Television: Voice of the Cup

John Motson, the BBC football commentator, wishes to sort out once and for all one of the nation's most burning debates - what sort of coat he wears. "People can't work out whether it's an anorak or a sheepskin coat," he admits. "The authorised version is that I haven't got an anorak, and my sheepskin coat is worn out. Which reminds me - I must get a new one for next season."

For nearly three decades now, Motson has been held in affection by fans for just this sort of devotion to detail - a fact that impressionists such as Rory Bremner and Alistair McGowan have been quick to send up. Not for nothing has Motson earned the sobriquet "Stats".

The Full Motty, an affectionate BBC1 tribute to the great man in front of a celebrity audience, plays on his supposed worship of footy trivia. Introduced by Jimmy Hill as "the wolf in sheepskin clothing", Motson comes on stage to the sound of "I Believe in Miracles". Right off the bat, he reveals that he is worried about England's prospects should they reach the World Cup Final because they "have never won a match on 12 July."

The show goes on to feature such items as: "Motty's Totty", in which Page Three Stunnas put the commentator's knowledge of team strips to the test ("That was the bit where I nearly lost concentration"); "Spot the Baldy", where Motty has to guess who disguised hairless players are; and a "Rockney" number paying homage to Motty, sung by Chas 'n' Dave, Bradley Walsh and Vinnie Jones.

But much of The Full Motty is taken up with the sight of our foremost commentator being lightly char-grilled by the assembled company of footeratti. Johnny Vaughan asks him: "Do pub landlords get a bit edgy when they see you lurking around the trivia machines? For you, it's a bit like a cashpoint." The celebs - who include Tony Banks, Ainsley Harriott, Clive Mantle and Peter Sissons - proceed to quiz Motty on such straightforward matters as how a player called Castro, who scored a goal for Uruguay against Argentina in the first World Cup Final, lost his arm. "I got one or two questions wrong," Motty is ashamed to admit. "But the audience were quite kind. They cheered when I got one right."

As you might expect of someone who agrees to undergo such a ribbing, Motty is not that bothered by his anoraky reputation. Dressed in a smart light suit and sipping champagne in a posh central London hotel, he says: "I don't mind it, it shouldn't be taken too seriously. It's done me more good than harm. In some subliminal way, it's made me different to other commentators. People have built up this idea that I'm this terribly serious bloke who never takes his head out of a football book. That image comes from early in my career. Commentating was a competitive field, and I was struggling for an identity. I was on trial for a year, and I thought, 'I've got to make an impact'. So I overdosed on homework and got a reputation for facts and figures and statistics. The irony is that I now use less trivial information than two other commentators I could name. Football has become so quick now that I'm mostly just calling the game."

His commentaries can occasionally sound over-rehearsed - he once famously exclaimed "Socrates scores a goal that sums up the philosophy of Brazilian football" - but his sheer commitment to football has made him something of an icon among fans. "I wouldn't be pretentious enough to call myself an icon," he laughs. "Fans just identify with my commentaries and feel they know me. They can come up to you at inconvenient moments, but at the same time it's flattering."

As a representative of the BBC, however, Motson can't get away with sounding biased. "When it's an England match, you think to yourself, 'I can afford to be partisan'. But when you start to lapse into 'we' this and 'our' that, the BBC Duty Office is flooded with complaints from Scottish, Welsh and Irish people living in England."

He's been researching for the World Cup for more than a year now, sometimes watching as many as four games in a day. Like the Scouts, he prefers to Be Prepared. "It's not rocket science, but a big mistake would live with you for the rest of your life. As Peter O'Sullevan said, 'The only commentary you'll ever be remembered for is the one you got wrong'."

Even as Motson psyches up for a punishing schedule of 10 live commentaries in the first 16 days, there is no sign of his trademark enthusiasm waning. "It's incumbent on me as a professional to put everything into commentating. I'd put as much effort into Kidderminster versus Torquay as the World Cup Final. The moment I lost that, I'd have a problem."

And a nation would weep.

'The Full Motty' is on Friday 5 June at 10.20pm on BBC1

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

    BC2

    £50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    SAP Data Migration Consultant

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

    Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

    £300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice