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



Edinburgh Talk

I’m off to Edinburgh next week for the festival.

On Wednesday night I’ll be giving a talk on how to keep an audience’s attention using comedy. Forget jokes, I’m a big believer in telling true stories that have happened to you. It’s called ‘Putting the U in Humour’ . It’s a talk I’ve done many times to businesses and organisations, but this is one of the few times when members of the public are also welcome.

Regular readers of this blog will know this is the talk I gave in Johannesburg earlier in the year, where my trousers split open at the back as I plugged in my laptop at the edge of the stage, just before I was announced. I literally did get through the talk by the seat of my pants.

If you fancy coming along on Wednesday it’s at the Apex European Hotel, Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh. Tickets are twenty pounds and that includes a networking supper.

More details are here

The Bakewell Show

The Bakewell Show

Here’s some pictures of Thursday’s BBC East Midlands Today roadshow at the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. I smiled a lot at people and if they looked short sighted, I signed photos that weren’t of me.

Viewers had a chance to read the news. The vicar of Bakewell was a star at doing the weather in front of the green screen.


Everyone had their picture taken with our quirky weather presenter Des Coleman. You may remember him as Lenny in Eastenders. He’s now a cult hero in the East Midlands for his larger than life, hand waving forecasts. I love Des, he certainly has something. I’m not sure what, and I’m not sure if there is a cure for it.

The Milky Bar kid (above right) is looking well.

Special thanks go to weekend presenter Maurice Flynn who made me a gluten free Bakewell tart. I do love a tart. Most gluten free recipes are a bit dry, but Maurice had done a fine job. Look at my colleagues’ faces as they tucked in.

Jeremy Nicholas, London   August 10th 2010

(At the Leicester roadshow earlier in the week, viewers asked an extraordinary number of questions)

To book Jeremy as an after dinner speaker click here

My stadium gig

I

So we’re up and running again. It was great to be at the Boleyn for the pre-season friendly against Deportivo La Coruna for the SBOBet Cup.  Even better to win it on penalties.Avram Grant has won silverware in his first home game.

It was a hot day. I could have done without wearing the tie to be honest.

Outside the ground beforehand, everyone was smiling. I think there’s a sense of optimism about the new season, the new manager, the new kit and a new beginning.  I nearly said ‘a new hope’ but that’s a Star Wars film..

I thought I better take a few pics to spice up the blog. I snapped a few of the ground, which I’ll be dropping in over the next few weeks. Andrew the ‘Over Land And Sea’ fanzine seller took the top picture of me outside the ground, so it only seemed right that I returned the favour and took one of him. Nice ‘Only Fools’ tee shirt mate.

Football chairmen often need security for their own protection when they arrive at grounds.

Our David Gold is a bit different, he’s worn the claret and blue and he’s popular with fans. He needs the security escort otherwise he’d never get through the crowd of autograph hunters. He did sign plenty though.

In the tunnel pre-match club photographer Steve Bacon was snapping the mascots.

Meanwhile the other mascots, the furry ones, seem to have spent the summer hiding in the shower. I share a changing room with Bubbles and Herbie. It always makes me laugh when I arrive to see their heads sitting patiently waiting for the human inhabitants to arrive.And always smiling.

I did my best to pronounce the Spanish names as I read out the team sheets. I didn’t want to ‘go native’ as there’s a danger of sounding like an Italian with a lisp. I wrote them out phonetically after consulatation with a member of the Deportivo coaching staff and then did my best, using the English abroad approach of loud and confident.

As it wasn’t a premier league game there was no TV coverage to worry about, so the ref wasn’t waiting for a floor manager to give him the nod to ‘walk’ the players. That makes it so much easier to coordinate the playing of ‘bubbles’ so it reaches a crescendo as the teams emerge from the tunnel.

