John Motson: BBC football commentator ‘Motty’ has died aged 77

The legendary BBC commentator John Motson has died at the age of 77

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Popularly known as ‘Motty’, the former BBC commentator John Motson has died at the age of 77. During his career, Motson covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport. From the late 1970s to 2008, Motson was the dominant football commentary figure at the BBC, excluding a brief period where his friend and rival Barry Davies was selected for two FA Cup final commentaries, the 1994 World Cup final and the UEFA Euroo 1996 semi-final between England and Germany.

Motson retired from live television commentary in 2008 but continued to cover games for Match of the Day highlights, he appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live as well as commentating on CBeebies’ Footy Pups. In September 2017, Motson announced his full retirement from the BBC and nearly a year later, the Lancashire-born commentator started work for TalkSPORT.

ITV football commentator Martin Tyler said of his broadcasting rival: “His legacy will be commentary on countless goals of great importance, the main terrestial channel for football, the World Cups, Champions League finals and things he did. At the time when there wasn’t so much football on television, you could be the voice of the country and I think John was.”

Here is all you need to know about former football commentator John Motson...

Who was John Motson?

‘Motty’ first joined the BBC on a full-time basis as a sports presenter on Radio 2 in 1968 having previously been at BBC Radio Sheffield beforehand. His first radio commentary was for a match between Everton and Derby County in December 1969. The son of a Methodist minister, Motson then gained work on Match of the Day in 1971 and soon became a regular fixture, commentating on almost 2,500 televised games. He was awarded an OBE for his services to sports broadcasting in 2001.

John Moston in his famous sheepskin coat during a Premier League match in 2015John Moston in his famous sheepskin coat during a Premier League match in 2015
John Moston in his famous sheepskin coat during a Premier League match in 2015

From 1979 to 2008, Motson was the BBC’s voice on major finals, including the FA Cup, European Championships and World Cup which included his record-breaking sixth World Cup final in Berline 2006 and his 29th FA Cup final in 2008.

John Motson and his wife Anne, to whom he had been married to for 43 years, have one son, Frederick, who was born in 1986.

Motson’s most notable moments

One of Motson’s most iconic moments in his career was when he covered the memorable FA Cup replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United in February 1972. Non-league Herefored beat Newcastle 2-1 with the late Ronnie Radford scoring a winner which still remains FA Cup folklore.

The match had been postponed so many times, it was eventually scheduled to be played on a fourth round FA Cup day and because of the potential for an upset, the BBC bosses decided the game should be bumped to the top of the Match of the Day programme. Motson believes that this FA Cup upset and the story of the season subsequently made his bosses believe he could be trusted with more TV matches and the commentator was given a three-year deal.

Motson also noted that he believes had it not been for Radford’s goal, he would never have had a TV commentary career. The famous line following the goal was: “Oh what a goal! Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford! And the crowd are on the pitch. What a tremendous shot by Ronnie Radford.”

Motson also commentated on the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest when the Hillsborough disaster occured. He found himself, however, commentating on a tragedy rather than a football match and he later appeard as part of the Hillsborough inquiry, since he had been a witness.

In May 2018, BBC Two celebrated their legendary commentator’s career with an evening featuring three special programmes - Motty Mastermind, Motty - the Man behind the Sheepskin and Countdown to the Full Motty.

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