Nick Frost: Sing When You're Winning
When it comes to football, comic actors Nick Frost and Simon Pegg don’t see eye to eye. Frost, star of comedy cop flick, Hot Fuzz and obnoxious sidekick in zombie movie, Shaun Of The Dead (opening line: “Any of you c**ts want a drink?”), is a hardcore West Ham fan first, England loyalist second. His co-star, meanwhile, only stirs during the major international tournaments.
Frost pulls a face. “It’s not about that though, is it?” he says. “I keep telling him. We went to Belgium for his stag do and it was the same weekend as the FA Cup Final between West Ham and Liverpool. We found a bar that we could all sit in – we had the whole place to ourselves. Then Simon says, ‘Oh, I’m going for a little walk around the town’. And so he f**ks off for two hours, buying comics and action figures. F**king hell, it’s the FA Cup Final. Even if you don’t like football, you can enjoy the FA Cup final.”
Frost’s incredulity is understandable: his West Ham cherry was popped at the age of eight. The fact that this first experience of the Irons came during an FA Cup clash against London rivals Leyton Orient makes the tournament more sacred than any other. And under the guidance of dad and Uncle Brian, a love affair with Upton Park had begun.
“I was from Dagenham and Barking, so it was only natural that I supported West Ham,” he says. “My family were fans, too. But that game was important because it was my first telly appearance – West Ham were taking a corner and I was in that part of the ground. We got back that night to watch Match Of The Day and I was there, in my duffel coat, giving it the trademarked, double thumbs up.”
As a kid, Frost was wowed by tales of the Hammers’ World Cup heroes – Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore – but Frank Lampard Senior became his favourite player because “he was great and had tremendous hair.” But a change was in the offing. During his teens, Frost’s appearances at Upton Park became limited, mainly due to his blossoming rugby talent.
“I played for Barking in the same team as Jason Leonard,” he says. “I ended up being the only white player at London Nigeria and they fought like f**k, even during training. I was at an age when I was into girls and I didn’t want to get into fights all the time. I thought, F**k this, I’m not getting beaten up by a Lagos powerhouse.”
“I really fell in love with football again,” says Frost. But what followed was years of yo-yoing as West Ham flirted with both flair football in the Premiership and lower league frustration.
“It’s always the same,” he sighs. “Even now. Last season they were brilliant, this year they’ve fallen apart. I’ve never gone into a season with as much excitement and promise as this one. I thought, ‘We can f**king do this! Especially with the way everyone played last year. We even signed Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez from Corinthians. Before you knew it, Nigel Reo-Coker was unsettled, Alan Pardew had been sacked and we were in a relegation scrap.”
For Frost, the season was encapsulated in one match: the 3-4 home defeat to Spurs in March. With West Ham cruising at 2-0, they threw away the match with the final kick of the game. “It was incredible,” he says, ruefully. “When Tevez scored his first goal for the club in that game, we thought we were on the up. Then we collapsed. If that game were in a film, Spurs would never have won. But it’s West Ham and it’s football, so it doesn’t work out like that.”
This, as Frost knows too well, is a self-destructive streak familiar to West Ham. “I say to my girlfriend sometimes, I wish I’d been born in Rio or Manchester,” he says. “But I’m from the area, so West Ham is in me. I’ll even say to her, ‘Oh f**k it, I hate West Ham’, because they’re playing so badly. This season it’s got to a point where I couldn’t even watch Match Of The Day – it hurt me too much to watch them getting beaten again.
“But there are other times when they make me so happy. Winning the play-off final in 2005 was amazing. I was watching it on the telly. I remember my girlfriend coming into the front room and I was there, on my own, crying my heart out. She said, ‘What is wrong with you?’”
Despite relegation being avoided at Old Trafford in the season’s final act, Frost fears the new owners and Curbishley’s first full season may signal a close-season exodus. “You’re f**ked then,” he says forlornly. “I loved Tevez, but it must have been very frustrating for him here. He came from Corinthians and the sun. Then he got to Upton Park. I mean, it’s a great stadium when it’s full, but he must have thought, ‘Oh. My. God’.”
“Tevez leaving wasn’t my biggest fear, though,” says Frost. “My biggest fear was that we’d turn into Leeds. I tried to imagine myself in Curbishley’s shoes in front of that lot saying, ‘Come on, let’s give it another year. Let’s stick together! Let’s get up together!’”
Supporting West Ham is clearly a labour of love. Maybe Simon Pegg has got it right after all.
Best West Ham moment?
Coming up from the Championship and winning the Play-off Final in 2005. It was like winning a proper cup final, when he players run around the pitch with the cup and everything.
I felt awful after losing 4-3 to Spurs in March. I thought we were down.
All-time West Ham hero?
Frank Lampard Snr. But I always liked John Hartson and Paolo Di Canio – they gave it their all for West Ham. And recently, Tevez. I think he’s brilliant, although when he arrived it was a bit like Are You Being Served? You know, like a superstar turning up at Grace Brothers.
Stand up if you hate…
Personally, it’s got to be Tottenscum. I was always a big hater of Arsenal, but as soon as they got into the Emirates I didn’t mind them. I think it was the stadium I hated. You’ve got to have a London rival and it’s Spurs up there at their ‘lovely White Hart Lane’. I don’t like Robbie Keane either – he’s so angry. You can imagine him being the mad bastard who gets into a fight at a wedding.
Would you make your kids support West Ham?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean at the end of the day it’s up to them, but I would make sure they thought about it long and hard.