By Jeremy Nicholas
I just wanted to say a few words to the readers of West Ham Till I Die to thank them for the kind words of support at this difficult time. As a broadcaster I’ve lost many jobs over the years, due to changes in management or my face not fitting in to a new schedule. But to resign from West Ham has been the toughest loss of all. It feels a bit like breaking up with a girl I’ve been in love with for the past 44 years. I’ve loved West Ham since I was six years old and we moved to East London from Cambridge.
When I moved to ‘big school’ at Ilford County High I was delighted to find that our blazers were claret and discover Trevor Brooking had been in form 1P a few years previously. How we looked down on the poor souls in 1Q, 1R and 1S who had no such claim.
I followed West Ham through university on Ceefax and became a season ticket holder during the nineties, after a long spell of presenting sports shows on Saturdays came to an end. In 1998 I was delighted to be asked to be the stadium announcer. I declined originally because I correctly assumed that I would no longer be able to shout at the players during the game. However once I’d said yes, I never looked back. I loved that job and it breaks my heart to leave it.
I did part company with the club briefly before back in 2008. Scott Duxbury sacked me the day before the 08/09 season started which was classy of him! He’d brought in an events company to run the pre-match entertainment and they insisted on using their own announcers. Scott and I had disagreed a few weeks earlier when he’d suggested we run out to a new tune, rather than the ‘defeatist anthem’ I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. I was having none of it, but it marked my card and hastened my departure I fear. Their ‘own announcers’ weren’t up to much. I sat in the stand wincing as a hybrid player was announced as Jack Collins. Clyde Best was interviewed by a man who clearly had no idea who he was, and if he did had no intention of enlightening our younger supporters. Two announcers came and went, before a third nervous guy took the mike. I always remember how he stammered on Dicksun Etuhu..hu..hu. The fans didn’t warm to alternative pre-match tunes and Bubbles came back in various disastrous cover versions.
After kind messages of support from you Iain and your website, plus our friend at KUMB, I returned in triumph under the floodlights against Hull City in January 2009. Scott Duxbury said that sacking me was the worst decision he ever made at West Ham. He was clearly forgetting the day, when as club lawyer, he pushed back his chair and said ‘That Tevez and Mascherano contract looks all right to me!’
Scott told me I had a job for life after that, but unfortunately for him, he didn’t.
I was looking forward to many more happy years in the role. I was excited at the prospect of being the first West Ham announcer in the Olympic Stadium. But that has all gone now.
It feels very different to last time when I was furious to have been sacked. This time the decision was mine and I made it in the best interests of my family.
I quit my dream job because the club wanted me to take a 60% pay cut. I’ve seen wildly varying speculation as to how much I earned, so I will tell you exactly how much it was. It was £10k per year with the proposal to reduce it to £4k. In other words £500 per game down to £200 per game.
I probably would have agreed to this, because I’m a fan at heart and I wanted to carry on as the voice of West Ham. I decided to resign because of somebody I love, even more than I love West Ham
My wife is called Jeanette Kruger. She is South African and I met her through the dating website match dot com, when she was over here on attachment to IBM London from IBM Johannesburg. She is the great, great, great granddaughter of President Paul Kruger, the leader of the South African Republic and the man who gave his name to the Krugerrand and Kruger National Park. She is my rock, my angel and my princess. We married at the Boleyn Ground in November 2006.
Three years ago she was bitten by a tick during a 42 mile hike across the Yorkshire moors. She’s a marathon runner and as tough as they come and completed the hike in dreadful weather, with a full rucksack in 22 hours. She was bitten by a tick which carried Lyme Disease. This was undiagnosed for two years. She was treated instead for chronic fatigue and consequently has been off work for eighteen months. Now it’s been diagnosed as Lyme we are fighting it with very aggressive antibiotics for a nine month period. This makes her very ill and she is housebound most of the time. I’ve had to stop working as a freelance TV reporter, because I can’t spend nights away from home, as she is prone to fainting. Back in November I found her lying in a pool of blood on the hall floor, after she’d fainted and banged her head. It was the night before my 50th birthday and she still jokes that she arranged the subsequent ambulance ride to hospital as my present!
As she can’t work, it’s up to me to bring in the money. Without my TV earnings this has meant relying on my conference hosting and after-dinner speaking. I can earn far more as a speaker than I can as an announcer, so to give up twenty prime dates for £4k was not economically viable. The only decision I could take for my family was to give up the West Ham job.
I would love to think that one day I’ll get to announce for West Ham again. I’ve certainly parted on good terms, so I like to think the door is still slightly ajar.
There’s no real career progression in stadium announcing. It’s not as if I can go and work for another club, because I don’t support anyone else. The only other role I could do is the England job and they already have a very good announcer. I’ve announced a few times for the FA in the past and it was fantastic.
I’d appeal to any West Ham fans who run businesses or belong to organisations, golf clubs etc, that need an after dinner speaker for their events in the run up to Christmas to visit my website. I suddenly have a lot more free space in my diary! My email address is Jem@JeremyNicholas.co.uk.I’m sad that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye over the PA at a game, but Mr Moon has left the Stadium. There will be a new announcer on Saturday against Everton.
Thanks for having me for the past sixteen seasons.
I will be West Ham Till I Die.