HE’S still plugging away, is Motty. There he was yesterday, chirruping away at Upton Park as West Ham and Blackburn battled to a goalless draw that even he might struggle to recall come the end of the season. (A Motty fact for you here: His first game on Match of the Day was also a goalless draw, between Liverpool and Chelsea on October 9, 1971. I feel this comment should be followed by a mildly sarcastic comment from Mark Lawrenson.)
And Motty’s powers of recall are astonishing, as anyone who has read his autobiography will tell you. Having dipped into it a couple of weeks ago to bring you the tale of his bizarre encounter with a constantly-furious Noel Edmonds, I feel it’s time to mine this rich seam again to illustrate the veteran commentator’s remarkable attention to detail.
He recalls limping his way through the 1994 World Cup with a broken toe, sustained by kicking a bedpost in frustration. Not, you might think, because he had learned that Barry Davies has been chosen ahead of him to commentate on the final, but because he had just been told that the commentary positions would be several rows farther from the pitch than expected.
There are a lot of anecdotes like this in Motty’s book. You might now be starting to understand why I picked out the Noel Edmonds one first.
Last night’s final match: West Ham 0 Blackburn 0
Commentator: John Motson
If Motty ever releases an updated version of his autobiography, he’ll have another anecdote to add to it – the time he commentated on three successive goalless draws for Match of the Day.
“Our final game this week is West Ham versus Blackburn, and a possible footballing first,” said Gary Lineker by way of introduction.
“In almost 40 years of commentary on Match of the Day, John Motson has never witnessed three successive goalless draws. And that was the dreaded stat Motty faced at Upton Park.
“It couldn’t happen, could it? The fact it’s on last suggests it might.”
The football highlights purists among you may complain that Lineker effectively gave away the result of the game in advance.
To which I would say, in my best Jeremy Paxman voice: Oh, come on. The game was shown at 11.45pm, almost seven hours after it had finished. Surely anyone with a remote interest in the game would already know the score by then.
And if not, then how long after a match should the score be kept secret? A day, so that it can still be a surprise for the highlights on Sky’s Goals on Sunday or the BBC’s Match of the Day 2? Two days, for the goals round-ups on Monday evening’s local TV news bulletins? A week, for any highlights recap on the following Saturday’s Football Focus? Or perhaps until the summer, so that it’s possible to watch your team’s end-of-season review DVD in complete suspense?
For my part, I’m still trying to avoid the result of the 1994 Second Division play-off final, although that’s for personal reasons.
But it makes me laugh when a sports reporter on the Saturday night TV news bulletins urges people to look away, turn the sound off, leave the room or, in one case “throw a towel over the television”. (That was Football Focus host Dan Walker during a spell on BBC News 24, and I’ve a feeling he might have been taking the mickey.) If you don’t want to know the results of Saturday’s football games, you shouldn’t be watching a sodding sports bulletin.
The game at Upton Park did end 0-0, just as the match between these two sides had at Ewood Park in September – a game that was also last on Match of the Day.
Blackburn had enough chances, though, with Morten Gamst Pedersen hitting the bar with a free kick, Martin Olsson seeing a shot well pushed away by keeper Robert Green, Gael Givet denied by a combination of Mark Noble’s hand and Carlton Cole’s goalline clearance and Jason Roberts making a right pig’s ear of a chance after shaking off James Tomkins to go clear. Alessandro Diamante went closest for the Hammers with a free kick that Paul Robinson tipped over. And that was it.
“Motty, Motty, Motty,” said Lineker afterwards. “What are we going to do? He hasn’t commentated on any goals in 2010 for Match of the Day.”
(He has done for Radio Five Live, but let’s not confuse things here.)
“Where is he next?” asked Alan Shearer.
“Wolves against Spurs,” Lineker replied. “And your place is under threat, Motty, so pull your finger out.”
If that’s not at least half-a-chapter for the autobiography’s next edition, Motty, I don’t know what is.
1. Blackburn: 6 (GD: 1. 2L: 3.)
2. West Ham: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
3=. Everton: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
3=. Portsmouth: 5 (GD: 1. 2L: 0.)
5. Hull: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
6. Stoke: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
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: 6.)
11=. Burnley: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
11=. Wolves: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
13. Fulham: 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: Hull 2 Wolves 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.)