The classified football results will never sound the same again.
James Alexander Gordon, whose gentle Scottish burr has given a unique quality to the Saturday afternoon football scores for the past 40 years, is to retire.
Known in the broadcasting world as “Jag”, after his initials, Gordon, 77, has decided that his voice is no longer strong enough to read the results after having his larynx removed in a cancer operation.
“It’s with great sorrow that I have to give up the most exciting part of my career, the classified football results,” he said. “They have been my life.”
Older radio listeners knew Gordon as the man who held the key to their dreams as they checked his statistics against their football pools coupons.
For fans unable to attend a game, Jag’s verdict was the final word on any rumoured results they might have heard.
“Even people who don’t really even like football knew who James was, even if they didn’t realise it,” said Mark Pougatch, presenter of BBC Radio 5 Live Sport, where Jag last worked.
Gordon was born in Edinburgh in 1936 and contracted polio at the age of six months. He worked in the music industry before joining the BBC in 1972. Although he was a respected BBC Radio 2 newsreader and presenter, his name was to become synonymous with the classified results. Such was his cult following that he had a Cornish fan club and the late comedian and former Luton Town chairman Eric Morecambe was a declared admirer.
Before the era of mobile phone alerts and Twitter, Gordon’s words could influence the mood of millions across the land. Fans came to immediately recognise nuance in his diction. Even the apparent good news that a cherished team had scored “three” at home could contain just a hint in the utterance of that single numeral to make it a portent of a miserable weekend.
It was part of Gordon’s legend that the reading of the poetic score East Fife 4 Forfar 5 was his finest moment. He never actually delivered that result but the existence of the myth reflects the fact that – rather like the shipping forecast – Jag’s classifieds were regarded by many radio listeners as a thing of beauty. Indeed, football poet Crispin Thomas produced an ode to the broadcaster. “Sometimes victory can mean so much, sometimes victory is right within your clutch,” he wrote. “Only one person you can really really trust: James Alexander Gordon.”