This is an interview I did with West Ham’s stadium announcer Jeremy Nicholas about his book ‘Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium’, which had just been released. The interview was originally published on my previous website ‘HammerTime’ in September 2011, but seeing as many you of may not have seen it and that it’s still an interesting interview, I thought I’d bring it back to life on this website.
If you haven’t yet read Jeremy’s book then you’ll definitely want to after you’ve read this.
Anyone who knows West Ham well enough will know Jeremy Nicholas, West Ham’s stadium announcer for the past 13 seasons.
With his 14th season under way he has released his new book ‘Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium, which relays the stories he has collected during his time at West Ham and his career as a broadcaster.
Hammer’s fans can relate to it as many of the stories Jeremy uncovers the memories of not only the hard times supporting West Ham, but also the time we’ll never, ever forget. He gives a candid insight into what it’s like behind the scenes at the Boleyn Ground and what it’s like being the club’s stadium announcer. He also lifts the lid on who Mr Moon really is.
Jeremy’s passion and love for the club is clear and the way he describes his career as one of the countries best stadium announcers is typical of the West Ham Way. Honest, stylish and entertaining. If you haven’t already read it, then make sure you do.
Jeremy kindly gave me his time to talk to him about the book and, of course, West Ham…
Hi Jeremy. I really enjoyed reading your book Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium. I gather you enjoyed writing it just as much?
Yeah, some of it was wanting to tell funny stories and some of it was a little like therapy, really. Because as West Ham fans we go through all kinds of bother, don’t we? Sometimes it’s a case of you either get drunk or you write about. It was quite good to get it all out of my system I think.
Very true. I suppose it was also a case of letting everyone in on your life as a broadcaster/stadium announcer…
I think that was it really, yeah. Giving them a behind the scenes look at what I do. I used to dread going on the message boards because I used to get absolutely slaughtered if I said one thing and people would say I should have said something else. I’d get told off from fans if I tried to gee the crowd up and I’d get told off if I didn’t try to gee the crowd up. So I thought I’d just set it all down so at least people can see that I might not always get it right but I do always think about it.
Well, at the end of the day, you’re always trying to do the job the best you can…
Yeah, also I wanted to get across the point that I’m a West Ham fan. Some clubs have announcers who support different teams and I always think that’s a bit odd. I remember one time when Leyton Orient rang me up and asked if I could do the announcing for them at very short notice because their announcer was ill and they said that it was alright because West Ham had given you permission, as if it was like some kind of loan deal. I just said ‘well it might be alright for West Ham but it’s not alright for me because I’m not an Orient fan. What’s going to happen if you score? Am I meant to get excited?’ It’s a funny old business being the announcer because it doesn’t matter if I get really good because I can’t then become the stadium announcer at Manchester United or Barcelona. There’s no career structure in it. Not unless I got England, but I don’t think that’s likely.
But it’s still the best job in the world?
Of course, because it’s my team. When we score a goal and everyone celebrates I’m the one who’s got the microphone who can say the name of the goalscorer knowing that everyone is going to cheer. That’s a real rush, just as long as I get it right and not tell everyone that it was someone else who scored!
A little bit like just after you had been sacked as stadium announcer. You mention in the book that your replacement had made quite a few mistakes that really annoyed you.
Well there was a long time when we seemed to have a player called Jack Collins who was a hybrid of James Collins and Jack Collison. There was also another time when Collison came off injured and was called John Collison. It was just rubbish. I would think that if you’re a nervous person then just don’t do it.
That’s right. Your background means you’re suited to the role in a way…
Yeah, I think a lot of announcers at clubs now do have a broadcasting background. I mentioned quite a few in the book. David Hamilton who’s at Fulham is obviously the most famous one. My background has stood me in good stead but, when I first started doing it, the big difference I found was you actually see the crowd whereas when on radio or TV who don’t see your audience.
So there’s a bit of a difference. You’re still publicly speaking but in a different context…
Well one of the reasons the three different announcers the club had after me didn’t work was because they had them all up in the announcers box, which is up on the third floor of the West Stand behind double glazed glass. So you can’t hear the crowd and, if you can’t hear the crowd, you can’t project above it.
You speak a lot in the book about the West Ham Way and, in some bits, you accuse things of not being done the West Ham Way. That’s something you clearly feel very passionately about and that comes across well in the way the book is written. Was that important to you?
