John Motson

Sorry to hear the news about John Motson, who has died. I’ve several Motty anecdotes that I’ll always cherish. I wrote to him over 30 years ago about Joe Mercer not really expecting a reply but he phoned me up at 10.30pm to share his memories. Wonderful stuff though it did initially worry me that someone was phoning from a number I didn’t recognise at that time. I answered the phone thinking that there could be some sort of family emergency only to hear the voice on the other end say: ‘Is that Gary James? This is John Motson. How are you doing old boy?’

Another time there was also a surreal moment when I drove him to his 1st visit to the COM Stadium (now Etihad of course). I’d asked him to do some voice over work for the new MCFC museum – I was project managing the development as a freelance consultant. Throughout the 20 mins journey he bombarded me with statistical questions before I managed to divert his attention on to a few of his anecdotes. I’d never been questioned so much on long lost players and records. That journey even made it into Motty’s book….

A page from Motty’s Year. John Motson’s book.

Though he didn’t reveal how he’d kept me on my toes throughout the journey and our meeting that day!

The recordings we were due to do that day were delayed considerably as I’d invited City’s Secretary Bernard Halford over for lunch. Bernard and Motty were great friends and they spent several hours talking about various people and clubs. It was a wonderful insight into how their minds worked.

When we did get around to do the recording John had a few questions about the scripts I’d written. There was one bit that he told me off about! I’d written about the 1981 FA Cup final when Tommy Hutchison scored both for City and against City. My words said something like: ‘Then tragedy struck as Hutchison diverted the ball into his own net.’ Motty looked at me and said: ‘Now then Gary. It wasn’t a tragedy.’ I replied something like: ‘It was to City. It cost us the game and everything that followed.’

‘Yes, but Gary that’s not a tragedy. Heysel’s a tragedy. Conceding a goal is a misfortune.’ Motty was of course absolutely right and while football is full of hyperbole ever since that day I’ve always tried to focus on the specific meaning of words like that. An own goal or defeat is a misfortune.

Thanks Motty for your help that day and on the other occasions over the decades we’ve chatted etc.

RIP Motty

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