Avram Grant was given a great ovation for his first home game. The new players were all warmly applauded before the game and as they came on as subs. When the Sir Trevor Lower fans sang ‘Avram, Avram, give us a wave’, he did and was cheered. That’s was an important moment for me and a promising sign for the season. Gianfranco Zola would never respond to chants for waves. It was because he was ‘in the zone’, but it’s important to acknowledge your own supporters.

The match itself certainly wasn’t a cracker, but the penalty shoot out was. All of our penalties were scored with certainty and Robert Green made a great save. If you are looking for further comment on the match itself, you’ll need to look elsewhere on the web. That’s not the aim of my blog and it would clearly be a conflict of interest with my role as MC Hammer.

From the announcer’s point of view, the match was notable because there wasn’t any time added on in either half.  After announcing five Deportivo subs and three for us, I thought there might be a few added minutes in the second half, but no. I asked the fourth official if he was sure. He smiled. I cheekily asked him if it was his first ever game in charge. He smiled again and said he couldn’t remember any subs. I smiled, in case he booked me.

My favourite sub for Deportivo, was Riki, who I announced as Bianca’s favourite.If you can’t chuck in an Eastenders gag in a pre-season friendly, when can you?

As each Spanish sub pulled on their shirts, I noticed they were all wearing heart rate monitors. It seemed strange, but it’s OK in a friendly, as long as you have the ref’s permission.

On the way home I notice someone had put an England flag on the World Cup Heroes statue.

My journey home was slow. My regular short cut through the Isle of Dogs was scuppered by road closures for  a triathlon the next day. I listened to 5 Live and cheered on Derby County as they beat Leeds at Elland Road. Nigel Clough had stopped the Derby bus short of the ground before the game and his players had walked the last few hundred yards through the Leeds supporters. It was an echo of Don Revie’s actions when he took his Leeds team to the old Baseball Ground to play a Derby team managed by Nigel’s dad Brian. It was a scene I’d watched on TV a few weeks before in the  film ‘The Damned United’. It seemed to work. Having braved the fans outside, the fans in the ground held no fear for the Derby players.

606, the football phone in followed the match. What a joy, no  Alan Green or Spoony,  it was presented by Mark Chapman, who is always entertaining. I hope he’s got the gig for the season. Better still Derby captain Robbie Savage finished the match and then joined Chappers to co-present the show.I’ve never known that before.

Robbie is carving out quite a career as a media pundit. Of course he loves the sound of his own voice, but he is a good listen. He could do very well. There’s not many footballers who come across as well. I’ve regularly interviewed him at Leicester and Derby when I’ve been working for BBC East Midlands Today. He’s as charming in real life as he is irritating on the pitch.

So Robbie and Chappers accompanied me all the way home. On arrival I found the house full of children’s clothes hanging out to dry. My wife had met a Nigerian family in Twickenham Tesco. They were on holiday and staying in the hotel at the rugby ground. They asked my wife for directions to a launderette. Instead she had brought them home and done the washing for them. Slightly strange if you ask me, but that’s why I married her. She’s a lovely woman. And she does the washing.


Meeting the viewers

I’ve spent the day meeting the public in the centre of Leicester.

I pulled on a large red BBC East Midlands Today tee shirt and an even larger smile and joined up with my colleagues to meet real people. That may not sound scary to you, but trust me it is.

In general I really enjoy meeting them. Most of them are lovely, but it’s the questions they ask. Because you are on TV  people feel as if they know you, and can ask you anything.

Here’s some questions I was asked today, along with my answers. The bits in brackets I only said in my head. And the very last Q and A sequence only happened in my head in the car on the way home.

