Victory eclipsed by Mr Moon

I’m never one to moan about a fellow West Ham fan, but there’s one chap who is getting on my nerves. This Mr Moon fellow has been arriving and leaving the stadium during games for as long as I can remember.

There’s nothing more annoying than people arriving midway through games is there? You’re in your seat in plenty of time to enjoy the action but have to keep getting up to let others reach their seats. Inevitably this happens just as a goal is scored. The new arrival turns to watch it, but as they are standing up, your view is completely obscured.

At yesterday’s game with Nottingham Forest the master of the late arrival, Mr Moon turned up well into the second half as I was announcing a substitution. To many in the crowd it sounded like Mr Moon came on for the last few minutes of the game.

He’s not the sort of person you’d want to throw on to help protect a one goal lead in a cup tie, because he’s unreliable. In all the years I’ve been coming to West Ham, I’ve never known him stay for a whole game. He’ll often not turn up for five or six games in a row. Mr Moon has been to a few games recently but we’ve had so many home games in January.

True to form on Sunday he sloped off just a few seconds after the final whistle. He didn’t hang about to clap the players after a hard fought FA Cup win. Fair enough he might have worried about getting home with the tube messed up again but he could have stayed a few seconds longer to applaud Obinna the winner and the rest of the victors.

I think Mr Moon is getting too big for his boots. He’s on FIFA 11 now you know. Just like in real life at Upton Park, his arrival and departure are announced over the PA. It’s a recording that is triggered when he arrives. I don’t know exactly how it works. Maybe he wears some kind of electronic tag which is read by a sensor at the turnstile. It’s my voice that announces his comings and goings, so rather embarrassingly, I appeared to be interrupting myself during the substitution.

At the end of the game, when he legged it out of the ground with indecent haste, it interrupted the traditional singing of Bubbles which heralds a home win. If I knew what he looked like, or where he sits, I’d have a word with him. That’s the trouble with Mr Moon, no-one has ever met the guy. He’s a mysterious figure who’s been haunting the Boleyn Ground for years, rather like Inspector Sands on the Underground.

I suspect Mr Moon is not even a proper West Ham fan, he’s just a glory hunter.

So if you are reading this Mr Moon by all means come along to the game on Sunday against Birmingham. Why not bring Mrs Moon, we’ve got a special Valentine’s package on offer, see the club website for details. And young Master Moon can get in for a pound as it’s Kids for a Quid. Make a day of it why don’t you? But please, for the love of God, stay for the whole match and stop getting in the way.

Jeremy Nicholas, London 31.1.11

Badges, badges, badges

Frank Setchfield from Loughborough has over 150 thousand badges. He collects all types except military and he specialises in button badges.
He has sporty badges, funny badges, ones with saucy slogans and political badges that have changed the world.

I interviewed him for my BBC series on Collectors. Here’s the report.

Lovely Clean Tigers

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wash the dirty kit of a professional rugby squad?

That’s the challenge faced every day by Brenda Hargrave. She’s the laundry supervisor at Leicester Tigers.

At the age of seventy she’s become a bit of a celebrity having starred in the break bumpers for Eviva either side of the live TV coverage of Premiership rugby.

I went along to meet her at the Tigers Oval Park training ground in Oadby. She was a charming lady, who takes great pride in her team running out in bright, clean kit.

Broad cast

Stuart Broad has done the business for England’s cricketers on the opening day of the Ashes Tour.

I caught up with the young bowler last week, just before he flew off to Australia

On my wavelength

Here’s the latest in my series on Collectors for the BBC.

Phil Rosen from West Bridgford in Nottinghamshire has over a hundred valve radios. They’re beautiful pieces of furniture and have lovely rich tones you just don’t get with modern radios.

If you can remember the Sixties you weren’t there.

I’ll be taking my autograph book with me on Saturday for the West Ham v Newcastle game.

We have some legendary West Ham players from the sixties, coming down for a chat pitch-side before the game.

The  names I’ve been given are  Ken Brown, John Bond, Alan Dickie, Alan Stephenson, Ronnie Boyce, Brian Dear, Jack Burkett, Martin Peters, Dennis Burnett, Eddie Bovington and Peter Brabrook.

It’s amazing how many players we had in those cup winning sides of the sixties with surnames beginning with B.

The hard bit for me will be to identify them. I know what they used to look like, but chances are they might not look the same now. For starters I’ve only seen some of them in black and white, and I’m led to believe that they will be in colour on Saturday.

I remember a few seasons back when my guest in the technical area was Alan Devonshire. The curly haired, moustachioed, slim framed wizard of the dribble I was expecting, turned out to be much broader and balder. That’s the trouble with wizards, they can change shape at will.

