Farewell to Motty, the king of the mic


National institution John Motson poses in his famous sheepskin coat (Picture: Getty Images)

John Motson was remembered as the ‘king of football commentary’ as colleagues, friends and the wider game paid tribute to the legendary broadcaster, who has died at the age of 77.

During a 50-year career with the BBC, Motson covered ten World Cups, ten European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals before retiring in 2018.

Motson was a key part of Match of the Day from 1971 until he retired in 2018 and commentated on almost 2,500 televised games.

After joining the BBC in 1968, it was Motson’s commentary on Ronnie Radford’s famous long-range strike which helped non-league Hereford knock top-flight Newcastle out of the FA Cup in 1972 that propelled him into the spotlight and the affections of the sporting public.

His enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the game, its players and managers earned him a place in the hearts of fans for five decades.

Current Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker called Motson ‘a quite brilliant commentator and the voice of football in this country for generations’ while contemporary and friend Jim Rosenthal felt Motson simply was football commentary in this country.

John Motson interviewing Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence for the BBC in 1980

John Motson interviewing Liverpool goalkeeper Ray Clemence for the BBC in 1980 (Picture: Harry Ormesher/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

‘The reality is there are so many football 
commentators now that it’s very hard for anyone to grip the nation like Motty did because there were only two shows in town and, let’s be honest, the BBC was the main show and Motty had that era,’ Rosenthal said.

‘Motty dominated football, Peter O’Sullevan dominated racing, Bill McLaren dominated rugby. It was a different era and in that era, Motty was king of the football mic beyond any doubt.’

BBC director-general Tim Davie said Motson was ‘the voice of a footballing generation’.

He added: ‘Like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.’

Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler said Motson was the example for those that followed.

‘John was the standard-setter for us all,’ Tyler said. ‘We all looked up to him – his diligence, his dedication, his knowledge. He was a very serious broadcaster but a real fun guy to be around.’

Fellow commentator Clive Tyldesley wrote on Twitter: ‘As a teenager I just wanted to be John Motson. Nobody else. Terribly sad.’

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