But these first ones are all real:

Q. What’s your golf handicap

A. Eighteen

Q. How many golf balls have you got?

A. Eighteen.  (if in doubt I always say eighteen)

Q. Can I knit you a scarf?

A. No I don’t really wear scarves. (a lie obviously, but I was worried they would come round my house for fittings)

Q. Why aren’t there any pictures of you?

A. Well the postcards are really only for the big name presenters.

Q. Where do you live?

A. London

Q. Where exactly?

A. I’d rather not give my full address.(in case you come round)

Q. Do you have any signed photos of Lucy Kite?

A. Sorry no.

Q. Why not?

A. Because she’s on ITV, We are the BBC, look it says here on my tee shirt.

Q. I never watch ITV

A. Oh OK.  (but I think you do)

Q. Do you have any photos of Penny Smith?

A. No, she used to work on ITV  too but she doesn’t any more. Have you read my tee shirt by the way?

Q. Are there any pictures of you?

A. I’m sorry no. Can I sign this information leaflet about the programme for you?

Q. Go on then. Who are you by the way?

Q. Why isn’t Sara Blizzard here?

A. Well somebody has to stay back in the studio to present the programme. (Ms Blizzard is our appropriately named weather presenter!)

Q. Can I have a key ring?

A. No sorry we don’t have any.

Q. Why not?

A. We’ve got presenter photos, notepads, pens and if you go round the corner you can try your hand at reading the news and weather.

Q. Do you have a key ring?

A. Yes

Q. Can I have that?

A. No

Q. Why not?

A. Because it has my car keys on it.

Q. Have I seen you on the television?

A. I don’t know, you might have done, I do the sport and the funny And Finally reports.

Q. What have I seen you doing?

A. Well only you would really know. We can’t see out of the screen to see who’s watching.

Q. I know I’ve seen you on TV. What was it?

A. I don’t know. (I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a short time ago)

Q. Why aren’t there any picture postcards of you?

A. Well what happened was, there was lots of them, but we had a rush of young women who snapped them all up early, so we’ve only got pictures of the ugly presenters left.

Q. What a shame, I really wanted a picture of you. Will you sign this leaflet for me?

A. Of course what’s your name?

Q. David

I’m doing the BBC East Midlands Today roadshow again on Thursday when we are at the Bakewell Show in Derbyshire. Bakewell is famous for it’s tarts, so I’m looking forward to it.

Come and say hello if you are there. I’ll be the one in the large red BBC  tee shirt with the large red smile and the slightly scared look in my eye.

Jeremy Nicholas  2nd August 2010   Beeston, near Nottingham. (While Nat and Wayne are watching Corrie.)

Speaking oop north

It’s good to be back in the land of the long vowel sounds. I’ve just spent the week on the road oop north where baths and paths are much shorter than I’m used to.

On Tuesday I was in Nottingham reporting on the British Open Wheelchair tennis for BBC TV.It’s just the same as abled bodied tennis, except the ball is allowed to bounce twice, and there’s not as much arguing.

I stayed the night with Natalie and Wayne, my regular East Midlands hosts, who are lovely people even if they do make me watch Coronation Street.

Never mind marmalade cats on rooftops, on Wednesday I was off to the real north.  I spent a lot of the morning at Woolley Back services on the M1., That might not be it’s exact name and the term services can only be loosely applied in this case. . It’s free broadband was intermittent and I spent a long time putting the finishing touches to my powerpoint slides for my talk that night. I was speaking at the Holiday Inn at Garforth, just north of dirty Leeds. Oh the glamour.

The speaking world is split down the middle on the issue of powerpoint slides in keynote talks. The purists don’t like them. I do like them.I like them very much indeed.
I have terrible trouble remembering my talks. I know the general outline but I often find myself going down comedy cul de sacs and can’t find my way back to the main road. If the audience think you don’t know where you are heading and suspect you don’t either, it can be a problem. I use powerpoint as a sort of sat nav. When I deviate off the route for comedy purposes, a click on the clicker, my next slide appears and I’m back on track.

