John Motson had the voice of a man who adored football and he felt privileged it filled up the nation's living rooms | The Sun

IT always felt slightly surreal whenever you gave John Motson a ring.

Because the voice on the end of the telephone was such a significant voice from your youth. 

And while other football commentators have a ‘commentary voice’ – and some even seem to subconsciously ape Motty’s famous tones – the man himself commentated with his authentic, actual voice. 

It was a voice of authority and knowledge but, above all, it was the voice of a man who adored football. 

A man whose 50 years of service to the BBC were an unbridled joy and never a chore.

The last time I phoned Motson, who has died aged 77, was to speak to him about the passing of legendary FA Cup giant-killer Ronnie Radford, whose goal helped Southern League Hereford United knock out top-flight Newcastle in 1972.


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That goal was the making of the young Motty, as he readily admitted. That third-round replay on an Edgar Street mudheap turned out to be his breakthrough commentary on Match of the Day.

He would go on to take the microphone on over 2,000 matches for BBC TV and radio – including ten World Cups and 20 FA Cup Finals – without ever losing his boyish enthusiasm for the game.

Motson fell in love with football when his father – a Methodist church minister – took him to Stamford Bridge on Christmas Day 1957 to watch a teenage Jimmy Greaves score four goals in a 7-4 victory for Chelsea over Portsmouth. 

A true journalist and avid newspaper reader, Motson began his career on the Barnet Press and then the Sheffield Morning Telegraph before he joined the broadcast media. 

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And in the days when live televised football was strictly rationed in the 1970s and 80s, Motson – along with his ITV friend and rival Brian Moore – was the dominant voice of the national sport. 

Motson’s was a friendly, excitable voice. And one which was ahead of its time in rattling out stats. 

Although he once told me: “When I started stats were quite rare and people used to criticise me for using too many – now the stats men have taken over.

“Ironically I use fewer stats now than I ever have because there are so many of them. I struggle with it. Expected goals? I had to have that explained to me. And all these diagrams? Heat maps? What do they mean?”

One of Motson’s best-known lines came at the final whistle of Wimbledon’s shock 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup Final – ‘the Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club’.

But nothing ever quite surpassed his first major outing, that Radford piledriver and a winner from Ricky George. 

Motson would become firm friends with all out that Hereford side and was invited to their regular reunions. 

He sounded alert and well when we spoke about Radford back in November, not long before the World Cup in Qatar.  

You can watch footage of Radford’s famous goal and Motson’s commentary on YouTube.

He captures the thrill of an historic footballing moment perfectly. 

“Tremendous spirit in this Hereford side … they’re not giving this up by any means … Radford … now Tudor’s gone down for Newcastle … Radford again, oh what a .. GOAL! WHAT a goal. Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford.

“And the crowd .. the crowd are invading the pitch and now we’ll take some time to clear the field.

“What a tremendous shot by Radford. He got that ball back and hit it from well outside the penalty area and no goalkeeper in the world would have stopped that..”

Decades later, Motson always sounded like a fan – a fan armed with forensic knowledge of the game – but still the same football lover who had watched the great Greaves at the Bridge that long-ago Christmas.

Five years ago, during Motson’s final season as a TV commentator, we met at his Hertfordshire home and for lunch at his local pub, posing in his trademark sheepskin coats – always handmade by nearby Hide’s Couture. 

He had finished live commentaries in 2008 but continued to work for Match of the Day – and he took great pride from the fact that the BBC highlights show had kept them same format, and huge popularity, despite the vast changes in football and the media since the Premier League launch in 1992. 

Motson, who is survived by his wife Anne and son Frederick, admitted he led a ‘blessed’ life, following football for a living for half a century. 

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And he felt privileged that his instantly-recognisable voice filled up the nation’s living rooms, as if he were a family friend. 

It is deeply sad that the voice of football has fallen silent now. But Motson’s was a life well lived. 

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