Just looking at that list, I know Martin Peters of course. I’ve met John Bond and Kenny Brown before. Ronnie Boyce I know, and I sat next to Brian Dear at a game once.

The others I hope will walk out in the order I announce them. If they want to play a trick on me and mix up the order, then I will, not for the first time look a fool.

Still I seem to have made something of a career out of doing daft things. Being the West Ham announcer is not a full time job. I’m only at the ground on match days.

Since the Fulham match I’ve been filming a new series called Collectors.

The highlight is Britain’s top Roy Rogers collector. Dennis has all sorts of Wild West items crammed into his house. He’s a reputable collector but says he does come across a lot of cowboys.

I thanked Dennis for wearing Wild West gear for the filming.  Oh, it’s not for the filming, he said, I wear western gear every day. He didn’t flinch when I asked him how he got into Roy Rogers, what was the trigger?

I’ve also filmed with Britain’s biggest badger. I was expecting a large furry animal, but it turned out to be Frank who has 150 thousand button badges. He took some pinning down.

Next week it’s a man with a house full of vintage radios. I hope he’s on my wavelength.

I was filming with 70 year old Brenda the other day. She’s the laundry lady at Leicester Tigers rugby club.  One of the players, Boris Stankovich started rooting about in the dirty shorts on the wash room floor. He’d left thirty pounds in his pocket after training. Sadly, Brenda had already loaded his shorts into the washing machine. The burly Kiwi could only wait for his three tenners to come out.

Still it gave me a money laundering gag to end the piece with.

I’ve often given media training to sports people, teaching them how to come across well on TV and radio.  I’ve mainly worked with footballers and Olympians, but never rugby players. I don’t know why, but rugby guys always seem to be good talkers.

Even the laundry lady at Leicester gave me a great interview.

The other day I was dancing in the Blue Peter garden at Television Centre with Peter Shilton. It was a background feature on his participation in Strictly Come Dancing.  Because he’s so much taller, Shilts was the man and I was the woman.  I’ve met him many times at sports dinners, where one or other of us has been the after dinner speaker, but it’s the first time I’ve danced with him. I suspect it will be the last. I didn’t really take to it.

Peter gave me a terrific interview. He reckons his dance partner Erin Boag reminds him of Brian Clough, because she’s a great teacher and gets the best out of him.

Regular readers will know I have a bit of history with Cloughie.  I have to admit, I’d much rather have a lesson with Erin.

I’ve become a bit of a fan of Strictly. Who would have thought Felicity Kendall was so bendy?

Head judge Len Goodman is a West Ham fan. I bet his favourite player is Kieron Dyer.

‘Number Severrrrrn!!!’

I’m no expert on dancing but I think Anne Widdecombe is unlikely to win the competition. My mate Iain Dale has been known to host stage shows called ‘An Evening with Anne Widdecombe’. I’m hoping Iain will introduce a dance element into future evenings.

Anne has been saved by the public vote. The judges have given her very low scores like threes and fours. The meanest judge Craig Revel Horwood gave her one!

Which was brave.

I’m hoping to get home from the Newcastle game a bit quicker than I did last time. After the Fulham match I finally arrived home at 11.30.

It’s a long story involving Robbie Savage, a monsoon, some environmental warriors, an umbrella, a travel mug and orange feet.  You’ll have to visit MrMoonHasLeftTheStadium.com for the whole travel chaos saga. I find blogging about it much cheaper than therapy.

Jeremy Nicholas, October 22nd 2010, London.

Orange Feet after the Monsoon

I have orange feet.

It’s been three days and I still have orange feet.

It all goes back to Saturday night, the night West London was gridlocked and the heavens opened.
West Ham earned a fighting draw against Fulham. It wasn’t a classic, but it was our fourth game unbeaten, and there are lots of optimistic signs for the future, despite us being bottom of the table.

I thought I’d have a cup of tea in the press room before leaving and listen to the managers’ interviews.  That’s where it all started going wrong.  The tea machine was broken, so I had to have coffee.  It makes me irritable, but I fancied a sit down, so I drank it anyway.

On the way home I was listening to 606 on the radio. Robbie Savage was whingeing about not being called into the Welsh squad by caretaker boss Bryan Flynn. Mark Chapman was gently ribbing him and it was very entertaining radio.  The trouble is 606 is on 5Live on AM. The traffic alerts only work on my car radio on FM and CDs. If I’d been listening to FM I’d have heard that a crash in Hammersmith had brought down a lamppost and the whole of West London was at a standstill. I hit the traffic on the embankment, that’s how bad it was. Earls Court, High St Ken, Cromwell Road, the whole lot was stuffed. No-one was going anywhere.

