Ipswich Town and Suffolk are close to Motty’s heart as he puts down the mike
- Credit: Archant
Legendary commentator John Motson may be a national institution – but it can be claimed that he was made in Suffolk, and the county has played a huge part in his professional life.
Motson, or Motty as he is known by football fans across the country, has announced that he is hanging up his BBC microphone at the end of the current domestic season.
The 72-year-old is embarking on a “tour” of the country’s Premier League grounds for Match of the Day over the next eight months – and will bow out from the Beeb at the FA Cup final in May.
But the former Culford schoolboy has never made a secret of his affection for Ipswich Town, particularly the Robson-era team, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he turned up to Portman Road if it hosts a home FA Cup tie in January.
As a youngster at the school in west Suffolk, he recalls visiting Portman Road to see Alf Ramsey’s league champions.
And during the late 1970s he wrote a column for the Ipswich Town matchday programme.
For two generations Motson was the voice of football for many but he has decided to call it a day before he thinks he is past it.
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“I just thought my 50th year in the BBC is 2018 and it has to end some time and I thought that would be a good note to go out,” he said.
“I also don’t want to go into the area where people say ‘He’s been there too long’, ‘He’s lost it’, ‘He’s not what he was’.
“I wanted to go out while I was still commentating as well – or as badly – as I have for all those years.
“I didn’t want to carry on and then people say ‘Oh dear me, we’ll have to get rid of him’.”
With more than 2,000 matches under his belt Motson admits it is impossible to list his highlights, merely grouping them into World Cups (10), European Championships (10) and FA Cup finals (29).
“I’ve done six World Cup finals and I’m very proud of that record because I think (Kenneth) Wolstenholme only did five of those,” he added.
“The FA Cup as a tournament was very good to me and I’d like to think I can still have some association with that because it was the Ronnie Radford goal for Hereford against Newcastle which really put me on the map in 1972.
“All that has been bubbling in my mind and I’ve been thinking ‘Why not leave on a high note’.
“I might feel a little bit empty and it might get to me for a short time but I’m hoping to keep my association with football and with broadcasting – I’m not retiring from everything, I’m retiring from the BBC.
“I’m certainly not going pipe and slippers.”
One question that football fans – and fashionistas – will be asking is whether Motson’s retirement means the end for his trademark sheepskin coat.
It was a garment with more Suffolk connections, he bought them from Nursey’s of Beccles before the company stopped selling them in 2014.
And he often shows up at events in Suffolk whether they are football-related or not.
He was one of the guests of honour at the 30th anniversary dinner for the 1978 FA Cup final victory in 2008 – slightly ironically because he didn’t actually commentate at that final.
The 1977 final when Manchester United beat Liverpool was his first FA Cup final, but David Coleman returned to cover Town’s victory over Arsenal. Motson did commentate on most of the FA Cup finals in the 1980s.
He joined then Town boss Bobby Robson in a charity match in 1980 – at the end of Robson’s testimonial season at the club. And when the club was facing financial problems in the pre-Marcus Evans days of the early 2000s he showed his support by buying a few shares in Ipswich Town.
And in 2002 his contribution to life in Suffolk was marked by the award of an honorary degree by Suffolk College.
While Motson’s football CV is huge there remains one gaping hole, through no fault of his own, and that is the Champions League.
BBC budgets never extended to being involved in the race for the rights for Europe’s elite competition so Motson never had the opportunity. But if he could have called one game he has no doubts which one it would have been.
“My opposite number at ITV Clive Tyldesley did Manchester United winning the Champions League (in 1999) with two goals in the last minute. I was proud of the way he did it but I would have loved to have done it myself although I wouldn’t have done it as well as he did. I’ve never done a Champions League match.”
Classic Motty commentaries over the years
John Motson has given English football fans many great moments. This is a small selection of his best comments from 50 years of broadcasting:
“The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club.” – Wimbledon shock Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final.
“And Seaman, just like a falling oak, manages to change direction.”
“It’s Arsenal 0, Everton 1, and the longer it stays like that, the more you’ve got to fancy Everton.”
“Here’s Gascoigne. Oh brilliant! Oh yes! Oh yes!” – Paul Gascoigne scores against Scotland at Euro 96.
“Hold the cups and glasses at home. . . You can smash them now! David Beckham has scored for England!”
“Whether that was a penalty or not, the referee thought otherwise.”
“The Brazilian supporters are wearing yellow shirts – it’s a fabulous kaleidoscope of colour.”
“For those of you watching in black and white, Spurs are in the all-yellow strip.”