Beloved Sheffield reporter and Match of the Day commentator John Motson never forgot his roots

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The late much-loved former Match of the Day BBC football commentator and former Sheffield Morning Telegraph reporter John Motson was always proud of his professional roots despite his legendary status.

John Motson – or ‘Motty’ as he was affectionately known – has died aged 77 after an illustrious career which began at the Sheffield Morning Telegraph in the 1960s and was followed by a 50-year tenure with the BBC.

The BBC TV football commentator and Match of the Day star who was famed for his trademark sheepskin coat held roles at the Sheffield Morning Telegraph covering football in 1967 and at BBC Sheffield before he joined BBC Sport in 1968 and covered 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, 29 FA Cup finals, and numerous Champions League and European Championships matches.

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Esteemed sports reporter and broadcaster Alan Biggs, of Talk Sport and Sky, said: “He worked in Sheffield at the Morning Telegraph and that was a few years before my starting but I knew it meant a lot to him, and I know he kept in touch with one or two of the people he had worked with from that time.

Pictured is former Sheffield Morning Telegraph reporter and retired BBC Match of the Day football commentator John Motson who has died aged 77. Courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.Pictured is former Sheffield Morning Telegraph reporter and retired BBC Match of the Day football commentator John Motson who has died aged 77. Courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.
Pictured is former Sheffield Morning Telegraph reporter and retired BBC Match of the Day football commentator John Motson who has died aged 77. Courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.

“My first encounter with him was when he was in Sheffield to commentate on a game down at Bramall Lane for Match of the Day and I visited him at the Hallam Tower Hotel and did an interview for Radio Hallam in his room.

“He was always receptive to chatting football. I interviewed him a couple of times after that at Manchester City and he was unfailingly obliging and beyond. He was one of those guys who you could always reach and he would unfailingly return a phone call and he would return it within minutes if you left a message.

“I kept some of his voice mails when he returned those calls because I thought, ‘Crikey Moses’ – John Motson has just rung me.

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“I never lost my sense of awe with the bloke because a lot of people in broadcasting and journalism regarded him as a trendsetter and something of a role model. You can still hear him in your head, and I will never stop hearing him.”

Pictured are possible former colleagues of Match of the Day commentator John Motson at The Star and Telegraph, on York Street, Sheffield, from the 1960s and from where the BBC celebrity launched his career in journalism and broadcasting.Pictured are possible former colleagues of Match of the Day commentator John Motson at The Star and Telegraph, on York Street, Sheffield, from the 1960s and from where the BBC celebrity launched his career in journalism and broadcasting.
Pictured are possible former colleagues of Match of the Day commentator John Motson at The Star and Telegraph, on York Street, Sheffield, from the 1960s and from where the BBC celebrity launched his career in journalism and broadcasting.

The Match of the Day star retired on May 13, 2018, after commentating on Crystal Palace at home to West Brom and he was crowned with a BAFTA lifetime achievement award.

John Motson, whose death was announced on February 23, was born in Salford, Greater Manchester, in July, 1945, as the son of a Methodist minister and he went on to be such a successful journalist and broadcaster that he was awarded an OBE for services to sport.

His vast knowledge of football was famously based on records kept by his wife Annie with teams, matches, appearances, goalscorers and newspaper cuttings along with his prized collection of volumes of the former Rothmans Football Yearbook.

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Alan Biggs said: “Some of his great commentary clips over the decades will always be with us and that is something we can be grateful to for Social Media for having so many of his great commentating moments in football.

Former Sheffield Telegraph reporter and BBC Match of the Day football commentator with a copy of his prized Rothmans football compendium during his younger days. Picture courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.Former Sheffield Telegraph reporter and BBC Match of the Day football commentator with a copy of his prized Rothmans football compendium during his younger days. Picture courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.
Former Sheffield Telegraph reporter and BBC Match of the Day football commentator with a copy of his prized Rothmans football compendium during his younger days. Picture courtesy of PA Images/PA Wire.

“It was the enthusiasm and excitement with which he commentated. At the end of the day, he was a fan with a mic and that was what we all want from people on the TV.”

There is no doubt, John Motson was first and foremost, a passionate football fan at heart and that is echoed by the praise he heaped on Sheffield United’s Tony Currie describing his goal against West Ham as “A quality goal by a quality player” – which became a catchphrase.

Currie, who recalls being interviewed by John Motson twice after a recording failure, said: “I was just glad the cameras and John had been there to capture such a special day.”

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Peter Goodman, retired Assistant Editor of The Star, said: “John's death is a sad day for Sheffield sport because it was here, as a sports journalist on the Sheffield Telegraph, that he laid the foundations for what was to become an illustrious career in television and broadcasting.

“I never worked with him as such because we were on opposite newspapers albeit in the same building and didn't have any opportunities for long chats. But when I left the office in the evening and he was just starting his shift, he would always lift his head as I walked past his desk, exchange a friendly “goodnight, mate” and then quickly return to what he was doing.

“Never one for office politics or social extravagance, he always struck me as being likeable, rather private and an extremely knowledgeable and competent journalist. It wasn't really any surprise that in later years his knowledge took him right to the top of his profession.

“I read somewhere several years ago that he looked back on his days in Sheffield with great fondness and was always grateful for the guidance he received from such journalistic giants as his old Telegraph sports editor Benny Hill.”

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