Then it started raining. Never mind cats and dogs, I think I saw a small horse.
After two and a half hours I had reached Fulham, moving a few feet at a time. My car didn’t enjoy it and showed its displeasure by spewing lots of smoke out of the exhaust. Trouble is, I was stuck in traffic and there was nowhere to go. And by now I was busting for a wee. I knew I shouldn’t have had that coffee. Some kids knocked on my window to tell me there was something wrong with my car. Who says kids today are thick?

I thanked them for their detective work. One of them was a bit chippy, told me my car was disgusting and it was killing the environment. He was trying to impress a girl.  He told me I had to sort it out. As I’d forgotten to pack my boiler suit and set of spanners, I opted to ignore them and sit in the car spewing smoke. He ran off swearing, which won’t have impressed the girl from my experience, and I was left chugging away. It became apparent that if I didn’t take action, the car might well blow up, so I drove into a side road, parked up and called the AA.

After an hour they hadn’t come. I’d rung three times. I needed a wee and some food, but it was like a monsoon outside, so I stayed put. To make it worst, many of my best friends were all together at an event in Marlow, the annual convention of the Professional Speakers Association. While they were enjoying the gala dinner, I rummaged around inside the car looking for emergency flapjack that was nowhere to be found. I wanted to be with my friends, not stuck cold, lonely and hungry in a dark side road, while a perfect storm beat down on my car.


Eventually I had a wee in my travel mug. Well most of it went in the travel mug, it was hard to tell when it was full, so some of it went on my trousers. Fortunately it was lashing down with rain and it was dark, so no-one saw me. Eventually the AA rang back to say they couldn’t get to rescue me any time soon, as there was gridlock in West London. It’s not just children that are good at spotting obvious things.
I dug out an umbrella from the boot, which is massive but unreliable. It goes up a treat, but it’s a nightmare to get it down again. I set off for the nearest tube using my Sat Nav to guide me. It was tricky looking at the screen and holding the umbrella to protect me from the torrential downpour. TomTom kept telling me I was only a few minutes away from the station, but it expected me to be travelling at thirty miles an hour. Sat Navs aren’t as clever as kids or AA operators.

Peering intently at the screen, I didn’t notice the approaching car or the giant puddle at the edge of the road next to me. I was completely drenched. For some bizarre reason, I didn’t have my coat done up, and the cold water went right through my jumper and shirt.  I also discovered my shoes were not remotely waterproof. Through the streams of rain I made out a shop and toyed with the idea of an emergency Mars bar. My blood sugar was low, but so was the doorway and I wasn’t sure I’d get my umbrella up again if I collapsed it. I decided to push on. I feared drowning more than starving.

When I got to Baron’s Court, I bought a single for Richmond and went onto the platform. Only then did I see a sign saying the District Line was closed from Hammersmith to Richmond. There was a replacement bus service operating. That was no good, Hammersmith was flooded and gridlocked, both unsuitable conditions for buses.  So I got on a Piccadilly Line train and headed for Osterley, bracing myself for a tricky conversation at the other end about my ticket being for the wrong destination.

The other people in my tube compartment eyed me suspiciously. I was soaked to the bone and smelt of wee. I’d arrived wrestling with my umbrella and  I was mumbling to myself, as I rehearsed a potential conversation with a ticket inspector.

‘Yes I know my ticket is for Richmond. Yes I know I should have got off at Hammersmith and used the replacement bus service, but the thing is Hammersmith doesn’t exist anymore. It’s been wiped out by a biblical flood and a plague of lampposts, so just open the barrier and let me through please because I need to get out of these wet clothes. Yes most of it is wee, with just a little bit of rain. Thank you so much, coming through. Mind my brolly it won’t go down.’

It was quite disappointing to find my ticket opened the barrier at Osterley no problem. I’d rehearsed a speech in my head, easily as good as some that I’ve been paid to deliver, and I think part of me was sad that I couldn’t use it.  A £3.50 ticket from Baron’s Court, it appears, will work at any station that is £3.50 away. My wife met me at the station, sniffed me and kindly agreed to let me sit in the immaculate interior of her car. After leaving West Ham at 6.10 I had finally arrived back in Twickenham at 11.30. I would have to return to Everington Street W6  the next day to recover my car. Despite West Ham battling for a point, it seemed Fulham had the last laugh.
I’d been in the car for the best part of an evening. Children had laughed at me. I’d weed in a mug. I’d been soaked by a car in a manner only seen in Carry On Films. I was starving hungry and my umbrella was left dripping outside the front door to teach it a lesson.