Most of my slides are photographs that I have taken myself. I think they add to my stories. The traditional speakers might be turning in their graves at that, especially those that aren’t fully dead yet. But, in a world where attention span is…..sorry what was I saying, oh yes, attention span is shortening all the time, I think slides are great. In our interactive world, a man talking on stage on his own, needs to be very good to hold the attention. I am good, often I’m very good, but the photos add value and make me better. In my view.
And of course they keep me from repetition, deviation, hesitation and repetition.

Obviously I don’t use slides when I’m doing my after dinner talks. When I roll up at a golf club and they are tucking into chicken in a basket, it would seem a bit rum if I suddenly powered up a projector and rolled out a screen. Thinking about it they probably wouldn’t mind as long as I had my shirt tucked in.

With my powerpoint slides in order, I set off for Snaith to spend my afternoon with Phil, my old mate from journalism college. He’s something important at the BBC in Leeds. It’s twenty four years since we left college, but it was just like the old days straightaway. Except we talked about diabetes, baldness and second properties instead of acne, exam stress and demo tapes.

If ever a man should take up after dinner speaking it’s Phil. He’s a natural storyteller. So I dragged him along  to see me in action at the Holiday Inn that night. He wasn’t that keen, as he had to be up at four thirty, as he’s currently revamping Radio York’s breakfast show, but the promise of a free ticket was too much for a Yorkshireman to resist.

People had come from as far afield as Sunderland and Cumbria for the talk.  I did my best to be entertaining. Especially as a few people revealed they’d seen the talk before, but enjoyed it so much, they thought they’d come again. I put in a few topical bits, so it didn’t seem too much like the previous talk, and again my old friend Dr Powerpoint ensured I found my way back to the main road, without too much trouble.

The next morning waking up in Snaith, Phil was long gone, to make sure the good people of York were woken by a quality breakfast show before heading off for work at the chocolate factories.

I had breakfast with Phil’s wife Vicky.  I studied with Phil and worked with Vicky in my first ever job as a reporter at Viking Radio in Hull. I’d introduced them on a holiday in Ibiza in 1987. They’ve been together ever since.Vicky now works as a correspondent at Look North. They have three lovely girls. Daisy who’s about to go to big school. Flora who’s home from university and was worried about going for a filling a the dentist. And Isobel who was on holiday somewhere in Europe, so I stayed in her attic room up the steepest ladder you ever climbed.

The other member of the family is a Scottish terrier, possibly called Bonny. I don’t have much interest in dogs, so I can’t remember. Bonny or whatever, was very yappy, as she was being kept in the kitchen. She was in season. Little did she know that today she was off to be serviced by a boy Scottish terrier, who was to be paid the princely sum of three hundred pounds. He probably didn’t keep the money himself though. Apparently Scottish terrier puppies sell for five hundred pounds, so it was a good investment. A good seed to plant, so to speak.

This sort of thing happens all the time, so they tell me. The internet is full of personal ads for puppy love. Girl dog seeks boy dog, must have GSOH.

I left Snaith on Thursday morning for an early start in Bradford. It was the first proper meeting of my speakers mastermind group. Chatham House rules dictate that I can’t tell you what went on. It was very good though. A mastermind group is an informal group of people who are typically at the same stage of their careers in a common profession. The idea is to help each other by sharing knowledge and experiences. It’s a bit like the masons without the funny handshake.

As the former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond used to say, ‘but what I can tell you is this…’

The members present were John, Geoff, Jem, Rod and Andy. The sixth member Ayd couldn’t make it as he was actually speaking for money that day, which was a shame and a surprise.

On Thursday night I headed back to Nottingham for the night with Wayne and Natalie. They are moving house soon, so I won’t be able to stay with them for a while, which is very selfish of them.

Friday was a lovely day to be outside. I was stuck inside though planning next week’s outside broadcast from Loughborough. Tuesday  marks two years till the start of the London Olympics, so we’re doing a special from Loughborough, home to the GB and Japan teams. The main talk at the BBC is about the changes to the pension scheme. Everyone is very unhappy about it. As a freelance it doesn’t affect me, but there’s talk of strikes.

