Martin Tyler on John Motson: “He sent me a telegram which said ‘good luck, talk little but say a lot’”

Martin Tyler speaks to National World about the passing of legendary British football commentator John Motson, who died on Thursday morning at the age of 77.

John Motson spent 50 years at the BBC where he commentated on 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals.

He spent decades at the pinnacle of sports commentary and had worked on Match of the Day since 1971, before retiring in 2018.

National World spoke to Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler who recalled some of his favourite memories of Motson and paid tribute to the legend behind the microphone.

On his memories of John Motson:

“So many to be honest, because I shared a gantry. We were friends, as well as rivals. I was working for ITV and John was blazing a trail at the BBC when I started.

“We were never quite on the same side, but we were certainly on the same page as far as professionals were concerned. I admired his diligence, his preparation and even the way he presented his work was very high quality.

“Right at the start of my career in 1974, he sent me a telegram saying ‘good luck, talk little but say a lot’. I think that sums up John’s career really. He was economical with his words but when he spoke there was a precision about his work that you couldn’t help but admire. I think he set the standards for so many of us that followed.

“I think the industry that he put into his work to be able to broadcast the level that he did - the very top level - was in a way helped by the rivalry with Barry Davies. I’m not sure he saw it like that at the time but I think they lifted eachothers standards because there was such competition in the same organisation, let alone the same broadcasters outside the BBC.”

On his legacy and famous Brian Clough interview:

“He was a journalist. I’m not sure journalism applies so much these days but it certainly did then. You were a teleivison journalist.

“We were members of the NUJ [National Union of Journalists] and tried to follow the objectives of good journalism. That mean if you were in an interview situation, you were prepared to ask the harder questions. John was very good at that and wasn’t frightened of undermining his position as a commentator. When somebody needed help from managers.

“John would front up if he was sent to interview someone for Football Focus or another programme. He would go and do what a journalist should do. Brian Clough was always a challenge for all of us. Brian himself liked the cut and thrust of those interviews.

“His legacy will be commentary on countless goals of great importance, the main terrestrial channel for football, the World Cups, Champions League finals and things that 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.”

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