John Motson’s iconic commentary moments, from Radford’s rocket to Gazza’s tears

‘Motty’ became a household name with his distinctive commentary style

Jim van Wijk
Thursday 23 February 2023 12:33 GMT
Watch: John Motson’s iconic reaction to Ronnie Radford goal as commentator dies aged 77

John Motson’s unforgettable voice scripted some of the most memorable football moments for more than 50 years.

During his distinguished career with the BBC, Motson, who has died aged 77, commentated on 29 FA Cup finals as well as 10 World Cups and hundreds of England games.

Here is a look back at some of those quotes which helped write ‘Motty’ into football folklore.

Ronnie Radford’s rocket

“Now Tudor has gone down for Newcastle. Radford again…. what a goal! What a goal! Radford the scorer. Ronnie Radford – the crowd are invading the pitch… and now it will take some time to clear the field.”

In one of Motson’s first Match of the Day commentaries, Ronnie Radford scored a thunderbolt as Hereford equalised in their FA Cup third-round replay against top-flight Newcastle on a boggy pitch at Edgar Street in February 1972.

The non-league hosts went on to win the match in extra-time, and Motson identified the game as a turning point in his broadcasting career.

Tigana, Platini – Goal!

With none of the Home Nations having qualified, there was limited television coverage of the then eight-tournament 1984 European Championship in France, with only two matches broadcast live – and one of those was the final.

To get there, the hosts, driven on by the ‘magic square’ of Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernandez and Jean Tigana, played out one of the most memorable matches in the tournament’s history against Portugal in Marseille, and Motson was once again behind the mic, albeit for the late-night highlights.

A late goal from Jordao had forced extra-time, before he put Portugal in front. France, though, rallied to equalise at 2-2 through Jean-Francois Domergue, his second of the match, and then in the last minute … well, cue Motty: “Tigana. Two to his right, and Platini through the middle. Tigana again. Tigana. Tigana. Platini – Goal!”

The Stade Velodrome erupted as France progressed to the final, where they beat Spain 2-0 at Parc des Princes and Platini – who had scored two hat-tricks in the group stage – took home the Golden Boot with nine goals.

Crazy Gang beats Culture Club

In 1988, Wimbledon upset the odds to defeat newly-crowned league champions Liverpool 1-0 and win the FA Cup.

The Dons’ memorable triumph was secured by a goal from Lawrie Sanchez and an historic penalty save by Dave Beasant, who became the first goalkeeper to do so in the final of the game’s oldest knockout competition.

Motson confessed his pay-off line at the full-time whistle was “definitely spur of the moment” – but it helped sum up the sheer disbelief at the most unexpected of results at Wembley.

Gazza’s tears in Turin

Motson felt Paul Gascoigne was the most “outstanding English player” he had seen and was there to commentate on one of the defining moments of the midfielder’s international career.

The Tottenham youngster had produced some mesmerising performances to help drive Bobby Robson’s men on through the knockout stages of the 1990 World Cup and to the semi-finals against West Germany in Turin.

After being shown a yellow card for a challenge which appeared to make minimal contact on Thomas Berthold, so ruling him out of the final should England have progressed, Gascoigne could not hold back his tears – and so captured the hearts of the nation watching back home.

“Oh dear, oh dear me,” said Motson, echoing the collective sense of disappointment, as Gary Lineker turned to the England bench and mouthed: “have a word with him”.

Brilliant Gazza sinks Scotland

After the disappointment of Italia 90, Motson, who shared England duties with Barry Davies, was in the commentary box again for one of Gascoigne’s finest moments when his goal helped Terry Venables’ side beat Scotland at Euro 96.With England leading their old rivals 1-0 in the second half at Wembley, Scotland had been awarded a penalty, which David Seaman saved from Gary McAllister. Before the Scots could regroup, England went on the offensive and doubled their advantage through a moment of sheer genius.

Darren Anderton helped the ball on from out on the left wing towards Gascoigne at the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder – playing his club football in Scotland for Rangers at the time – promptly flicked the ball up over Colin Hendry with his left foot, leaving the defender stumbling to the ground, before crashing a right-foot volley past Andy Goram.

“Oh brilliant! Oh yes! Oh yes!” Motty declared as Gascoigne sprinted to lie on the pitch behind the goal, his arms wide in the ‘dentist’s chair’ celebration as team-mates gleefully sprayed water into his open mouth – which needed no additional commentary.

England get better and better

Of all the England matches Motson commentated on, it was the 5-1 victory over Germany in a World Cup qualifier in Munich back in September 2001 which he singled out as his favourite.

After falling behind to an early goal, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men produced one of the most remarkable comebacks at the Olympiastadion.

Michael Owen soon had England level with a close-range volley and Steven Gerrard fired them ahead in first-half stoppage-time.

Owen extended the lead after the restart and completed his hat-trick in the 66th minute, with Motty blaring out: “Oh, this is getting better and better and better. One, two, three for Michael Owen!”

To cap a memorable night, Emile Heskey added a fifth following a swift counter-attack.

“I had experienced so many disappointments with England as a commentator, so this was a match that really will live long in the memory,” Motty recalled. “I never expected such a performance on German soil.”

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