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Motty's a man on the ball

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 28, 2013

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LEGEND is a word which is bandied about with wild abandon. But for broadcaster John Motson, I can't think of any other word that would do him justice.

A member of the Match of the Day team for 40 years, he is regarded by many as the 'voice of football'.

"I'm obviously very flattered by that," a modest John says as we chat ahead of An Evening With event at Gloucester Guildhall on Thursday.

"I don't think of myself like that, but obviously people recognise my voice as I've been commentating for so long. My longevity is quite a rare thing really."

From 1979 to 2008, Motty, as he is affectionately known, was the BBC's voice for major games including the FA Cup and European Championships final.

It's a career which given him the chance to see some of the all-time greats play some of the all-time matches.

He has also had a chance to enter the record books with his sixth World Cup Final in 2006 proving a landmark, as was his 29th FA Cup Final in May 2008.

More surprisingly, he has researched and narrated more than 30 football videos and penned four books, including Motty's Diary – A Year in the Life Of A Commentator, which was published in 1996.

"It isn't a show that is going to be ultra serious," he says.

"There a lot of anecdotes and some of them quite funny such as having to paint the penalty spot at Derby County on one occasion. There will be clips from great footballing moments and a chance to ask questions."

John admits he could have made about 10 DVDs, such was the range of compelling sporting footage he had to choose from.

The 67-year-old's big break came when he was chosen to cover an FA cup third round replay between Hereford United and Newcastle United in 1972. It had been written off as a routine Newcastle win and allocated a short segment in the Match of the Day highlights show.

But it was to unfold rather differently, with non-league Hereford emerging unlikely winners, by two goals to one.

"I remember it so vividly," says John, famed for wearing a sheepskin coat. "All the other ties had been completed and they were into the next round and I was sent down for what they thought was a formality.

"But it became the main game on Match of the Day that night."

Motson admits that it was his "big break" and has never looked back since, signing a contract with the BBC later that year.

Now signing a contract on a year-by-year basis, Motson says he will continue to commentate for as long as he remains fit and healthy.

To this day, he retains that Ronnie Radford's spectacular goal in that famed cup tie remains the best he has ever seen.

As for the best player? Topically, he says it was Paul Gascoigne, who has hit the headlines recently for his struggles with alcohol addiction.

"He was the most talented English player that I have seen," he says.

"His goal against Scotland was definitely up there. It's very sad that he has found it very difficult to adjust to life away from football.

"It's a reflection of fame and spending his whole life in the spotlight.

"But I don't think it curtailed his career, I think it was the injuries.

"He had a lot of problems with his knees and there were fitness issues."

Gazza isn't the only character John has come across in his career with Brian Clough featuring heavily. Although he won't reveal too much.

"Clough was an enormous character in the game," he says. "There are a lot of stories I could tell about Brian but I'll save them for the show."

Tickets to see An Audience With John Motson at 7pm cost £10 in advance or £12 on the door. Call 01452 503050.

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