I wanted to say it as it was and I also wanted to stress that the West Ham Way is to do things right and always to try and take the moral high ground and do things in a stylish and entertaining way. I just think so much of modern football is just so grim. Like playing music after goals. I just think it was important for me to say all these things because every year there are suggestions like ‘why don’t we start playing music after goals?’. Every year that comes around and every year I say ‘over my dead body.’ If that happens I will leave and unfortunately, during the Scott Duxbury era, that came across as an invitation to get rid of me. They even questioned the playing of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. I just though ‘you haven’t got a clue mate.’ If you think West Ham will ever not single Bubbles then you don’t know anything about West Ham. It’s heritage, five generations have sung it. It started in the 1920s, so there was no way I was having that, but having stood up to that I think my days were numbered.
This is your 14th season as the club’s stadium announcer and you’ve had the perfect opportunity to strike up some good relationships and friendships with the staff and players. You mention that in the book, especially with the managers. Was there anything that you may have not included in the book that could have been mentioned? You especially mention your relationship with Alan Pardew, which at times wasn’t great.
Well just running through the managers – Harry Redknapp I really liked. He knew West Ham inside out and he was great. Although he did have that slightly bizarre idea of not getting the crowd going, which I thought was a bit odd, but that was up to him.
Glenn Roeder was a lovely bloke but just completely out of his depth and unfortunately the players didn’t respect him and, particularly with Paolo, kind of undermined him. I think I would definitely side with Paolo on that one, though. I think Roeder is the worst manager we’ve had in my time as stadium announcer.
Then Alan Pardew came in and on the one had I owe a lot to Pardew because he’s the guy that got me in to the dugout so that I could do my job better, but on the other hand he had this really cruel streak to him where he used to like embarrassing me in front of everyone. Ticking me off in press conferences for announcing train delays when I had been told I had to do that because it was a safety message. He also like the razzmatazz, which was common at Reading, but I had to explain to him that West Ham is a traditional family club and it’s been done this way for years.
He had a funny idea about having a quiz that he’d seen at Sea World in Florida where camera’s zoom in people in the crowd who are then asked questions and were told to give their answers by , didn’t he?
Yeah, and I had to explain to him that West Ham fans would mess about. He was adamant that they wouldn’t and people were the same the world over. I explained we were different at West Ham and this they just wouldn’t do it. So we had to lie to him in the end and say we didn’t have to right sort of cameras for it.
So that was a lie then?
It was a white lie. We had to lie for the good of the club. I think there were cameras in the ground that could have done it, particularly the Sky cameras, but the ones that were controlled by the club were basically just wide ones for coaching DVDs and that sort of thing.
So then Curbishley came in as manager and I got on really well but he had a lot of bad luck. But where Curbs went wrong was that he would play one up front at home, which was not the West Ham way. Zola came in and was smashing bloke but way out of his depth and Avram’s not in the book so I don’t have to say how bad I think he was.
That whole thing with Pardew criticising you in public obviously affected you and there are other things in the book that clearly affected you, too. Reading it myself made feel as if I was being taken on this funny but emotional journey with you. Was that done deliberately? Did you want the reader to feel the emotions you felt when reading the book?
I think so, but I always wanted the reader to have a bit of a laugh because there was a lot of humour in it. Like, for example, when Pards used to invite me to his office before every game for a chat and a cuppa and we’ll work out what you’re going to say to the crowd. I kept going to see him but he’d either not be there or have someone with him and I never once got a cup of tea. I wanted to get the humour of that across.
That’s one thing that stands out in the book. Every negative side of your career had a humorous twist to it.
Well, yeah, if I bumped into Pards now I’d shake his hand and have a chat with him, have a laugh, but probably wouldn’t get a cup of tea out of him.
You speak about turning your hand to stand-up comedy for a while. Is that something you perhaps would like to have another go at?
I don’t think I’d want to do stand-up again but I think the stand-up course that I did and doing the try-outs meant it prepared me for everything that came after it. It gave me the mindset to see where the humour is in things. I do after dinner speaking now, which is similar to stand-up, but that’s a little bit easier because the people know they’re going to have a meal and they know there’s going to be a speaker. But often at comedy clubs there’ll be people sitting there looking to have a bit of a laugh and make the comedian’s life hell. I did 26 stand-up gigs. Twenty-three were great and three were dreadful. The ones I remember were the three that were dreadful.