Back in London today, it’s good to be home. The planes are a bit noisy. Little Miss Afrikaaner isn’t happy because the Springboks lost again. And our Potterton boiler is on the blink. What does it mean when the green light keeps blinking and the boiler fires up all the time?

But it’s good to be back home.

A free chapter from my book

I’ve co-written a book called MediaMasters with my good friend Alan Stevens.

The aim of the book is to learn how top sports stars, performers, business people, politicans and others in the public eye, use the media to best effect.

Below is a free chapter about one of my footballing heroes, Brian Clough. We didn’t always get on, but he was a brilliant manager. His teams played attractive football and he was a godsend for journalists. He played the media better than anyone before or since. He knew the game and always provided great quotes.

BRIAN CLOUGH – the statue in the Old Market Square, Nottingham.

‘That’s the man we should have as England manager’, my Dad used to say, whenever Brian Clough was on the television in the seventies, talking about football. ‘But they’ll never give him the job, he’s too outspoken’.

Dad was right. Despite winning the league title with two unfashionable teams Derby County and Nottingham Forest, and then two European Cups with Forest, they never gave him the job he really wanted, because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He said entertaining, witty, outrageous and controversial things that the blazer wearers at the Football Association would never condone. Brian was years ahead of his time and he understood the importance of television to football. Most of all he spoke in terrific soundbites, and that’s why he’s a media master in my book, even if he did once punch me.

Here’s a few Cloughie soundbites to kick off with:

‘Football hooligans – well, there are 92 club chairmen for a start.’

‘Don’t send me flowers when I’m dead. If you like me, send them while I’m alive.’

‘Players lose you games, not tactics. There’s so much crap talked about tactics by people who barely know how to win at dominoes.’

Known to all as Cloughie, he died in 2004. He’s the only person, I didn’t interview specifically for the book, but I have interviewed him many times and have referred back to those old interviews as well as TV and radio footage from the archives. And if that sounds a chore, well it wasn’t. He’s one of the most entertaining speakers ever in my view. In the sports world only Muhammad Ali and Yogi Berra come close. Every time he opened his mouth, out came a gem.

Most neutrals loved the way Cloughie’s teams played, attractive passing to feet, not just hoofing it up in the air and hoping.

‘If God had wanted us to play football in the clouds, he’d have put grass up there.’

Like many a fan of the beautiful game, I was disappointed when Manchester United opted out of the FA Cup one season, so they could play in the World Club Championship in Brazil. Brian didn’t hold back with his feelings:

‘Manchester United in Brazil? I hope they all get bloody diarrhoea.’

He was a very arrogant man, but with justification, and he could joke about it as well. When honoured by the Queen for his services to football, he was the first to say that his OBE stood for Old Big ‘Ead.

‘I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the business, but I was in the top one.’

‘The river Trent is lovely, I know because I have walked on it for 18 years. ‘

‘They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job. ‘

Brian was uniquely eloquent. He’d had his playing career cut short through injury, so he came to management very young. He was fresh faced, witty and outspoken. TV producers and viewers loved him.

I don’t want to upset any footballers who might be reading this book, or having it read to them, but they aren’t always the greatest with words. So gifted with their feet, many can barely string two words together. ‘Yeah like I say, the lads done great, if you know what I mean, obviously, we’re just taking each game as it comes.’ (I always think playing one game at a time is a good idea, or the pitch would be far too crowded!)

When Sven Goran Eriksson, a Swede, was appointed the first foreign manager of England, Cloughie came up with the priceless soundbite:

‘At last England have appointed a manager who speaks English better than the players.’

Despite making a good living from being an expert analyst on television, he thought there was too much football on the box.

‘You don’t want roast beef and Yorkshire every night and twice on Sunday.’

He could be a bit rude, like this piece of advice to David Beckham, about his wife’s career with the Spice Girls.

