After making his way on Saturday morning show Soccer AM as an Elvis impersonator who made the tea, Adam Smith has captured viewers with his portrayal of ‘Franky Fryer’, and the popular character has gone toe-to-toe with some pretty famous faces.
Since August 2011, those who have been tuning in to Sky Sports and Sky One’s Soccer AM have been treated to a frantic regular segment starring Adam. In ‘Away Days’, he plays the Danny Dyer parody ‘Franky Fryer’ and it is a loose take on Dyer’s ‘Cockney geezer’ film roles and his part in programmes like The Real Football Factories. In the latter, Dyer is frequently seen to be ‘keeping his nut down’ and trying to avoid attention in potentially tricky or dangerous situations. This gave Franky his catchphrase and Adam has added his own unique extras to create one of the show’s most well-liked features.
Each week, Franky will arrive in a different town or city of a football team and will take the viewer around the area, meeting random members of the public and any relevant renowned figures. There will usually be members of the club’s playing or coaching staff involved and Franky will round it off in the stadium chanting alone.
The character has been a resounding hit with viewers and a t-shirt with Franky’s face and catchphrase on raised over £18,000 for charity. ‘Away Days’ is a feature which Adam writes, presents, produces and edits and he explains the origins of the idea and how it had to be adapted from the original plan.
“It was a crossover of a lot of people’s ideas, Danny Dyer’s a friend of the show and his mannerisms are just brilliant. The ‘Away Days’ feature is also informative and originally we were going to have it so we got to the station and I gave fans the route to the stadium.
“The problem with that is 90 per cent of stadiums are right next to the station! I’ve got to go all over for it to places like Lapland, Warsaw, Dortmund, Transylvania, and we’re in the process of possibly arranging Istanbul, which will be proper ‘Keep me nut down’ territory!
In addition to packing as many facts as possible into just a few minutes, ‘Away Days’ sometimes sees Franky taking on a physical challenge or being placed in a slightly tricky scenario. This includes sparring with former light-heavyweight champion boxer Clinton Woods in the recent Sheffield Wednesday piece. The trip to Lapland he touched upon also brought one or two difficult moments such as lying in sub-zero temperatures making a snow angel!
Adam recalls that trip to the north of Finland for a Christmas 2012 feature in which he got the big man himself to keep his nut down.
“Going to Lapland and getting to meet the ‘official’ Santa was fun. They had a football team there called FC Santa Claus and when I went to meet Santa obviously all the kids were there with their Christmas lists.
“Then there’s me bowling up to him, wearing a load of rascal gold jewellery, covered in snow asking him to say ‘oosh’ for the camera. I think he said ‘woosh’ instead but it’s Santa Claus so you can’t really argue with the geezer.”
In the last nineteen years, Soccer AM has naturally had a throughput of current and ex-professional footballers on the show. Alongside these names have been guests from all sorts of backgrounds including wrestling royalty like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. There was also a fantastic meeting between Franky and the first man to win two consecutive Royal Rumbles.
“One of the most memorable was the ‘nut-down’ with Hulk Hogan. I went in and he’s there, this massive geezer, a legend, with his entourage of about fifteen people.
“He was doing a PR day and I think he thought I was going in to do a long interview about wrestling. He starts staring at me and I said: “All I want you to say is ‘it’s time to keep my nut down, oosh!”
“He said: “I really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about brother but what the hell?” I just remember him going absolutely crazy putting some real emphasis on the ‘oosh!’ and then saying afterwards ‘that’s one of the craziest things I’ve done’.”
Just like ‘Hollywood Hogan’, there have been plenty of personalities who have filmed parts for Soccer AM but never actually featured as a live guest. One of these is Leigh Francis’ character Keith Lemon, known principally for presenting the ITV comedy panel show ‘Celebrity Juice’. Viewers of both shows will be aware that Franky’s signature sound is somewhat similar to that of Keith Lemon. There was one evening when the two of them compared notes!
“I got invited to the Loaded Lafta Awards and felt out of place next to all these comedy legends. I get hundreds of tweets asking who started the ‘oosh’, me or Keith Lemon?
“I think it’s a completely different word, the way I say it and the way Keith says it! We were in Covent Garden at the awards and there’s probably about 20 different media people doing interviews in a packed room and I asked Keith if we could have an ‘oosh-off’.
“We took it in turns and started getting louder and louder each time to the point where Keith’s screaming ‘oosh’ at the top of his voice and saying he had to stop because he was feeling faint. Everyone in the room was just staring at us wondering what on earth was going on.”
