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Page last updated at 09:25 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 10:25 UK

End of the Motson era

By Sam Lyon

After more than 35 years as BBC Sport's voice of football, Sunday's Euro 2008 final from Vienna marked commentator John Motson's last major television showpiece.

John Motson
I haven't changed my system since 1971 and I couldn't adjust now - I'm too old

John Motson

Having first appeared on Match of the Day in 1971, the 62-year-old has covered nine European Championships, nine World Cups and 34 FA Cup finals. But Germany-Spain was his last live TV broadcast.

"I am coming to the end of my career, I know that," said Motson.

"I'd been thinking about it at the start of the season, but now I've decided I don't want to be tearing around South Africa for the 2010 World Cup at the age of 65. It's physically and mentally challenging."

Motson will continue to commentate on Match of the Day and Radio 5 Live - "I don't want to make it sound like I'm disappearing for ever," he says - but in opting not to work on the 2010 World Cup, he is aware it is the end of an era somewhat.

"Eighteen tournaments is about right for me," he said. "I don't want to go on too long, maybe end up going to South Africa and people say I'm past my best."

The son of a Methodist minister, 'Motty' first joined the BBC in 1968, following stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph.

Originally working on Radio Two, his Match of the Day commentary career was launched when he was detailed to cover the FA Cup replay between Hereford and Newcastle in 1972.

The BBC thought the match would warrant a five-minute segment following their two main games, but Hereford's shock 2-1 win - aided by Ronnie Radford's famous 30-yard strike that sparked a mini pitch invasion - saw the match promoted to the main game, and Motson never looked back.

"That was the breakthrough game for me," he told BBC Sport. "It showed people I could cope with the big game."

By that stage, Motson had already replaced Kenneth Wolstenholme - the man famed for his commentary on England's World Cup final win over Germany in 1966 - at Match of the Day, and it is with great pride that Motty talks of how he has gone on to better Wolstenholme's record of FA Cup and World Cup final commentaries.

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Relive some of John Motson's most memorable commentaries.

In total, Motson has covered six World Cup finals as well as his 34 FA Cup finals (29 finals and five replays), and more than 200 England matches.

Of course, it hasn't always been plain sailing for Motson, who recalls the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 as his lowest commentary moment.

On the lighter side, the commentator's more infamous lines are still the stuff of legend.

Still, outbursts like "it's Arsenal 0, Everton 1, and the longer it stays like that, the more you've got to fancy Everton," and "for those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all yellow strip," added to Motson's charm rather than detracted from it.

That was underlined in 2004, when he was named the Royal Television Society's Sports Commentator of the Year, receiving the same honour from Four Four Two in 2005 and from The Variety Club in 2006.

But of course, his most prized honour is the OBE he received from the Queen in June 2001 for services to sports broadcasting.

And it is not just on TV that Motson has built an army of followers.

In 2001, when Match of the Day briefly lost Premier League coverage rights to ITV, Motson returned to his roots in radio and worked on BBC Radio 5 Live.

MOTD Unplugged: Motty calls time on career

He was also caricatured by a virtual 'Mini Motty' on this website and he has researched and narrated over 30 football videos and written four books.

Furthermore, he has also provided commentary for various computer games and made his big-screen debut in the Aardman Animations movie Flushed Away in 2006 - albeit in the less-than-taxing role of a football commentator.

All this despite his unwavering method of preparation and a defiant refusal to exploit the stats, figures and opinion widely available on the world wide web.

"Younger reporters and commentators depend on club websites and the like," he said. "I'm of an older generation. I haven't changed my system since 1971 and I couldn't adjust now - I'm too old.

"I wonder if I really had to do all that work. You do get a reputation for stats and it's still in my head, but I don't go into quite so much detail as I used to."

Stats, figures and facts are all things that personified Motson's work, but while he openly admits "people who know me think it's an obsession", he still has time to enjoy his games - even from a haul of nearly 1800 commentaries in total.

"I've enjoyed every single one," he says. "Which in particular? I could go on for hours but I don't want to bore anybody!"

When pushed, he opts for the 1982 Brazil-Italy World Cup match when Paolo Rossi scored a hat-trick, England's 5-1 win over Germany in Munich in 2001 and Liverpool's FA Cup final win over West Ham in 2006.

While there will be many more great matches to come, viewers will have to get used to them without Motson's unique humour.

It is tempting to recite Wolstenholme's famous line "they think it's all over", but for the meantime Motty won't be hanging up the sheepskin coat just yet.




see also
Liverpool 3-3 West Ham (aet)
13 May 06 |  FA Cup
Awesome England thrash Germany
01 Sep 01 |  Football
World Cup history - Spain 1982
04 May 06 |  World Cup 2006
Focus the Mind
15 Dec 04 |  Football Focus


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