John Motson: You Ask The Questions

After 35 years commentating, would you fancy the job of England manager yourself? And do you still wear a sheepskin coat?

John Motson, 59, was born in Manchester, the son of a Methodist minister. In 1963, he joined the
Barnet Press as a junior reporter. Following a spell at Sheffield's
Morning Telegraph covering league football, he moved to BBC Radio 2, where he became a sports presenter as well as commentator. He joined BBC's
Match of the Day in 1971. Since then, he has commentated more than 1,000 matches for the BBC, including a run of 29 consecutive major cup finals. Dubbed "the voice of football", he received an OBE in 2001. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and son.

John Motson, 59, was born in Manchester, the son of a Methodist minister. In 1963, he joined the Barnet Press as a junior reporter. Following a spell at Sheffield's Morning Telegraph covering league football, he moved to BBC Radio 2, where he became a sports presenter as well as commentator. He joined BBC's Match of the Day in 1971. Since then, he has commentated more than 1,000 matches for the BBC, including a run of 29 consecutive major cup finals. Dubbed "the voice of football", he received an OBE in 2001. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and son.

Do you consider what you do for a living a) a job; b) a hobby; c) a breeze; d) an obsession?
Charlotte Pilbeam, Newport

It's certainly a hobby. It also happens to be my job. I wouldn't call it a breeze, but people who know me think it's an obsession. Really and truly, I grew up with football. As a boy, I collected programmes and made scrapbooks. People say to me, "Don't you wake up and think, 'Oh no, not another match,'?" But, as yet, touch wood, that hasn't happened to me.

Do you still have a sheepskin coat and would you still wear it, if the weather were right?
Simon Potter, by e-mail

I have two, and I do still wear them when the weather gets cold. Because it's so difficult to buy a full-length sheepskin coat, I've had to have them made. There's a company in Saville Row called William Hunt that made me an excellent coat last year. And there's a gentleman in Cannes in the south of France, called Leslie Azoulay, who, when I went down for a few days' holiday, measured me up and made me another. So, I'll be very warm this winter.

You must be one of the most impersonated people. Can you do any impressions yourself?
Rob Millward, Epping

A very poor one of Jimmy Hill. But it's nowhere near as good as Desmond Lynam's, who can also do me. I'm not offended by people impersonating me. I'm quite flattered in a way.

What is your favourite football chant?
Peter Sharp, Bedford

The chants aren't what they used to be. When I started commentating, it was a comparatively novel thing to have matches on the television. I remember that supporters were so taken with the fact the cameras were there, that they used to chant "Can you hear us on the box?" And, of course, there was "If you hate Jimmy Hill clap your hands", which Jimmy regarded as a great compliment. Nowadays, everybody's got a comfortable seat, so the urge to shout and chant isn't there so much. You get more applause, rather like the theatre.

Your father was a Methodist minister. How important was religion in your life when you were a child and how important is it today?
Bob McMurtrie, Dundee

It was important when I was a child because we used to go to church three times on Sunday. My father was in charge of two very inner-London missions, and I was expected to turn up at all the services. I'm still a member of the Methodist church and it's still quite important to me. I don't think I was ever likely to get the calling to become a clergyman, but I still believe it's important to conduct yourself in a certain way.

What is your happiest childhood memory?
Barbara Grant, Manchester

My father was hugely instrumental in getting me into football. He took me to my first game when I was six or seven at Charlton - that's my happiest memory: it was Charlton vs Chelsea in 1952. I remember there was a marching band. When the game started, the band sat down on the edge of the pitch with all their instruments. I remember a defender kicked the ball out of play and it hit the drum with a resounding bang. It's the kind of thing that imprints itself on a young mind.

Has football lost its soul?
Nick Hales, Manchester

Well, I feared that it very nearly had in the summer with all the furore at the FA. If you consider how money-driven the game now is, then you might come to the conclusion that football's lost its soul. But, although there are things that go on at top level that make you cringe, football extends far deeper than that. The guys who play every weekend for their local team, and the kids that play in the park and at schools, don't think it's lost its soul for a minute.

I've got to go back to school in next week. I'd rather play football. Did you think school was worth it?
Ben Quinn, London

My father, in his wisdom, because he was moving churches a great deal, sent me to a boarding school in Suffolk when I was 11. Unfortunately for me it was a rugby school, and football was banned. We had secret games and got punished for it. We used to sneak up to one of the fields at the back of the school and have a spontaneous game, but the house master, who was a strict rugby man, used to come up, stop the game and take the ball. I really regret that I didn't play during those years.

Do you like being famous?
Simon Ferguson, Edinburgh

I don't really think I am. My name and voice are known by people who watch football. I don't get recognised in the street like a presenter would. Sometimes, when I'm speak- ing too loud in a restaurant or pub, someone will nip across because they recognise the voice. But it isn't a terrible handicap.

Who's best: Gary Lineker or Des Lynam?
Amber Greig, by e-mail

I can't separate them. Desmond Lynam is the best known and most talented sports presenter of my generation. And then Gary's come along and stunned us all by how quickly he slipped into the seat. He's the coolest person I've ever met; nothing seems to phase him, on and off the screen. It was a natural succession. They've been the faces of football.

You've been a commentator throughout the tenures of more than 10 England managers. Would you fancy the job yourself?
Jonathan Gibson, by e-mail

Never. I think Sven is the 10th or 11th, and I've seen the job change amazingly. The first England manager I met was Alf Ramsey, and the first press conference I attended was held in his bedroom in a hotel with eight people. Nowadays you go to an England media conference and you'd be surprised if there were less than 200 journalists there. When I started, you could wander into an England training session, stay as long as you liked, talk to who you wanted and travel with the team. All that's changed now. The FA try to protect themselves from the press. So, as much as we like to speculate and pick our own England team, if we had the chance to do it for real, we'd run a mile.

What is your favourite example of Mottyballs?
Charlie Priest, London

Everybody remembers in the Seventies when some people were still watching on monochrome and I said, "For the benefit of those watching in black and white, Spurs are in the yellow shirts." I realised straight away what I'd said, but I couldn't go back on it. It is the funniest one, and however I may have tried inadvertently, I've never quite beaten it.

'Motty's Year', published by BBC Books, is out now

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