John Walker Motson
10 July 1945
|Education||Culford School, Bury St Edmunds|
John Walker Motson, OBE (born 10 July 1945), also known as Motty, is an English football commentator. Beginning as a television commentator with the BBC in 1971, he has commentated on over 2000 games on television and radio. From the late 1970s to 2008, Motson was the dominant football commentary figure at the BBC, apart from a brief spell in the 1990s, when his friend and rival Barry Davies was selected for two FA Cup final commentaries, the 1994 World Cup final and the UEFA Euro 1996 semi-final between England and Germany.
In 2008, Motson announced his retirement from live television commentary. He continued to cover games for Match of the Day highlights and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live as well as commentating on CBeebies' Footy Pups. In September 2017, he announced his full retirement from BBC commentary, having commentated on 10 FIFA World Cups, 10 UEFA European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals. In July 2018, he announced he was returning from retirement to work for Talksport.
The son of a Methodist minister, Motson was born in Salford, Lancashire, and educated at Culford School, near Bury St Edmunds. Culford is a public school where football was generally frowned upon at the time and rugby union, hockey and cricket are the major sports.
Motson's broadcasting career took off when the BBC hired him in 1968 as a sports presenter on Radio 2. His first radio commentary was for a match between Everton and Derby in December 1969. Three years later, he gained a role with Match of the Day and became a regular commentator in the 1971–72 season, his first match was 0-0 draw between Liverpool vs Chelsea. On 5 February 1972, Motson covered the FA Cup Replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United for Match of the Day, which the BBC anticipated as a five-minute segment following their two main games. Non-league Hereford won the match 2–1 and it became the main featured game on the programme.
Motson regards the Hereford United v Newcastle United match as his big break through. Through a bad winter, the game itself was a 3rd round FA Cup replay that had been postponed many times and was eventually rescheduled to be played on a 4th round FA cup day. Because of the potential for an upset, the BBC bosses decided the game should be bumped to the top of the billing on the BBC's Match of the Day program. Described as the FA Cup's greatest ever giant killing, Motson claims it was this FA Cup upset, and the story of the season that made his bosses at the BBC decide he could be trusted with more TV matches; consequentially Motson believed because of this game he was later given a three-year deal. Motson also believed if Ronnie Radford had never scored his famous goal he would never have had a TV commentary career. Motson's commentary on the Radford goal:
Oh what a goal! Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford! And the crowd are on the pitch. What a tremendous shot by Ronnie Radford.
Motson's first FA Cup Final as a commentator was for the 1977 match between Manchester United and Liverpool. Motson was drafted in as a late replacement for David Coleman, who was in a contractual dispute with the BBC. Motson's famous line from that game was "How fitting that a man called Buchan should be the first to climb the 39 steps", in a reference to the novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by Scottish author John Buchan; Martin Buchan was Manchester United captain and climbed the 39 steps to the Royal Box at Wembley to receive the FA Cup. Between 1979 and 2008 (except 1995 and 1996), Motson commentated on all the FA Cup finals that the BBC covered.
In April 1989, Motson commentated on the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest when the Hillsborough disaster occurred. Motson found himself commentating on a tragedy rather than a football match, and he later appeared as part of the Hillsborough inquiry, since he had been a witness.
In 2001, speech therapist Jane Comins conducted a voice profile analysis to study the patterns of eight top television and radio commentators. The criteria included pitch, volume, rhythm and tone, and Comins found that Motson scored the best results. This was backed by 32% of football fans in a survey who voted him Britain's favourite commentator.
When Premier League television highlights moved to ITV in 2001, and Match of the Day was no longer a weekly fixture in the schedules, Motson returned to radio on BBC Radio Five Live's coverage of the Premiership, but continued to make frequent appearances on live TV coverage and contributions to BBC Sport's website – which he has been doing since the site was launched in July 2000.
In 2004, when the Premier League television rights returned to the BBC, Motson resumed his weekly place on Match of the Day, although he has also continued to perform occasional radio commentaries.
In 2008, following the BBC's loss of rights to cover live FA Cup football and the BBC's refusal to release Motson from his contract to join Setanta Sports (to whom the rights had been sold, along with ITV) he announced his retirement from live television commentary. The Euro 2008 final was his last live television broadcast. He has continued to cover games for Match of the Day highlights.
Although Motson did not commentate on any live matches at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, he travelled to South Africa as part of the BBC team for the tournament, occasionally appearing as a studio guest on the Match of the Day highlights show, as well as providing reports on the BBC website.
Since 2015, Motson has provided the commentary and narration to the CBeebies football programme Footy Pups'.
Motson is also an ex-commentator for the FIFA video games series by EA Sports, and has worked alongside Ally McCoist, Andy Gray, Des Lynam, Mark Lawrenson and Chris Waddle. Motson first joined the franchise for FIFA 96; he and McCoist were replaced by Gray and Clive Tyldesley for FIFA 06 but later returned for FIFA Manager 08.
In September 2017, Motson announced that he would retire from the BBC at the end of the current football season. His last live radio commentary was on a match between Arsenal and Watford on 11 March 2018. His final TV commentary was a match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion and was broadcast on Match of the Day on 13 May 2018.
In August 2018, Motson was unveiled as the voice of Football INDEX, lending his voice to national TV and radio advertisements for the 2018/19 football season.
In December 2018, Motson was announced as the commentator for the free to play mobile game Head Ball 2 in which he also serves as your tutorial guide when starting the game.
Motson lives in Little Brickhill in Buckinghamshire with his wife, Anne. The couple have been married for 43 years. One of his nicknames is 'the Maestro'. He has one son, Frederick (born in 1986).
In an article in 1982 Motson talked of his family and personal connections to Boston in Lincolnshire including being baptised in the town and spending his childhood holidays there. He also said he was a follower of Boston United and recalled the club's famous victory over Derby County in the FA Cup in 1955 However, in 2012 he said he was a supporter of Barnet F.C. His other hobbies and interests include running half marathons, going to the cinema, and reading thrillers.
- Motson, John (1972). Second to None: great teams of post-war football. Newton Abbot, Sportsmans Book Club. ISBN 0-7207-0605-X.
- Motson, John (with J. Rowlinson) (1980). History of the European Cup. Queen Anne P. ISBN 0-362-00512-5.
- Motson, John (1996). Motty's Diary: a year in the life of a commentator. London, Virgin Books. ISBN 1-85227-620-7.
- Motson, John (1994). Match of the Day: the complete record. BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-37062-8.
- Motson, John (2004). Motty's Year. BBC Books. ISBN 978-0-563-52174-7.
- Motson, John (2004). Motson's National Obsession: The Greatest Football Trivia Book Ever. Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-86074-601-7.
- Motson, John (2005). Motson's FA Cup Odyssey. Robson Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-86105-903-1.
- Motson, John (2006). Motson's World Cup Extravaganza. Robson Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-86105-936-9.
- Motson, John (20 May 2010). Motty. Virgin Books. ISBN 978-0-7535-1813-7.
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