To be honest, I find it really hard to remember 20 minutes of material. I’m always happier when I’ve got a clipboard and I’m linking in between things. What I am quite good at is picking funny bits out from what’s happened earlier in the evening. People like that because it’s not hilarious but at least they know I must have just thought of it.
So you’d rather keep your sense of humour for your current jobs rather than try to use it to start a career in comedy?
Well I’m not funny enough to be a comedian. What I’m good at is presenting information and being a little bit quirky. Compared to other stadium announcers I might be quite funny. Like in the game against Manchester United last season in the Carling Cup when I announced the substitution of the yellow ball for the white ball in the snow. I didn’t do anything else funny that night, it was just the one thing, and that worked because I think less is more. If you do too much then people might think you fancy yourself a little bit. The secret to stadium announcing, I think, is unless you’ve got something great to say then just shut up.
You’ve been doing it Upton Park for so long that the crowd have warmed to you now. Surely that helps?
I think I’ve won people over just by being there for such a long time. The season where we got relegated in 2003, I was the worst announcer in the world. The horrible emails I got and what was written on message boards was just awful. It was all my fault because I played the Great Escape and then we didn’t escape.
Do you not think that was little bit more down to that fact everyone was a little angry with what had happened that season and just needed someone to blame?
Yeah, I think it was because I used to write a column in the programme and my email address was the only one listed in the whole programme. People do get angry. Even this season, when I added those three added minutes against Cardiff and then Cardiff scored straight away. A bloke came running over shouting at me accusing me of costing us the game because that announcement had put our defenders off. He was absolutely livid and ranted for ages but then shook my hand and walked off. It was just a case of us getting mugged in the last-minute against Cardiff and, when all the players had gone down the tunnel, I was the only person there that he could blame.
You make it no secret that you’re very passionate about West Ham and you feel strongly about making sure former players are given the best possible reception when they return to Upton Park with different clubs. With Scott Parker now gone, and lots of fans angry that he went to Spurs, what are your thoughts on that?
First of all I don’t think we should deal with Spurs because of the Olympic Stadium. I don’t know how much of it is true but we just shouldn’t deal with them. Having said that, I wish Scott all the best. I wish he’d gone to anywhere other than Spurs, but when he comes back I will welcome him back and I’m sure most of the crowd will give him a fantastic reception. What I’ll do is just say, ‘please welcome back three-times Hammer of the Year Scott Parker.’ I fully understand the club needs the money and maybe we were forced into having to deal with Spurs, though.
The fans are clearly angry, though, especially on Twitter and on forums. Some are even labelling him a Judas…
I don’t blame Scott, he’s a smashing bloke. The way he effectively took over as captain last season when Matthew Upson just went missing proved that. Scotty basically became the captain and he did that marvelous half-time talk at West Brom when we came back from 3-0 down to get the draw. So, I wish him all the best.
Your book ends at a time before the new owners arrived, Avram Grant, relegation, Sam Allardyce etc. Does that mean we should be expecting a Mr Moon sequel?
Yes, I think there will be more Mr Moon books. But at the moment I’ll see how this one goals and we’ll go from there.
Finally, you describe your life as being like a three-legged stool with each leg representing your work, relationships and West Ham. So, how is your three-legged stool looking at the moment?
Well I’m still married so that leg is looking quite good.
With the West Ham leg, obviously we got relegated so that leg is all over the place. But with some of the signings we’ve made this summer I think we’re going to be fine. They’ve all been really good so far. Sam seems to have cleared out all the players that weren’t fit or had a bad attitude and has put together a new team fantastically. It just feels like we’ve got a proper manager again after Avram who just didn’t seem to do anything and Zola who was just too inexperienced. It’s our first proper manager since Curbs, really. I think everyone was also worried about whether we’d play attractive football or not, but we then go and we three away games on the trot and we look great.
Job wise, it’s very much the same. I’m enjoying doing the funny TV reporting on BBC and I’ve got lots of after dinner speaking gigs coming up so I think that when I realised my career wasn’t going to well that I should have four different careers. People just think you’ve got to have one job and when it goes wrong, it goes wrong. But I’ve made sure I’ve four of five different strands of work so if I lose one then I know I’ve others to fall back on.
You can purchase Mr Moon Has Left The Stadium from all West Ham stores and also book stores like Waterstones and Newham Bookshop on Barking Road. It’s also available on Amazon below: