Liam Nolan remembers with fondness his friend and colleague, John Motson

Anyone who knew John Motson was automatically enriched. His kindness and innate modesty were inbuilt, his talent unquestionable. There was his attractive self-deprecation behind the unwavering enthusiasm and undying affection for the sport that he loved, and which loved him in return — football (soccer). When he died in February, the world of sports coverage lost forever the most famous commentator English football has produced.

Motty was unique.

There was that encyclopaedic knowledge of the game, its characters and statistics — knowledge he was bursting to share, and did share in a peerless 50 years of broadcasting with the BBC at the highest level. Think of it — he commentated on TV and radio on over 2,000 games, including 200 England internationals.

It was an inspired and tender idea of the football authorities to place a microphone and a sheepskin coat in Motty’s old Wembley commentary position for the February Carraboe Cup Final between Newcastle United and Manchester United. That’s how much Motty was loved and respected.

This son of a Methodist minister had a unique voice and a distinctive accent notable for clarity, even in his little explosions of excitement. He wasn’t known for his phrase making, but won millions of fans for his knowledge, his undisguised boyish enthusiasm. And for never forgetting that his football commentaries should be about the players and the club and the team — NOT about him.

For all his journalistic rigour (he was always extremely thorough and careful, which called for extremes of vigour), for all his enduring fascination with bewildering facts and details, for all his unquenchable energy and sheepskin caricatures, there was about this football obsessive, precious qualities of decency, generosity of spirit, and fun.
He was a gift-giver of the best that was in him. Of how many people can you claim that?

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own