I’d learnt my lesson. I will never listen to Robbie Savage again. Well, not unless he gets a show on FM.The final humiliation came when I took off my wet socks, I had orange feet. The shoes were soaked through and the colour of the lining had stained me. It’s still there, three showers later.

Jeremy Nicholas – London UK, 5th October 2010

To book Jeremy as an after dinner speaker and help pay for the repair work on his car, please visit his speaking website for details of fees, testimonials and how to contact the poor, wet, smelly lad.  www.JeremyNicholas.co.uk

My favourite job in the world ever.

You probably know me as a speaker and broadcaster but did you know I’m the the voice of a global video game?

The new FIFA 11 came out today. I think it’s the best football video game in the world. But I’m biased; I’ve been involved in the EA Sports FIFA games since 2006.

Every year I spend a day in Soho in a sound studio, putting down two thousand new messages in my role as stadium announcer on the games.

If you play any of the FIFA games, alongside the commentators you’ll hear me in the background announcing the team line-ups, the substitutions, the scorers and the added minutes. In fact, everything I announce in real life at West Ham United. There is the facility to turn up the announcer if you want to have a really good listen. I sometimes wish that was possible at the Boleyn Ground.


Each time I also record ten ‘hidden’ messages, which are played at random points.

For example on FIFA 08 I congratulated my wife, Jeanette Kruger, on finishing the London Marathon.

My good friends Dave Cheeseman and Nicola Underdown were delighted to find their marriage being announced on FIFA 09.

I also like to give my nieces and nephews a mention. Christopher, Julian, Kate and Joe have all had birthdays or been lost children who should contact the nearest steward.


My youngest niece was also welcomed to her first ever game, before she was even born. At the time of the recording she was just a bump, going under the working title of Lulu Lemon. By the time she was born, my sister had decided to drop the Lemon bit, quite wisely in my view. But in the game she will always be Lulu Lemon. Once a recording is done, it’s done. When you are doing two thousand messages in a day, there’s little time to go back and change it.

Every car I have ever owned is given a mention over the stadium PA in the games. Listen out for my first car from student days, a blue Mini 1000. I seem to remember the announcement is about its lights being left on. Then there’s my old white Ford Cortina which is illegally parked. There’s a yellow Opel Kadett, a claret Ford Sierra, a blue BMW and a blue Ford Focus, all committing various offences outside stadiums across the world. They’re cars I’ve driven over the years. I should think they’re mostly in the big scrap yard in the sky now, but I like to think they live on through the medium of video gaming.

I read out all the number plates as well.  I haven’t put my current car on, in case some deranged gamer comes round my house. Maybe my announcement put them off during a vital moment.   That’s the thing with the random messages; they can play at any point in the game.  It all adds to the authenticity.

There are a few announcements on there especially for West Ham fans. I don’t mention the club by name, because these messages play out in virtual stadiums across the world.  However there’s no reason, I thought, why our safety announcement shouldn’t receive a wider airing. Gamers have the option to play matches with any teams in any ground, but it’s always my voice on the PA.  So Mr Moon has been arriving and leaving stadiums across the globe since FIFA 10. There’s also a welcome for ‘everyone at Knees Up Mother Brown’ on the last two games, a thank-you for the support on the forums I received during the difficult days of the first half of the 2008/09 season.

If you listen carefully there are lots of Canadian youngsters who also get a mention. Electronic Arts is based in Vancouver and the team on the FIFA games get a kick out of hearing their off-spring announced.

So how did I get this dream job? Like most of the good things in my life, there’s a West Ham connection. After the success of FIFA 06 the EA guys decided to bring out a special edition, called FIFA 06 -The Road to the World Cup. They were facing increasing competition from rivals like Pro-Evolution Soccer, so to keep ahead of the game they added some extras.

Video game consoles were getting more sophisticated. The newly launched X Box 360 had increased capacity that would allow more layers of audio. As well as the commentators, EA decided to add a stadium announcer and enhanced crowd sounds.  I was lucky. The commentators were Andy Gray and Martin Tyler, represented by an agent called Matthew Fisher, who just happened to be a West Ham season ticket holder. When the guys in Vancouver asked him to find an announcer for the new game, he gave me a call. I’ve been the voice of the games ever since.


This summer I was speaking at a three day football event at the NEC in Birmingham. After facilitating at a few sessions with big name speakers like Graham Taylor, Peter Taylor, Ian Holloway and one of the Alan Smiths, I found I was signing just as many autographs as they were. They couldn’t all be West Ham fans and most of the kids were far too young to remember me presenting football on Channel 5.

