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Sheffield 160: Lee Holland

12:27 PMAleks Vee

by Aleks V |

2017 marks the 160th anniversary of the world's first football club, Sheffield FC. Founded on October 24, 1857, the club went on to become a part of many other firsts. The founders, Nathaniel Creswick and William Prest, wrote the first official rules of the game. Sheffield FC's rivalry with Hallam FC became the world's first derby. They were pioneers of heading the ball. In more recent history, Sheffield FC were awarded the FIFA Order of Merit, an honor given to only one other football club, Real Madrid. Although the club currently competes in the 8th tier of English football, their popularity knows no geographic bounds.

Sheffield 160 is a bi-weekly series that goes behind the scenes of the historic club through interviews with players and staff.

This week, Aleks V chats with Sheffield FC stadium announcer Lee Holland.

Photo courtesy of Ben Webster
Did you always want to be a stadium announcer, or did you have ambitions to play soccer?
Being a stadium announcer had never even entered my head until I volunteered to do so at Sheffield FC. I played football (soccer) as a young kid but I was never good enough to take it further so I always knew I'd never be a pro footballer.

How long have you been calling games at Sheffield FC? How did you first get involved?
I've been the stadium announcer around two years now, I think. A good friend and I used to watch the games as supporters and he then became the stadium announcer. He and his family were planning to move away so I offered to take over when his move finally came.

What's one thing most people probably don't know about your job?
How nerve-racking it is! It's a horrible feeling when you screw up because you've screwed up in front of a couple of hundred people. When I first started I was petrified - especially as I was no good at speaking to groups of people. One of the the reasons I wanted to to do the job was to become more confident speaking to people and it has certainly helped.

How do you prepare for games? Any tips you've taken from notable announcers?
I always check on opposition social media in case someone has a landmark coming up like 100 appearances, etc. so I can announce it before the game. I follow the league quite closely anyway, so I have an idea who is who and how well teams are doing. I'm a big Sheffield United supporter and the stadium announcer there is very clear and confident, so I always try and be the same and try to get across how much I enjoy the job.

Actor Alfie Allen (right) with Sheffield FC Chairman Richard Tims. Photo: Sheffield FC
Was there anyone interesting you've gotten to meet because of your job?
As I mentioned I'm a Sheffield United supporter, so I've got to meet some ex players at a few of the games who were heroes of mine when I was younger. Probably the only 'celebrity' I've met was a guy called Alfie Allen who was in 'Game of Thrones' while he was at the ground filming a TV documentary on football.

How has Sheffield FC changed during the time you've worked there?
Social media has played a massive part in promoting the club, which wasn't as widely available as it is now. As the club currently play in a stadium outside of the city of Sheffield, there is a big effort at the moment to raise the money to move back to the city, to the area where the club was actually formed. A lot of this wouldn't have been possible without Twitter and Facebook, etc.

Favorite game you've called? 
Any game in which we win! In all seriousness, I've enjoyed all of them but I believe the best game is yet to come.

Anything funny ever happen? 
We had a floodlight failure at a night game so the ground was in near pitch black. I had the Bob Marley tune 'Three Little Birds' (Don't Worry About a Thing) on a CD so I played that and the spectators had a good sing-a-long until the floodlights came back on.
There seems to be a very tightly knit community around the club. Have any stories outside the pitch made it into the local folklore?
Yes, there is a good community spirit around the club from the Chairman all the way down to the supporters. I don't believe we've done anything to make local folklore I'm afraid - perhaps we aren't trying enough!

You got to play at the San Siro as part of the Sheffield FC Veterans' SC tour of Milan. You've compared that experience to being on the X Factor. Any other events worthy of that analogy?
Nothing will come close as long as I live to playing in the San Siro stadium - living the dream 100%. I've been fortunate enough to play on the Sheffield FC pitch a couple of times but nothing will ever come close to the trip to Milan. Playing at Bramall Lane, the home of Sheffield United, would push it close but I'm yet to realise that dream!

You've also been to the Netherlands for the Pioneers Cup, scoring a goal against Koninklijke. So Holland was in Holland! What was that like?
That was a great trip and scoring a goal made it a little more memorable. I got to play with some ex Sheffield FC players and an ex pro which was great. The whole weekend was fantastic - a great way to spend some time with some good friends and great people. Yes, my name did cause a few comments from the border controls, but all in good fun. It was always somewhere I wanted to visit so it was great to do it while playing football in a Sheffield FC shirt.

I noticed you're a sci-fi fan. Do you ever slip in the occasional movie reference during games?
I don't think I have, but I'll consider it as a challenge for the next game!
Photo: Sheffield FC via Flickr
If you could travel back in time in a DeLorean (or a Tardis), what past game would you announce?
For the 150th celebrations, Sheffield FC played Inter Milan at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium with Pelé as the special guest, so to have possibly met him and announce in such a great stadium would have been fantastic.

Any plans for Sheffield FC's 160th?
I'm sure the club will have big plans to celebrate such a momentous milestone but I'm not aware of anything at the moment. If I'm lucky enough to still be the stadium announcer and be part of such a great club, then I'll be more than happy.

Read more on Sheffield 160 here.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #Sheffield160.

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