Before Franky gets his special guest(s) to shout ‘it’s time to keep my nut down…oosh!’ he has to give it a build-up in his own inimitable style. This takes the kind of skill that only a professional can provide as he extends a comprehensive welcome by cramming in a huge amount of words into limited time!
Franky often talks for over a minute at this fast pace, all off the top of his head with no autocue and he regularly manages it in one take. He even did the link live on one show to prove it was all off the cuff. Despite taking his rapid recital technique to a figure like Hulk Hogan, Adam names a different occasion as the one where he felt edgy filming ‘Away Days’.
“The only time I was a little bit apprehensive was when we went to West Ham to film it with Danny Dyer. The fact he played up to it though was brilliant and he calls me his ‘brother from another mother’.
“There was a bit where we were doing the ‘funny walk’ down Green Street and both saying it at the same time, wearing the same jackets. He turned and said to me, still in character: “Franky, we look a right couple of melts!”
Just like this site, Soccer AM often fuses football and music and co-presenter Max Rushden, the show’s ‘badboy rapper’ Tubes and former crew member and current Fantasy FC host Fenners have all featured on here. The ska artist Wilcko released the track ‘Oy, Oy, Oy, It’s Franky Fryer’ in 2012 in honour of Adam’s character and it reached number three in the UK reggae download chart.
Music is something Adam personally has a love for and he reveals some of his favourite artists as well as the most memorable live performances he has seen.
“I’m big into my indie music – a lot of Oasis, and bands that we’ve had on the show like Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, The Enemy, The Rifles. I’m also into my ska and bands like Madness that I’ll bang out in my motor regularly.
“I think my first CD might have been something like Chumbawamba (‘Tubthumping’)!
“I did Glastonbury the year (2007) Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian were there but the one that stood out was when Oasis played Wembley. It was the same time as the Ashes (summer 2009) and I went on the Thursday and came back on the Sunday – it was incredible.
“Also, being a Spurs fan I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Chas and Dave and I’ve seen them live five times, which not a lot of people can say!”
As he alludes to, one of the big passions in Adam’s life is Tottenham Hotspur and his love for the club certainly shone through when he was asked which song he would choose to record a cover version of. The track in question featured the Spurs squad (and Chas and Dave) ahead of the 1981 FA Cup final, a tie in which Ricky Villa scored the winner in the replay against Manchester City with his unforgettable solo run and finish.
Alongside Villa in the Spurs midfield in that game was fellow Argentina international Ossie Ardiles and in the song Adam named, Ardiles was the main focus.
“I’d love to re-record ‘Ossie’s Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley)’. He came on the show and we made him appear in our ‘Hairy Strikers’ sketch so to see a geezer who’s won the World Cup wearing a straw hat doing the challenge with marshmallows in his mouth was quite something!
“Obviously he’s been in a car accident recently and we all wish him the best and a quick recovery.”
The majority of the interviews on here are with footballers and one of the regular questions asks the player to discuss their teammates’ choice of songs and artists. When asked about the selections provided by his crew members, Adam was in no doubt who to give a dishonourable mention to!
“Straight away, I’ve got to say Max’s music taste is horrific. He’ll freely admit that he plays clarinet which just about sums him up for music!
“He’s a great bloke and we get on really well but he calls songs ‘toe-tappers’ and ‘sing-a-longs’. There was a car journey to Cheltenham where I had to listen to him singing The Corrs or B*Witched so for that reason I’d have to put him down as the worst!”
Max Rushden, Tubes and Fenners aren’t the only people with a link to Adam who have delved into music and football talk on this site. Leyton Orient forward Robbie Simpson was interviewed near the beginning of last season and he is a friend of Adam’s from their time at Loughborough University.
Back in his late teens, Adam was taking his early steps in the broadcasting industry and he first appeared to Soccer AM viewers as ‘Baby Elvis’. Dressed as ‘The King’, he featured in a variety of segments on the show and highlights (or lowlights) included being rugby-tackled by former England inside-centre Will Greenwood!
As someone who has watched Soccer AM for many years and came to know Adam as Baby Elvis long before Franky Fryer I wondered where the idea for the former came from.
“It came from (former presenter of the show) Tim Lovejoy. I was a runner on the show and this shy 17/18-year-old with a rascal quiff and he asked me to dance to one of those singing fish (Big Mouth Billy Bass).
“He said ‘that’s amazing / really weird’ and the next thing I know I’m doing the splits dressed as Elvis on the show and going around universities and talking to old people for it.
“I started right at the bottom as a greasy-haired teenager who wore a lot of pink jumpers! I used to make the cups of tea and I worked my way up from there.
“I also did the All Sports Show which was a spin-off on Friday evenings which Sheephead produced. After a year of that, all the ones like Lovejoy, Fenners and Sheephead left Soccer AM so we took on their roles really.”
Baby Elvis would also face a penalty taken by an ex-professional player in the Frank McAvennie Car Park outside the studio. Dressed in his glittering white outfit and wearing shades, he would try to save the effort after the whistle was blown by a parody referee such as Mark Battenberg or Peter Andre Marriner. I asked Adam whether the emergence of Franky Fryer now means Baby Elvis is retired for good?
“I’d say so. ‘Probably’ is the word I’d use.”
Away from his energetic displays as Franky, Adam is steadily making the most of the opportunities coming his way. Max Rushden recently missed a show after spending his Saturday morning in A&E and while of course unpleasant for Max, this paved the way for another crew member to step into the lead role alongside Helen Chamberlain.
That crew member was Adam and the guests on his first show were former Arsenal, Everton and Sheffield Wednesday striker Francis Jeffers, actors Simon Greenall and Tim Key, and drum and bass act Rudimental. Adam was enthused by how he did with the spotlight on him considering he only found out he was going to be presenting the show that morning.
“I really enjoy the presenting side and I’ve been going behind the scenes with ‘Inside Football’ at Portsmouth and Bradford this season talking to the managers, the players and the staff, getting access all areas. I actually found out on the day itself that I was going to present Soccer AM and because of the mentality of the show I didn’t know if it was a wind-up.
“There was so much crammed in such a short space of time that morning so because of that I didn’t really have a chance to get nervous. I think it went well, I was quite calm and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Away from Soccer AM, there was a double-page Franky Fryer column in Loaded’s ZIP Magazine and he has been making appearances at various events too. Looking to hear a detail about Adam that people might not be aware of, he gave me two, the latter of which will bring back nostalgia for some.
“I once starred in a TV ad for orange juice when I was eight years old. I had one line but I’ve never watched it back so I don’t know how well it went!
“My Mum, Sally James, also used to present Tiswas with Chris Tarrant on Saturday morning TV. Now I’m doing Saturday morning TV so it’s quite funny how it’s worked out.”
A major event on the Soccer AM calendar is the Dance Off which takes places on one show every January. This features the crew members competing for the trophy and they are given 15 seconds to impress with their routine. Adam won the title in 2006 as Baby Elvis and this year’s event saw Rocket take the crown for the sixth time.
There was some controversy however as Franky Fryer’s dance included his ‘legendary sound man’ Tom throwing baked beans over him, making a slippery surface for the remaining contestants! Adam had this to say on the matter.
“You can have this as an exclusive – I promise never to bring baked beans to the Dance Off again. I don’t even like baked beans!”
We rounded off the interview in style with two questions from a fantasy world. The regular way to wrap up the features on here is to ask the player to name their four best career teammates to join them in a 5-a-side line-up. Although Adam can play a bit himself, I asked for the five Tottenham players he would put together, based on the best he has seen play live.
“I’d have Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) as my captain. The greatest player England have ever had in my opinion, I was mesmerised by him.
“In goal, Hugo Lloris – one of the best in the Premier League. The world’s most expensive player Gareth Bale would have to be in there, without a doubt.
“David Ginola – someone I’ve met through the show when he’s been on and a top bloke, very funny. When we signed him we weren’t doing too well and we were a bit of a one-man team.
“Jurgen Klinsmann up front too – genius. At the back I’d have Ledley King and it’d mean a lot for him to do as it’s a very attacking team but I think he could handle it at his best.”
The eagle-eyed might have noticed that Adam made his team into a 6-a-side without realising! That meant that he had to relegate one of his Spurs stars to a substitute role, but who would it be?
“I think I’ll have to put Ginola on the bench! Gutted!
“I have to say then it’d be roll-on/roll-off subs and he wouldn’t be one who’d just be warming up without playing!”
I also gave Adam the chance to envisage his ultimate line-up of guests for a Soccer AM show. Before he answered, I gave him the selections made by Tubes and Max in their interviews:
Tubes – Sylvester Stallone, Mila Kunis, Gianfranco Zola, Lee Evans
Max – Morgan Freeman, Marco Tardelli, Richard and Judy
Here is the A-list cast Adam went for and it is fair to say there would probably be one or two extra people setting aside two hours of their morning to watch.
“The footballer would be the easiest one – David Beckham. Everyone loves him and everyone would tune in.
“Al Pacino – legend. Angelina Jolie – a naughty little treacle!”
Follow me on Twitter: @chris_brookes
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