If you’ve enjoyed football at any time over the past 50 years, then you’ll know John Motson.
Not only is he one of the most famous names in the sport having commentated on 10 World Cups and over a thousand league and cup games but his iconic voice has become one of modern football’s most recognisable sounds.
At 77 John has now left the cold evenings and windy stadiums of his BBC and Talk Sport days behind (he no longer even has his famous sheepskin coat!) but he still has an impressive schedule including broadcast events and after dinner speaking.
“Yes, I suppose I do have a famous voice” John explains modestly. “In fact, no matter where I am, the minute I start speaking, people usually turn round and say, oh you’re Motty!” he laughs.
“If I think back, I always had a distinctive voice from when I was a child. My father was a religious minister you see, and he used to preach from the pulpit so I’ve been brought up knowing how to project and create excitement simply by my words.
“Thankfully I managed to get through my career without missing any matches” John recounts, “except for one touch and go game where my throat was so bad I wasn’t sure I’d be able to last the 90 minutes.
“It was 1980 in Southampton and I’d had a sore throat in the lead up that just got worse and worse. Lawrie McMenemy the Southampton Manager knew this before the game and sent me to the physio room. They gave me a horrible drink that I had to gargle and the players were laughing as I tried to drink it down!”
“I actually found radio commentary a lot more relaxing than TV but it does take its toll more. You need to guide the listener through everything, not just the key moments. So really you’re talking nonstop for an hour and a half, often trying to project above a rowdy crowd. Whereas on TV the viewer is watching with you, so my style had to add to the picture – rather than simply explain it. It took me two or three years to really adapt to TV commentating.
“Luckily I have always been quite a healthy person but now I do find myself more aware of my health and taking steps to keep myself fit and well as I get older. I began running quite late in life and feel that really helped, I still go out for a little jog from time to time.
What strikes us as we speak is that John’s mind is still as sharp as ever. He recounts one of his early jobs, commentating on a Nottingham Forest game and is able to reel off not just the score, but the line-up, type of goals scored, even the colour of one player’s boots – white – very unusual for that era!
“The thing with football” says John “is that there are so many stats and facts associated with it. My wife used to help me run a book of such data that I could use in commentary but much of it is still buried in my mind somewhere.”
“I actually wish this Manuka honey had been around earlier in my career” says John. “It really is wonderful, it’s just sweet enough for me and I take a teaspoon at breakfast time every day. It’s just become part of something I do. I know several fellow commentators who swear by it so I’m pleased to have discovered it. I’ve tried lots of different ones but have landed on the 540 MGO Monofloral as my favourite.
“My grandmother actually used to make honey back when I was a child and it was nowhere near as smooth as this!
Having travelled around the globe with his work, John is a big fan of New Zealand – home of Manuka Doctor.
“Helpfully I have always worked hard on pronouncing names right, so I’m making sure I pronounce Manuka honey in the correct way” said John to our interviewer.
(For the record reader, New Zealand natives tend to pronounce Manuka honey with a longer A, akin to “M-aah-nooka” but a short pronunciation like Man-Ooka is also acceptable).
“On that point, Norwegian players were always tough to get their names to sound right, Liverpool player Jan Molby and former Manchester United Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sound very different in their native tongue” he adds.
And finally, the ultimate question. How far does John think England will get in this Winter’s World Cup tournament?
“Well I think it’ll be a full time job as when I began commentating there were only 16 teams in the World Cup and now there are 32!
“I would look at it this way, the England team has had two very close attempts in the past two tournaments. The Manager is very adaptable and the players have proven themselves, so I think we’ve got as good a chance of winning this one as anyone.”
From everyone at Manuka Doctor HQ here in Leicestershire John, we hope you are right!
John Motson takes Manuka Doctor’s 540 MGO honey and Manuka Middles lozenges.