John Motson: Football commentator dies aged 77

He covered 10 World Cups and was one of the BBC's most famous voices

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Football commentator John Motson has died at the age of 77, the BBC has announced.

Popularly known as 'Motty' he covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for the broadcaster before retiring in 2018. His long career also took in two Olympic Games.

"Legendary commentator John Motson, who had an illustrious 50-year career with the BBC, has died aged 77," BBC Sport said.

Millions of football fans would tune in to listen to his distinctive commentary on TV and radio for more than half a century. He was also known for his trademark sheepskin coat.

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, led to him taking top billing on Match of the Day — pushed him into the spotlight and the affections of TV football viewers.

The game — one of FA Cup's most famous upsets — showed he could handle the pressure of commentating on big moments.

John Motson in his trademark sheepskin coat. PA

Radford famously hit a long-range strike on a quagmire pitch for the equaliser and substitute Ricky George scored the winner in extra-time.

"Radford again ... oh, what a goal! Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford — and the crowd are invading the pitch ... and now it will take some time to clear the field. What a tremendous shot by Radford," the broadcaster bellowed.

Motson concedes Radford's goal marked the turning point of his commentary career.

"If Ronnie hadn't scored that goal and Hereford had not beaten Newcastle, I don't think I would be here talking to you now," Motson said in 2018.

"It changed my life, in the sense I was on trial that year at the BBC, I hadn't got a contract at that stage. I had been in radio, and they kind of borrowed me for a year, if you like, to see if I made out.

"That replay between Hereford and Newcastle was sort of designated to be a bit of a formality. If Newcastle had won it, the match would have been shown for about three minutes on Match of the Day.

"Then when Ronnie's goal turned it, and Ricky George, who by coincidence was a friend of mine, scored the winning goal in extra-time, the match was propelled to the top of the running order and we had an audience of about 10 million.

"From that moment onwards, maybe the BBC thought they could trust this young guy with a big match, so yes, it was a stroke of luck and a huge turning point, it was the moment which changed my career."

After starting as a newspaper reporter in Barnet and at the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, Motson joined the BBC in 1968 as a sports presenter on Radio 2.

He started at Match of the Day in 1971 and commentated on almost 2,500 televised games. In 2001, he became an OBE for services to sports broadcasting.

The son of a Methodist minister, he was born in Salford, Lancashire, but grew up in Lewisham, south-east London.

When he was 11, Motson was sent to boarding school at Culford near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, where rugby, hockey and cricket took centre stage, with the youngster having to get his football fix when taken to games by his father during holidays.

"He made me into a football nut," Motson said.

Updated: February 23, 2023, 10:58 AM