Next Game: Truro City In The FA Cup At Torquay On Wednesday 26th September At 7.45pm

Friday, May 11, 2018

John Motson Retires This Weekend


John Motson Talking To Brian Owen With Ricky George Behind Them - Picture From Andy Compton.
John Motson is to retire from the BBC this weekend. Today's Daily Express looks back at the game that made him famous.

In October 1971 a young radio football commentator called John Motson was seconded to television on a year's trial. Aged 26, he was the youngest member of the team and so, six months later, he was a natural choice to commentate on the third round FA Cup replay between non-league minnows Hereford and the mighty Newcastle United.

After all, the Geordies were bound to win by a hatful of goals, the sort of one-sided contest that would merit no more than five or six minutes on Match Of The Day.

Motson duly drove up to the cathedral city near the Welsh border the night before the match with Ricky George, a friend who was then playing part-time for Hereford.

The pair had dinner at the team hotel and were drinking in the bar afterwards when Jackie Milburn, the legendary Newcastle centre forward, walked in. "At the time he was working for one of the Sunday papers as a reporter on Newcastle and obviously we both knew him as a great hero and so we went up to him and had a chat," recalls Motson..

"He was the one who said to Rick, 'I think you should be in bed if you're playing tomorrow' and Rick said, 'But I'm only a sub' and Jackie Milburn said, 'If I was your manager I'd still want you in bed'. To which Rick said, 'Well if I come on tomorrow and score the winning goal you'll forgive me'."

And sure enough that is exactly what he did. With the game in extra time, George received the ball on the right-hand side of the penalty area and lashed a low shot into the far corner of the net.

One of the greatest upsets the FA Cup had ever seen was guaranteed top billing on MoTD and Motson was on his way.

Indeed, he once said: "It changed my life because my boss on Match Of The Day realised I could be trusted to commentate on a big match."

Motson went on to cover 10 World Cups, 10 European Championships, 29 FA Cup finals and more than 200 England games and on Sunday he will receive a special award from Bafta in recognition of his 50 years service with the BBC.

So just how blathered was Ricky George the night before that fateful match? When Motson appeared on This Is Your Life in 1996 the host Michael Aspel said it was 11pm when Milburn walked in on the two men. George himself claimed it was "nearer one o'clock than 11 o'clock".

But these days, Motson is keen to play down the incident. "We'd only had a meal," he protests. "It was probably about half past nine or something. It was no big deal. He was fine and he didn't go the whole game anyway. He came on as quite a late sub really." We'll believe you Motty.