The final day of the season is always an extra busy one for Boleyn Ground Stadium Announcer Jeremy Nicholas, but he took some time out of his preparations on the day for a quick Q&A session about what a matchday holds in store for him.
Is today a busy day for you?
Yes it is a very busy day. We normally have a meeting three hours before kick off but today it was four hours. Before kick-off it's about getting the atmosphere right and making sure we hit bubbles at the right time. That's one of the most important things on matchdays. You talk to the floor manager and if there is a TV company like Setanta here they want it to happen at a certain time, then the ref has got his own ideas, but we want to make sure it happens at the right time for us. Once all of the players are there, you give the cue to start Bubbles and then you want them to come out when it's just on 'fortunes always hiding' or 'United, United'. What you don't want is for them to come out too early so I always have a chat with the referee as I always want the away team to stand in the tunnel and hear what is happening outside and think "We've got to go out in that cauldron."
But you are being pushed aside for a short while aren't you?
Yes it's a big moment for Russ Bray, the darts commentator from Sky. He is a big West Ham fan and it's his dream to do it so I wouldn't want to stand in his way. I don't think we've got a player that wears 180, but maybe we should create one just for today! We usually do the teams three times. We get the teams at about ten past two, so I first do them about quarter past two. Then Russ will do the second reading at about twenty to three when the ground is starting to fill up. Then I'll do the final reading just before kick-off.
What sort of half-time entertainment is there?
We've got Trevor Morley, a Hammers legend, coming down for a chat on the pitch and I think it is always good when we get the old players on the pitch. People like to see them and it is good to see what they look like. You see Alan Devonshire now and he looks completely different. I saw Alan Taylor the other week and he looked like Alan Taylor but with the glasses so it will be interesting how Trevor Morley has changed. I assume he will be tall and dark. Then during the second half it just builds up for full time and Hammer of the Year and all of the presentations there. It's a bit trickier this year as we play Middlesbrough and the chances are they're going to get relegated. So it's a bit of a funny one as we're having an end of season party and they're having a funeral almost. It's a bit of a balancing act so hopefully most of their fans will have left the ground by the time we get on with our party and the player awards come about.
And how do you prepare for the after-match events?
Well we've had our meeting, where we were just coordinating who has won which award and who is presenting the awards. When I came in I didn't know who had won Hammer of the Year so when I found it was like "Wow."
Who did you vote for?
I voted for Herita Ilunga actually and so did my wife as I thought he was fantastically consistent and he gave his all. I'd never heard of him before we signed him and I just thought he was great. But I think Scott [Parker] was awesome this season so no worries about that.
Why do you think the fans have taken to Scott so much?
He's all over the place. He's a real midfield dynamo, he wins the ball and sets everyone up. He never does anything fancy, he's just class like Michael Carrick used to be. He's a brilliant player.
And goal of the season?
Well there was only one winner. I was at the Hammer of the Year launch dinner and I thought there is only one of those really, Carlton Cole. I wasn't at the game but as soon as I saw it on the box, with the passing around from player to player and the way it went up the field so quickly, it was a proper West Ham old-style goal. There's no doubt that should have been the one.
What do you think about the other winners?
I used to sit next to Jack Collison on the bench last year and he is a model professional. I sat next to him and James Tomkins and they just watched the game - they were so into it. I'd also like to present him with his '35th Hottest Man in Wales award', but we don't have a trophy for that! Then it's the big award with the runner-up, Rob Green, first and then the Hammer of the Year, Scott Parker. Then there will be the lap of the pitch, which is very much a lap of appreciation so that the players can say thanks to the fans for what the fans have done this year and the fans can appreciate all of the effort the players have put in.
Do you find it easy talking in front of that many people?
Yes I do, I'm just a bit of a show-off really!
What do you see your role as - is it to inform or entertain?
It's a bit of both really. Probably informing people, letting people know what's happening. It's a bit of entertaining. I think most West Ham fans have a sense of humour so occasionally I'll say something funny to show that it's not too official or serious. It's a balancing act between being a representative of the club and being a fan. Obviously I'm a big West Ham fan but I can't always say on the mic the things I might want to say as a West Ham fan. We had Alan Wiley the other week and I was sitting in the dug-out not particularly happy with some of the things he was doing but I can't just shout out what I think because the chances are when you get home and see the replays you think "Oh yes he did get that right." I'm just watching it through claret and blue glasses and sometimes you have to sit on your hands and not press that little button on the mic.
So you say you're a big West Ham fan. Is this something of a dream job?
I started supporting them when I was six as I grew up in Clayhall, which is prime West Ham territory and have just always supported them. When I first got the call in the summer of 1998, England were in the World Cup and our first game that season was Manchester United when David Beckham had just been sent off against Argentina. I knew everyone was going to booing and hissing at him. I was actually quite scared at the first game as in my career as a TV and radio presenter you don't see the audience and being Channel Five the audiences were very small those days. So suddenly I had large audiences and I could see them. I knew I would say "No7 David Beckham" and everyone would boo and hiss and the only thing that got me through it is in the previous season when the announcer said "No7 David Beckham" I was one of those booing and hissing.
How did you get the job at West Ham?
I always used to talk about West Ham on the radio and in the summer of '98 they put a new PA system in with a new announcer and I think someone had always heard me talking about them. Originally I turned it down but then I had this dream three nights running that I welcomed Rio back onto the pitch and he had just scored the winning goal in the World Cup final. I remember in 1966 Moore, Hurst and Peters got clapped out onto the pitch after the World Cup final and the announcer said "Let's hear it for the West Ham guys who won the World Cup for England." I thought I was going to do that for Rio so I rang them up and said "I'll do it". Rio didn't even get on the pitch at the World Cup and I ended up having to announce Beckham and everyone booed so it wasn't quite the dream that I had had.
Do you listen to other clubs' announcers or model yourself on anyone else?
I think all that announcers can do is get it wrong or annoy people. I get annoyed when I go to our away games and they just run through our team and not read through them properly. Then they run through their team and give them a big build up with pictures on the boards and all that. It's just a case of respecting the other team and then being enthusiastic about our team. Having said that when I announce a goal, if it's for us I do it really loudly but if it's for them I just kind of mumble it. Once when we played Coventry we were the beneficiaries of a superb own goal and I announced it as "Goal for West Ham scored by Richard Shaw" very excitedly and then Coventry complained that I had announced it too loudly.
And you've just become an author?
Yes, the book is called Media Masters and I've interviewed 25 different people in the media and it's about how to come across well in TV and radio interviews. So there's lots of people in there. There's Rebecca Adlington the swimmer, George Galloway, Uri Geller and various business people. It's just what sort of things to avoid saying and what things to say to best promote whatever it is you want to talk about, whether it be your brand, business or service.
So this interview should be perfect then?
Well it should be but if not then I should read the book. One of my favourite chapters is about someone who I didn't interview for the book, Brian Clough. I worked for BBC in Nottingham, covering Forest home and away so I got to know him quite well and all of the sound bites he did were brilliant. He used to come up with superb little nuggets like "Rome wasn't built in a day but I didn't work on that project" and the "River Trent is nice at this time of year, I just walked across it."
Jeremy's book, 'Media Masters, Insider Secrets from the big names of broadcast, print and social media' is available to order now, priced £15. To order your copy through Amazon click here.