John Motson – Legendary commentator dies aged 77

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

Motson covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport before retiring from the organisation in 2018.

Popularly known as ‘Motty’, he had worked on Match of the Day since 1971.

“It is with great sadness we announce that John Motson OBE died peacefully in his sleep today,” said a statement from Motson’s family on Thursday.

He is survived by his wife Anne and son Frederick.

“John Motson was the voice of a footballing generation – steering us through the twists and turns of FA Cup runs, the highs and lows of World Cups and, of course, Saturday nights on Match of the Day,” said BBC director-general Tim Davie.

“Like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments.”

Director of BBC Sport Barbara Slater said: “John Motson was a giant of broadcasting with a career spanning over 50 years and his distinctive voice has gone hand in glove with so many great footballing moments.

“For so many of us, John’s voice will have provided a special memory and commentary line that still strongly resonates.

“He had an extraordinary passion for the game and his enthusiasm behind the microphone captured the experience and excitement felt by fans in the stands, all delivered with his unique style. Our condolences and thoughts are with his family.”

The son of a Methodist minister, Motson had stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph newspapers at the start of his career.

He also worked as a freelancer for BBC Radio Sheffield before he joined the BBC on a full-time basis in 1968.

After starting out as a sports reporter on Radio 2, he made his breakthrough on Match of the Day during the famous FA Cup replay between Hereford and Newcastle four years later.

Originally billed as a five-minute segment, Hereford’s shock 2-1 win – featuring Ronnie Radford’s famous 30-yard strike – saw the match promoted to the main game, with Motson capturing all the drama.

For most of the period from 1979 to 2008, Motson – known for his trademark sheepskin coats and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game – was the BBC’s voice on major finals such as the FA Cup, European Championship and World Cup.

That run included his record-breaking sixth World Cup final in Berlin in 2006 and his 29th FA Cup final in 2008.

He also covered more than 200 England matches and commentated on almost 2,500 televised games.

His final game for Match of the Day was between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion in 2018.

Motson was invited on to the pitch after full-time and applauded by the fans before Palace manager Roy Hodgson presented him with a framed copy of the programme from his first and last matches at Selhurst Park and a crystal microphone.

He returned to work for a stint at Talksport and also provided voiceovers for some football computer games.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said he was “deeply saddened” by news of Motson’s passing.

He added: “A quite brilliant commentator and the voice of football in this country for generations. He’ll be very much missed.”

Motson became an OBE in 2001 for services to sports broadcasting.

He was also honoured at the British Academy Film and Television Awards in 2018 for his “outstanding contribution to sports broadcasting”.

“Desperately sad news. It’s quite a shock for all of us who knew him,” said BBC football correspondent John Murray.

“If you speak to a whole range of commentators of my generation and younger, he was certainly someone who everyone that came after him looked up to and, really, aspired to be him.

“He was 24-carat gold broadcasting royalty. He was synonymous with football for generations of football followers.”

‘The standard-setter for us all’ – tributes to Motson

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