Book – Motty, Forty Years in the Commentary Box by John Motson

‘Try to get a plus out of minus’

‘Always praise your enemies’

‘Admit your mistakes openly, people will like you more for it’

Jimmy Hill

‘Failure in itself is not important. It’s what you learn from it that counts.’ Dave Sexton

Its quotes like these that make me want to read sports books. John Motson, by his own admission not a sportsman, is of course the best known voice of football, certainly for my generation. What I didn’t realise is his involvement in other sports, particularly Wimbledon a few years back.

The book is written in chapters of subject matter rather than chronological order which meant I was jumping back and forth in history but it makes sense to do it that way. I’m always in awe of anyone who remembers facts and figures in sports when I can’t remember what the score was last week but of course its Motty’s job to know these, and impart them to us, the humble viewer.

Motty regards himself as a fully fledged Londoner, despite being born in Salford Hospital in Manchester – United territory. Like any neutral, he refuses to be tied to into any team but justifiably talks about all the teams that are close to his heart. His father being a Reverend meant they lived in different parts of the country and also Motty attending boarding school.

There are some amazing revelations in the book and I particularly like the fact that the BBC used to use a private jet to get broadcasters to games in the good old days until they had complaints after an on air accidental admission in the early 1970s. Unfortunately it happened during and energy crisis bought on by a miners strike.

I’m not sure about Sven-Goran Eriksson in Mott’s all time England manager top 10 but I believe the list is not to be taken too seriously!

The book served as a reminder of the times that the BBC lost coverage rights to top level football. I guess that during these times my interest in football also took a dip was no coincidence. Football and BBC and synonymous for me, I’m not of the Sky Sports generation but of course I will not turn down an opportunity to watch a live match on any channel.

I was most riveted by the World Cup chapter and the sensitivity shown in talking about the football disasters that are all too familiar, as is the talk of football hooliganism. It’s only in recent years I feel almost comfortable at a match on my own but I still will not attend an away match. There’s a humorous moment when Jack Nicholson joined Motty in the Wimbledon commentary box, uninvited but most welcome.

Motty also imparts opinions on the way forward with football and the best idea in my opinion was a BBC sports channel. We have Radio 5 so BBC Sports must be next. Please?

A great read if you love sports, if you love football, if you love Motty or all three.


Smile factor 7½/10

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