JOHN Motson’s autobiography came out not so long ago. While most reviewers focused on Motty’s long-running rivalry with Barry Davies (why didn’t the BBC just let them do 45 minutes each at the World Cup final?), I was more interested in the book’s fleeting insight into the personality of Noel Edmonds.
Back in the days when Noel’s House Party bestrode the Saturday evening schedules like a particularly terrifying dragon, Edmonds decided to set up Motty for a Gotcha award.
The idea was that Motty would be picked up in a car from the BBC, with the commentator under the impression he was going to a restaurant to have lunch with his agent. But en route, the car would be flagged down by a policeman (actually an actor) and told to follow another car being driven by a dangerous criminal (actually Noel).
To make the sting more entertaining, the policeman would, at some point during the chase, pass Motty his phone and tell him to help by commentating on the chase down the line to his boss back at the station. They would end up at a disused airfield, at which point Noel would leap grinning from his car and hand Motty the Gotcha.
Well, according to Motson, the set-up worked perfectly, and he was completely taken in. Sadly for Edmonds, they couldn’t use it, because the hidden sound recording equipment hadn’t worked properly. And the bearded one was furious.
We know this because Motson tells us in his book. In the days after the failed stunt, he took at least two phone calls – possibly more – from House Party’s producer, telling him that Edmonds was both “fuming” and “livid” that the recording hadn’t come out. Motson, dryly, writes in his book that he was wondering just how much more furious Edmonds could get.
The producer wanted Motson to film the Gotcha again, pretending that he didn’t know. He also asked the commentator not to breathe a word about this, claiming that the newspapers would have a field day if they found out. Edmonds offered to pay for a Christmas party Motson was planning in order to ensure the secret was kept.
As it turned out, the stunt couldn’t be filmed again because the producer couldn’t get all of the actors together on the same day. Edmonds, you’ll have guessed by now, was furious.
Not so long afterwards, Motson bumped into Edmonds in a BBC lift. According to Motty, Noel greeted him with a grimace, before breaking into a smile, thanking him for keeping the whole charade a secret and saying: “I’ll get you next time!”
What a charmer.
Noel’s House Party used to terrify me as a teenager. There always seemed to me to be an air of menace underneath all the jollity and japery. (If putting hidden cameras in people’s homes isn’t sinister, I don’t know what is – and Edmonds did that regularly for his NTV slot.)
I can’t watch Deal Or No Deal either, and that is definitely down to Edmonds. I’ve never seen another TV presenter with his ability to make people feel guilty for things that aren’t their fault.
Edmonds has long since disappeared from the BBC’s Saturday night schedules. But Motty is still there, chuntering away on Premier League games for Match of the Day. Some things never change.
Last night’s final match: Tottenham 0 Hull 0
Commentator: John Motson
MOTD host Gary Lineker made his own foray into Saturday evening prime-time TV last night by appearing on ITV’s All Star Mr and Mrs with his wife Danielle. (It wasn’t quite as disorientating as the previous week’s show, which featured rapper Ice T as one of the contestants. It would never have happened in Derek Batey’s day.)
Lineker managed to win the star prize (£30,000 for charity, I think) by correctly stating how many GCSEs Danielle has. (If it ever comes up in a pub quiz, the answer’s eight.)
I was mightily impressed by this knowledge, given that I would have a job remembering how many GCSEs I’ve got, never mind anyone else. I would, though, be intrigued to know how Lineker knows so much about his wife’s high school academic achievements. It’s certainly not something you’d ask on a first date. Probably not on a second, either.
As midnight approached, Lineker was safely back on the MOTD sofa alongside the two Alans, poring over Boaz Myhill’s magnificent performance for Hull at White Hart Lane.
The keeper made save after save after save to frustrate Spurs and earn a point that lifted Hull out of the bottom three. Phil Brown and Co are still in just as much relegation trouble as they were a couple of months ago – it’s just that everyone seems to be laughing at Portsmouth or Liverpool instead at the moment.
While Lineker and his two pundits raved about Myhill’s performance, Motty was on the receiving end of a rather barbed comment from Alan Hansen.
“A great commentary from John Motson,” Hansen said. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack at one stage. He was desperate for Tottenham to score!”
Lineker closed with a reference to Chelsea’s 7-2 thrashing of Sunderland, a game that was unsurprisingly first on MOTD.
“Chelsea hit seventh heaven on the day Mr. Cole showed he’s got the X Factor,” he said, which served as a reminder of how far Saturday night TV has come since the days of Mr. Blobby.
1. Blackburn: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 3.)
2. Everton: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
3. Portsmouth: 4 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
4. Hull: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
5. Stoke: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
6. West Ham: 3 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
7. Wigan: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
8. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
9. Gubba: 2 (GD: 2. 2L: 3.)
10. Bolton: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
11=. Burnley: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
11=. Fulham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
11=. Wolves: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 4.)
14. Tottenham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
15. Birmingham: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
16. Arsenal: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
17. Liverpool: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
18. Sunderland: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
19=. Chelsea: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
19=. Manchester United: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
21. Manchester City: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last (Last night’s penultimate match was: Wolves 0 Wigan 2.)
(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)