John Motson: Tributes pour in for ‘voice of football’ after death at 77

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tributes have flooded in for “the voice of football” following the death of legendary commentator John Motson at the age of 77.

Motson’s family confirmed that the former BBC broadcaster and voice of Match of the Day died peacefully in his sleep on Thursday.

Popularly known as “Motty”, Motson covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships and 29 FA Cup finals during a distinguished 50-year career with the BBC.

He worked on Match of the Day from 1971 and commentated on almost 2,500 televised games until he left the organisation in 2018 to take up a radio role at talkSPORT. Motson became an OBE in 2001 for services to sports broadcasting.

“It is with great sadness we announce that John Motson OBE died peacefully in his sleep today,” said a statement from Motson's family.

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker said: “Deeply saddened to hear that John Motson has died. A quite brilliant commentator and the voice of football in this country for generations. He’ll be very much missed. RIP Motty.”

Sky commentator Martin Tyler said: “John was the standard-setter for us all. We basically all looked up to him - his diligence, his dedication, his knowledge. He was a very serious broadcaster but he was a real fun guy to be around.

“I am just so shocked. Just a few days after Dickie Davies left us. Broadcasting has taken two very big hits.”

Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said: “RIP John Motson. An absolute legend of the game. So many of us grew up listening to this man describe the action and goals on MOTD and cup finals. Sad loss.”

Comedian David Baddiel said: “John Motson. Oy. Feels impossible: a voice that, at one time, *was* football. RIP.”

Known for his trademark sheepskin coats and knowledge of the game, Motson became a household name when he became the BBC’s lead commentator in 1979.

He had stints as a reporter on the Barnet Press and Sheffield Morning Telegraph at the start of his career and also worked as a freelancer for BBC Radio Sheffield before he joined the BBC on a full-time basis in 1968.

Motson made his breakthrough on Match of the Day during a famous FA Cup replay between Hereford and Newcastle in 1972, as he captured the drama of Ronnie Radford's 30-yard strike with one of his most iconic moments.

From 1979 to 2008, he was the BBC’s voice on major FA Cup, European Championships and World Cup finals. His run included a sixth World Cup final in Berlin in 2006 and his 29th FA Cup final in 2008. He also covered more than 200 England games.

Motson’s career also took in some of football’s darkest moments. In 1989 he was at Hillsborough as the disaster unfolded at the stadium. His voice accompanied much of the news footage of that day and he gave evidence to the coroner’s inquest into the tragedy in 1991.

Motson’s final game for Match of the Day was between Crystal Palace and West Brom in 2018.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “John Motson was the voice of a footballing generation – steering us through the twists and turns of FA Cup runs, the highs and lows of World Cups and, of course, Saturday nights on Match of the Day.

“Like all the greats behind the mic, John had the right words, at the right time, for all the big moments. He will rightly be remembered as a legendary figure in British sports broadcasting, respected by those in the game, loved by fans and an inspiration to those who followed him in the commentary box.”

Presenter Manish Bhasin said: “Very sad to hear the news of John Motson passing away. An icon. For many, the voice of football.”

Commentator Clive Tyldesley said: "As a teenager I just wanted to be John Motson. Nobody else. Terribly sad.”