The iconic football commentator John Motson has died aged 77.
“It is with great sadness we announce that John Motson OBE died peacefully in his sleep today,” said a statement from Motson’s family.
Often known as “Motty”, he commentated on almost 2,500 televised games over a career spanning half a century, covering ten World Cups, ten European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Writing on Twitter, Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said Motson was a “quite brilliant commentator and the voice of football in this country for generations” who will “be very much missed”.
“As a teenager I just wanted to be John Motson. Nobody else,” tweeted football commentator Clive Tyldesley, while Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler told BBC Radio 5 Live that Motson “was the standard-setter for us all”.
Over his distinguished career, Motson delivered countless memorable commentary lines. Here are five of the best.
Radford the scorer
The breakthrough moment of Motson’s career came during a 1972 FA Cup replay between non-league Hereford United and Newcastle United, when Ronnie Radford scored the winning goal for Hereford.
“Oh what a goal!” cried a young Motty. “Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford! And the crowd are on the pitch. What a tremendous shot by Ronnie Radford.”
It was “the goal that changed Motty’s life”, said The Sun, because he was effectively on trial at the BBC at that stage and later admitted that he “hadn’t pulled up too many trees at that point”.
The Crazy Gang
When unfancied Wimbledon beat Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final, Motson summed up the disbelief at the final whistle with a neat pop culture reference.
“The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club!” he exclaimed, as Wimbledon’s players celebrated and Liverpool’s stars looked on in shock. His punchline was “definitely spur of the moment”, he later remarked.
And still Ricky Villa!
Ricky Villa’s second goal in Tottenham’s 3-2 win over Manchester City in the 1981 FA Cup final replay was later voted Wembley’s goal of the century. The mazy dribble, capped by in sliding the ball home, was memorable, and so was Motson’s commentary.
“Villa… and still Ricky Villa… what a fantastic run… he scored! Amazing goal by Ricky Villa!” exclaimed an excited Motty.
When Paul Gascoigne was shown a yellow card in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against West Germany in Turin, the punishment ruled him out of the final should England have progressed.
“Oh dear. Oh dear me,” Motty remarked. “He’s going to be out of the final, if England get there. Here is a moment that almost brings tears to his eyes.”
The sheepskin coat
Motson was known for his attire, as well as his words. His sheepskin coat became a reference point for Motson and football commentators in general, after he reported live from Adams Park before Wycombe Wanderers entertained Peterborough United in 1980.
With snow hurtling down on him, Motson gamely battled on and a legendary garment was born.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.