‘He should guide Posh in the direction of a singing coach, because she’s nowhere near as good at her job as her husband.’

(He could be right. I’ve never heard David sing!)

He hit me once. Cloughie not Becks.

Brian had signed Steve Hodge for Nottingham Forest and he’d been drinking whisky with the player in his office to celebrate. I waited outside in the cold with the press pack. When he emerged after a few hours and a few glasses, Cloughie’s nose was a little redder than usual. He said a few words to the press, but refused me an interview for BBC radio. I asked again and he punched me full in the face, I fell backwards through a door and landed on his labrador, Del Boy. I picked myself up and asked again, which really wasn’t a good idea. He shoved me through a door and slammed it closed. In his mind he had thrown me out, but in fact he was now in the corridor and I was in his office.

I stood there for a few moments just looking at all the pennants from foreign football clubs on the wall alongside a picture of Frank Sinatra. How would I explain to my boss at the BBC that relations with Cloughie might be a bit strained from now on. Eventually I let myself out, interviewed Brian’s assistant Archie Gemmill about the new signing and then went back to find Old Big ‘Ead. He was drinking whisky with some newspaper reporters.

I held out my hand.

‘See you next week Brian’.

He shook it.

‘Young man, you are the first reporter I’ve punched this season, but you won’t be the last.’

That year Forest won the League Cup Final at Wembley. While other reporters were kept waiting in the tunnel, I was hauled into the dressing room by Cloughie wearing just a white towel. He gave me an exclusive radio interview while internationals Des Walker and Stuart Pearce stood naked drinking beer out of the trophy. As I left Clough said, ‘That’s cos I took your head off earlier in the season.’

I don’t feel bad about being clobbered by Cloughie, after all he hit his own fans who ran onto the pitch during a game. Once, rather bravely in my view, he dished some out to tough guy footballer Roy Keane.

‘I only ever hit Roy the once. He got up, so I couldn’t have hit him very hard.’

Drink was Brian’s downfall. He did like his whisky.

‘Walk on water? I know most people out there will be saying that I should have taken more of it with my drinks. They are absolutely right.’

He was the best in the business at motivating players. They just had to agree with his methods. If they disagreed:

‘We talk about if for twenty minutes and then decide I was right.’

Martin O’Neill, now a successful manager in his own right pays tribute to Brian’s ability with words.

‘It’s fair to say I wasn’t one of his favourites, but when he gave you praise he made you feel a thousand feet tall.’

Football is a much poorer place now Cloughie has gone. This is how the man himself wanted to be remembered:

‘I want no epitaphs of profound history and all that type of thing. I contributed. I would hope they would say that, and I would hope somebody liked me.’

I think we can safely say that a few people liked him. Not much unites the rival East Midlands cities of Nottingham and Derby, but the loss of Cloughie did.

The road that links Nottingham and Derby has been renamed Brian Clough Way.

I stood in the pouring rain with supporters of both teams at his memorial service at Derby’s Pride Park.

What a stormy night it was. We were soaked through. Nigel Clough summed it up, when he spoke on the microphone, suggesting he may have inherited his Dad’s knack of capturing the spirit of an occasion.

As the rain streamed down from the heavens, Nigel said, ‘I’m sure he’s going to have a bit of an input upstairs about who’s running the show up there. We hope he’s sat up there with friends in the sunshine, looking down and saying- look at those daft buggers sitting in the rain.’

Brian Clough was the best football manager the England national side never had. Most of the people in this book have got where they are today, by being great talkers. For Brian his mastery of the spoken word cost him the job he wanted most. As always he gets the last word. Here’s his thoughts on where he went wrong.

‘Telling the entire world and his dog how good a manager I was. I knew I was the best but I should have said nowt and kept the pressure off ‘cos they’d have worked it out for themselves. ‘

by Jeremy Nicholas London Uk (Links to Kindle and print versions of the book on Amazon below)