They were gamers. I realised this on day one when two boys asked me what Mr Moon means on FIFA 10. I said it was a safety message at West Ham, and if I told them exactly what it meant, I would have to kill them. At which point they ran off crying.

For the rest of the three days I happily posed for photos and signed autographs for football fans, who’d only ever heard me in the confines of a video game.

It was all a bit strange and reminded me of a time a few years back, when I’d left West Ham after a match, by the player’s entrance. A small boy who’d been patiently waiting held up his autograph book and said, ‘scuse me mate, are you anyone?’

I replied that sadly I wasn’t anyone, but he might have heard my voice on the PA and I’d happily sign for him.

‘No, you’re all right,’ he said, and put his book away.

A few years later it seems I have now cracked the child market. Being the stadium announcer on a video game, it seems is far more prestigious than doing it in real life!

Jeremy Nicholas – London, UK  1st October 2010



Matchday Column

How I became the West Ham announcer.

I moved to East London from Cambridge when I was six. I think my parents may have done the driving, but I imagine I did most of the packing and dealing with estate agents.
Growing up in Clayhall it was a no-brainer that I should be a Hammer. There was a Spurs fan and a Chelsea fan on our street, but nobody really spoke to them. When I was twelve we moved again, to sleepy Suffolk. By then I had claret and blue flowing in my veins, but took me a while to find my way back to London.
I studied in the beautiful university cities of Bradford and then Portsmouth, before my first job as a radio reporter in the fragrant coastal resort of Hull. Bradford, Portsmouth and Hull? How I escaped without a tattoo is anybody’s guess. West Ham were having their best ever season in the top flight and I was miles away listening on the radio and occasionally watching on Ceefax.
I spent three years with the BBC in Nottingham, winning a New York Radio Academy Award for commentating at the Hillsborough disaster. It was the worst day of my life and we didn’t go and collect the award. It felt wrong when 96 people had died.
In 1990 I returned to London, to work on GLR, which is now called BBC London 94.9. I presented the breakfast show alongside the late, great Kevin Greening. I used to bang on about West Ham a lot. Little did I know someone at the club was listening and one day I would get the call.
I went freelance in 1994, and moved into television. It was inevitable. All good looking radio presenters eventually move into TV.  I fronted shows for Talk TV and then the fledgling Channel 5. I anchored most of their sports shows for the first couple of years. In fact a colleague described me as the complete anchor, but I may have misheard.
In the early days the Channel 5 signal was a bit fuzzy. Once they sorted the transmission problems, someone noticed my hair was thinning at the back. Baldies didn’t score well in the focus groups. The schedulers were aiming for a young audience. I was replaced by Steve Scott who is slightly older than me, but much hairier.
I would return to TV in the noughties, but in the meantime I scuttled back to the GLR breakfast show, this time co-presenting with Claire McDonnell. I talked about West Ham a lot again. This time something happened.
In the summer of 1998 I received a phone call from Paul Aldridge, managing director at West Ham,  asking if I wanted to be the new stadium announcer. Curiously I said no. I enjoyed letting off steam from my seat in the West Stand Upper. I wasn’t sure shouting at the players would be in the job description. Paul asked me to come in for a chat. So I did, just to poke about behind the scenes if I’m honest.
After three days he asked again, and this time I said yes. I’d had a recurring dream the previous nights that Rio Ferdinand would head the winning goal in the World Cup Final at France 98. I dreamt I would announce him as a hero at the start of the new season, like Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst were greeted in 1966.
The trouble with dreams is their habit of fading and dying. Rio was an unused substitute at the World Cup. England were knocked out by Argentina in the second round. David Beckham was sent off for petulantly kicking out at Diego Simeone and quickly became public enemy number one.
When the fixtures came out for the new season, West Ham’s opener was away at Sheffield Wednesday, followed by David Beckham’s Manchester United at home. I went to Hillsborough on the opening day, the first time I’d been back since the disaster. It was strange and I felt very emotional. I got through it because I was sitting next to curly haired pop star David Essex. His twin boys had the largest bag of pick and mix sweets you ever did see. Reluctantly at their father’s suggestion they even shared some with me.
Veteran striker Ian Wright scored on his league debut for us, and I found myself singing,  ‘Ian Wright, Wright, Wright. Ian Wright, Wright, Wright’. With Wrighty a long time Gooner, it wasn’t a song I ever thought I would sing.  Fortunately I discovered I knew all the words.
Driving back from Hillsborough I couldn’t wait for my debut at the Boleyn Ground the following week, announcing my team against Manchester United, David Beckham and all.
But we’ll save that for the next column.

Up the Irons

Jem

www.jeremynicholas.co.uk