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John Motson remembered by regional journalists after death aged 77

John MotsonLegendary football commentator John Motson, who began his career in the regional press, has died aged 77.

Tributes have been paid from the industry to the journalist, best known for his work for the BBC, who continued to call on regional newspapers to help him with his research even after he became a nationally-recognised name.

John, pictured, started out on the Barnet Press in 1963, where he covered council meetings and court cases as well as sport.

He later moved to the Sheffield Morning Telegraph, covering clubs including Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Rotherham United and Barnsley, before his long association with the BBC began in 1967.

In an obituary for the Yorkshire Post, chief football writer Stuart Rayner wrote: “If loving football was all it took, there would be millions of John Motsons. There was only one.

“That was because he combined his enthusiasm with journalist rigour.

“As a wannabe journalist in the 1990s, much of the literature I received from the National Council for the Training of Journalists would proudly name-drop him amongst news heavyweights like Sue Lawley and Michael Buerk as one of its graduates.

“His research was about so much more than painstakingly-compiled notes of statistics and facts about all the possible actors in the upcoming performance. In the days when you could do that much more easily, he would ring up or meet the leading lights before each match.

“The journalist in him was never more important than when he returned to Sheffield, where he learnt so much about the trade, in 1989.

“It was Motson on the mic as the Hillsborough disaster unfolded on a day which should have been an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. His safe pair of hands were essential.”

Other journalists have also recalled their encounters with John.

Former Teesside Gazette sports journalist Anthony Vickers posted on Twitter: “John Motson did all his own research.

“Before the internet he would often ring the Gazette sports desk before doing a Middlesbrough match to find out who was in form, talk tactics and any statistical quirks.

“It was a real buzz to take the call. Motty! Off TV. The actual voice of football.”

And Joe Donnohue, who covers Leeds United for the Yorkshire Evening Post, added: “John Motson was not just an incredible commentator, but an inspiration to journalists and wannabe broadcasters. Always found the right words.

“Privileged enough to meet him once post-retirement, and his breadth of knowledge was still unmatched. A football scholar.”