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Motty: 40 years in the Commentary Box by John Motson

Release date: 03rd September, 2009
Publisher: Virgin Books

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £10.99
You Save: £8 (42%)
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Sport offers numerous opportunities for the spectator to be present while history is being made. The majority of us only get to watch World Cup finals and Olympic Games on television, so naturally, we appreciate having a companion whom we like and enjoy hearing when glued to the box.

Who could forget Ian Robertson's crescendo-building commentary as Jonny Wilkinson kicked for World Cup glory against Australia in 2003, or Clive Tyldesley's supportive incredulity as Liverpool staged football's greatest-ever comeback in Istanbul in 2005? And what about Peter Allis commentating on the Open's closing stages? All three have a unique ability to paint sport's ever-changing picture with well-chosen words, to stay quiet when necessary and perhaps most importantly, to involve the viewer.

As a young boy, I recall watching Hereford take on Newcastle at Edgar Street in the 1972 FA Cup, a match screened by the BBC on Match of the Day.

Hereford were in the Southern League, Newcastle in the top flight. On paper, it looked like one of those matches where the Magpies might get the odd fright, but would ultimately prove far too strong for their non-league opponents. How wrong those assessments were.

Famously, an outside left named Ronnie Radford scored one of the Cup's greatest-ever goals, a 30-yard screamer that appeared to gather pace as it flew into the back of Newcastle's net. Ordinarily, only those present at Edgar Street would have remembered the goal had it not been for: a) the BBC's decision to promote the match to open MotD and b) John Motson's commentary.

Back in 1972, BBC commentators were not given to screaming, "Oh what a goal! What a goal" with the intensity of a terrace-based fan, but when Motson did it as Radford's bullet formed the foundation for one of the Cup's greatest-ever upsets (Ricky George scored Hereford's winner), a new star was born.

Suddenly, this slightly nerdy guy wearing an oversized sheepskin coat was the commentator fans wanted. He knew his stuff (the result of intensive pre-match homework) and he possessed a common touch, an invaluable asset for any commentator. It's something that Motson hasn't lost; he embraces all manner of facts and statistics and, like a young boy, revels in telling them. In full. He would be a fantastic man to have on your pub quiz team, for with him you would invariably become European champions.

His avuncular style and manner are evident throughout this very funny book and because he adores football, his passion for the game shines through with the same intensity as it did in February 1972. Over the intervening forty years, he's become a national treasure. We can forgive his occasional mistakes because he's only human and, well, he's Motty. Unlike some of his studio-based colleagues, Motson has had to think on his feet for the last four decades.

If you get the chance, you should listen to him (ideally with David Pleat at his side - they're two of a kind) commentating on BBC Five Live and, if you enjoy football, you should read this treasure of a book.


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