I love radio much more than TV, especially now Iím losing my looks! Radio controllers give me a call please!
KUMB: When we last interviewed you for KUMB, you had just set up Talking Toolbox. How's that going, and do you have any funny stories associated with it?
JN: I run workshops teaching business people how to be more confident speakers at conferences and in media appearances. One man was struggling with nerves and wandered outside to have a cigarette and ring his wife. He moaned about what a hard time the teacher of the course was giving him. Unbeknown to him heíd left his microphone attached to his lapel and everyone left in the room heard it all.
KUMB: Tell us about the 2010 trouser-splitting incident in Johannesburg that your Amazon bio refers to?
JN: I was speaking to an audience at an event before the World Cup Finals. My talk was about how to use humour. All of the audience were professional speakers from across the globe. As the only European speaker, the pressure was on.
I bent down to plug in my laptop in the wings, as I had some funny pictures to show. My trousers split on the seat, a rip about six inches long, just as the compere was saying my name. I walked on and did the first few minutes like a space invader, only moving from side to side.
Eventually I decided to confess what had happened and turned round to show them. Because it was a talk about humour, they thought the funny guy from the UK was wearing comedy trousers and it was all part of the act. It wasnít. They were the trousers I was married in at the Boleyn. I gave them to a maid back at the hotel who thought she could repair them for her husband to wear.
KUMB: For how long do you envisage continuing in your current role at the Boleyn Ground?
JN: For as long as the club are happy with me.
KUMB: Has a decision been made with regards to who will be the announcer for the Olympic Stadium - or is it a case of 'wait and see'?
JN: Iím hoping it will be me.
KUMB: Have you thought about what you might say after the final game at the Boleyn Ground?
JN: So Long and Thanks for All the Fish...
KUMB: Predict your 'season in a nutshell' summary for the current 2011/12 season?
JN: I wouldnít want to tempt fate by making an actual prediction, but thereís a song by Queen that Iíve never played at the Boleyn in fourteen seasons as announcer. I would love to play it at the last home game in May, and itís not Bohemian Rhapsody.
* If you would like to buy a copy of Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium the book thereís a website with some free chapters, video, pictures, reviews, signed copies of the book at www.mrmoonhasleftthestadium.com.
You may read an additional chapter from MMHLTS, exclusive to KUMB.com, by following this link. Our thanks go to Jem for answering our questions.