'Mottie' left speechless by remarkable decision

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The Independent Online
AFTER drug-fuelled Argentinians, murdered Colombians and gesturing Germans, comes the biggest story of the World Cup so far, writes Jim White. In what might be described as a quite remarkable decision, the BBC announced yesterday that John Motson will not be gracing this year's final. Instead, Barry Davies - so long the Cinderella of the BBC's commentating team - is to get his big chance.

For the last three World Cups, 'Mottie' has been very much the commentator the nation has looked to, his furiously rehearsed ad libs more memorable than a Maradona dribble or Klinsmann dive. 'And Socrates scores a goal which in many ways sums up the whole philosophy of Brazilian football' - that from Spain in 1982.

But this year Mottie will only be watching. What lay behind the shock switch? Had he failed a trivia test? Had he been found main-lining facts from the Rothman's Football Year Book? Yesterday the BBC remained as non-commital as a Glenn Hoddle tackle. 'Barry is a long-serving, top-class broadcaster and we feel he's earned the opportunity to put his commentary mark on football's major occasion,' said Brian Barwick, the BBC's football editor.

It is certainly not that Mottie's World Cup standards have slipped this time round. He has been in better form than a Bulgarian wig- maker. Who else could have filled minutes agonising over the terminology for a motorised stretcher? ('I suppose we'll have to call it a medical cart, Trevor.') Who else could have brought in gardening tips, as he did during the game between the US and Switzerland? 'A match that has already made history from the way in which the grass was laid.'

Barry Davies, on the other hand, has been subtle, informed, happy to let the action on the pitch do the talking. It won't be the same.