John Motson: Five iconic commentary moments from Gascoigne’s tears to Zidane’s headbutt | Football | Sport
Home » Matches » John Motson: Five iconic commentary moments from Gascoigne’s tears to Zidane’s headbutt | Football | Sport
John Motson: Five iconic commentary moments from Gascoigne’s tears to Zidane’s headbutt | Football | Sport

With a unique voice and an encyclopaedic knowledge football, John Motson was one of television's most recognised figures behind the microphone after witnessing some of the most historic moments in football. The iconic BBC commentator died at the age of 77 on Thursday and the mass arrival of tributes from all over the sporting sphere only emphasised his true impact on the game, having been there for Paul Gascoigne's tearful goodbye at Italia 90 and Zinedine Zidane's 2006 World Cup headbutt.

But he never let his passion for the job or football get in the way of what was right, hanging up the microphone in 2018 after 50 years in broadcasting: "I just thought my 50th year in the BBC is 2018 and it has to end some time and I thought that would be a good note to go out," Motson said when he retired. "I also don't want to go into the area where people say 'he's been there too long", he's lost it, he's not what he was'."

That self-awareness served him well throughout his career and there weren't many moments Motson missed after working for 50 years as a commentator on the biggest games in football, from the Champions League to the World Cup final.

Express Sport looks back fondly on some of the highlights of his incredible career.

READ: Legendary BBC commentator Motson dies as football world in mourning

John Motson BBC commentator dead

John Motson: The BBC commentator died at the age of 77 on February 23 (Image: Getty Images)

Gascoigne's tears

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 at the 1990 World Cup, known more commonly as Italia '90.

Playing for Tottenham at the time, Gascoigne - nicknamed 'Gazza' - had been one of the stars of the tournament and spearheaded England's progress to the semi-finals against West Germany.

But it all ended in disappointment for the talented midfielder when he was shown a yellow card for a soft challenge on Thomas Berthold, which would have ruled him out of the final. Overcome by the emotion he felt, Gascoigne began to well up with tears in front of millions watching back home.

Motson, on the microphone for the game for the BBC, couldn't help but express his dismay saying: “Oh dear, oh dear me,” and that sense of raw realism is what endeared him to the public.

Paul Gascoigne of England cries

Paul Gascoigne: The England man broke down in tears (Image: Getty)

Zidane and the infamous headbutt

The very sight of the elegant and graceful Zinedine Zidane rocking his head forward and knocking over Marco Materazzi will forever go down as a blight on the France legend's career, but for Motson, it was a career highlight.

Few can forget the feeling of betrayal in his voice as he watched Zidane receive his marching orders in the 2006 World Cup in extra-time after the midfielder's moment of madness in the final game of his career. Italy went on to win on penalties, but it was a moment captured superbly by Motson's reactive commentary.

“And the referee has gone across now with his hand in his pocket," Motson said. "He’s been told about it. He’s off, it’s red, it’s Zidane! You can’t excuse that – Zidane’s career ends in disgrace!”

French midfielder Zinedine Zidane (L) ge

Zinedine Zidane: The France star heabutted Marco Materazzi (Image: Getty)

The beginning

What came first, the magic of the cup or John Motson? Or did the two simply intertwine to combine and make the oldest cup competition in the world also the greatest?

Either way, Motson would have been forever grateful to Ronnie Radford for the moment that Motson considered as the platform for his career to begin.

The 1971 FA Cup tie between non-league side Hereford and Newcastle was only supposed to get five minutes of air time on Match of the Day. But Radford's 30-yard match-winner and Motson's commentary helped both gain prominence.

"Oh, what a goal! What a goal! Radford the scorer... and the crowd are invading the pitch."

From there, one of football's greatest-ever commentators never looked back.

One night in Munich

Motson always picked out one game in particular as his favourite to commentate on and, after years of experiencing pain with England, many would feel he deserved to witness the Three Lions dismantle Germany 5-1 on their own turf over two decades ago.

“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.”

After falling behind to an early goal, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s men produced one of the most remarkable comebacks at the Olympiastadion back in 2001. Michael Owen brought England level with a volley before Steven Gerrard gave them the lead.

Owen went on to complete his hat-trick and Motson was ecstatic, exclaiming: “Oh, this is getting better and better and better. One, two, three for Michael Owen!”

Emile Heskey added a fifth late following an incisive counter-attack and it remains one of England's finest triumphs.

Sol Campbell, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole

England: The Three Lions triumphed 5-1 in Munich (Image: Getty)

Wimbledon stun the champions

“The Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club.”

It was the line that cemented Motson's name in commentary folklore after Wimbledon's group of wacky, aggressive but lovable Players stunned newly-crowned champions Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final.

Few would have expected the Londoners to make their mark at Wembley, but a goal from Lawrie Sanchez and a penalty save from Dons icon Dave Beasant proved it was to be their day in history as they denied the Reds a league and cup double.

While Motson said his line was “definitely spur of the moment”, it only went to further highlight his genius and improvisation when the big moments demanded it.

And some of his most endearing gaffes...

“Owen scores and breaks Lineker’s competitive scoring record. Although, this being a friendly it doesn’t actually count, so he hasn’t quite done it yet.”

“I’ve lost count of how many chances Helsingborg have had. It’s at least five.”

“And I suppose Spurs are nearer to being out of the FA Cup now than any other time since the first half of this season, when they weren’t ever in it anyway.”

“It’s so different from the scenes in 1872, at the Cup Final none of us can remember.”

“That shot might not have been as good as it might have been.”

“And Seaman, just like a falling oak, manages to change direction.”

“Not the first half you might have expected, even though the score might suggest that it was.”

“The goals made such a difference to the way this game went.”

“Oh, that’s good running on the run.”

“The match has become quite unpredictable, but it still looks as though Arsenal will win the cup.”

“Apparently, Clint Dempsey is a freestyle rapper… whatever that means.”

“You couldn’t count the number of moves Alan Ball made… I counted four, and possibly five.”

“The unexpected is always likely to happen.”

“I’ve just heard that in the other match Real Madrid have just scored. That makes the score, if my calculations are correct, 4 – 3! But I’m only guessing!”

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