The Man Behind The Sheepskin

John Motson or ‘Motty’ as he was known will be fondly remembered by many football supporters up and down the land as the voice of football that they’d grown up with, throughout the 70’s and well into the 00’s. John Motson was a very talented professional who adapted to all forms of broadcasting for the BBC, whether that be commentating on live matches on TV and Radio to summarising on Match of the Day, Football Focus or Radio 5 Live. The iconic commentator would often be seen in his trademark sheepskin coat that he wore during the winter months in the commentary boxes of stadiums across the breadth of the country.

For nearly half a century his unique voice, unrivalled subject matter knowledge and ability to effortlessly encapsulate the passion on and off the pitch, relaying the action into words for the viewers and listeners at home to enjoy has made him the No 1 commentator of all-time in many people’s eyes. His record speaks for itself with 29 FA Cup finals and 10 World Cup‘s and European Championships tournaments covered.

John was born in Salford in 1945, being the son of a Minister meant he would spend most of his youth growing up in Lincolnshire and Suffolk, lately where he completed his education. Aged 18, John began his career as a newspaper reporter in Barnet, North London. Four years later he moved to the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, where he first covered football. His broadcasting career kicked off when the BBC hired him in 1968 as a sports presenter on Radio 2, and later he secured a position with television’s Match of the Day – becoming a regular commentator during the 1971–72 season.

On 5 February 1972, Motson had what he later described as his big breakthrough, when he was assigned to cover an FA Cup replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United for Match of the Day. Newcastle were expected to win easily, but Hereford won in a huge upset. Motson’s famous commentary when Ronnie Radford scored the equalising 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.” His commentary caused BBC executives to assign him higher profile TV matches and he subsequently signed a three-year contract with the broadcaster.

Motty’s first FA Cup final was in 1977 when he replaced David Coleman to commentate on Manchester United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. Between 1979 and 2008 (except 1995 and 1996), Motson commentated on all the FA Cup finals that the BBC covered. His first World Cup tournament came in Argentina in 1978 and he covered all World Cup until 2010 in South Africa which was his last. In September 2017, Motson announced that he would retire from the BBC at the end of the football season.

He was quite simply, football’s grandmaster with a microphone. RIP Motty

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