John Motson: Legendary commentator was a ‘remarkable’ character, says ex-England captain Gary Lineker

Legendary commentator John Motson was “the voice of football” who “always got the mood and the occasion right”, says former England captain Gary Lineker.

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

“Motty was a remarkable character and a remarkable commentator,” Lineker, speaking to PM on BBC Radio 4, said.

The Match of the Day host added: “He always pitched it right, he got the big goals right. It’s a sad day for football.”

Motson commentated on Lineker’s equaliser against West Germany in the World Cup semi-final in 1990 in Turin, Italy. England lost the match on penalties.

“I have heard it and seen it [Motson’s commentary] hundreds and hundreds of times and he absolutely nails it,” said Lineker.

“He was the voice of our sport for pretty much 50 years. He lived and breathed football.

“He was almost an anorak, if you like, and I think you have got to be that a little bit to be a commentator of his ilk.

“He covered Romania when all the players dyed their hair blonde [at the 1998 World Cup]. It was almost impossible to tell one footballer from another, but somehow he managed it.”

‘A legend whose record is without comparison’

Football Association president Prince William was among many that also paid tribute to Motson, who covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals for BBC Sport before retiring from the organisation in 2018.

“Very sad to hear about the passing of John Motson – a legend whose voice was football,” he said. “My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Commentator Clive Tyldesley, who worked alongside Motson at the BBC in the 1990s, said: “I’ve lost a friend, first and foremost, but such was the reach of John Motson, such was the distinctive nature of his voice and his commentary style, that I think many thousands of people who never got to meet him will feel as if they have lost a friend too.

“What I can tell people is, if they felt that way about John, that was the real John. There was no front.”

Motson – known for his trademark sheepskin coats – made his breakthrough on Match of the Day during the famous FA Cup replay between Hereford and Newcastle in 1972.

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.

Former BBC commentator Barry Davies, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, said: “John was excited by the game and everything about the game.

“Years later he said that if Radford’s shot had come back off the crossbar he probably wouldn’t have got the job that he got.

“We used to have a laugh about the sheepskin coat because I once said to him, ‘I was wearing a sheepskin coat before you came along but you got a better deal than I did’.

“His record is without comparison. I don’t think his record will ever be passed.”

Everton boss Sean Dyche also paid tribute to Motson at his pre-match news conference on Thursday before Saturday’s game with Aston Villa.

“It’s a sad loss,” said Dyche. “He was a legend.

“When you met him a few times, like I did, he was a top fella as well.”

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