Ian Dennis pays tribute to John Motson and reposts 'pertinent' letter

‘Forever grateful… RIP Motty’: Ian Dennis pays tribute to John Motson and reposts ‘pertinent’ letter the commentator had written him when he was 17 years old and seeking advice on how to get into broadcasting

  • Tributes have poured in after ‘the voice of football’ died in his sleep last night
  • Dennis said he would be ‘forever grateful’ to his former colleague for his advice

A ‘pertinent’ letter from John Motson to his future BBC colleague Ian Dennis has resurfaced amid tributes to the football commentating legend following his death at the age of 77.

The heartwarming letter had been penned 35 years ago by ‘Motty’ after Dennis wrote to him asking for advice on how to become a football broadcaster and saw him give important suggestions to the then-17-year-old.

In his response the broadcaster urged the teen to put in ‘hard work and perseverance’ and that ‘enthusiasm and opportunity’ would be key if he wanted to make it in the business. 

The words were a source of encouragement for Dennis, who would later call them ‘inspirational’, and the pair would work together at the BBC for a number of years. 

Today Dennis, who is BBC Radio 5 Live’s chief football reporter, paid tribute to Motson, saying he was ‘forever grateful’ to him after he passed away peacefully in his sleep last night.

John Motson, pictured here at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in 2017, died at the age of 77 last night

BBC Radio Live’s chief football reporter Ian Dennis, pictured here at the 2014 Fifa World Cup, has joined the rest of the football world in paying tribute to ‘Motty’

On Twitter he wrote ‘Forever grateful. RIP Motty’ and shared a post from 2014 where he originally revealed the letter his mentor had sent him decades ago.

In the 2014 tweet Dennis said the advice given to him by the legendary commentator was ‘still pertinent today for anyone with broadcasting aspirations’  – with Motty telling him not to give up if he falls on hard times while trying to achieve his dream.

READ MORE HERE –  Tributes from fellow commentators, including Clive Tyldesley and Guy Mowbray, flood in 

Motson wrote: ‘Thank you for your letter asking about a career in sports broadcasting. I am happy to tell you how it came about for me, although I ought to point out that enthusiasm and opportunity are the two big things you need, since openings do not come up all that often and lots of hard work and perseverance is involved. 

‘I started by joining a local weekly newspaper as a trainee reporter, serving an apprenticeship in news coverage as well as sport. This is quite a well worn route, and the way to start is to write to the editor of local papers in your area, asking whether they have any vacancies. 

‘From there I moved to a provincial daily paper, and from there into local radio, at first on a freelance basis. There are now many more local and commercial radio stations than when I started, and I would suggest again that you contact the station manager in your area and tell him of your ambition. 

‘It may well be that you will be considered to young for a full-time post at present, but you could ask whether there is the possibility of any freelance work so that you could establish your name in their minds. 

‘May I say finally, by way of encouragement, that when I left school I did not get a job on the paper right away. Indeed, I worked in a book shop for some months while waiting for a vacancy to crop up in journalism. The important thing is not to get to impatient because a lot of people are trying to gain a foothold in the business, by which I mean keenness is often the key. 

‘I wish you every success and hope you are able to let me know if and when you find a route into our business. I hope this is of some small help.’

The letter written by John Motson to Ian Dennis after he asked for advice on how to become a football broadcaster

Ian Dennis shared the letter once more this morning and simply wrote: ‘Forever grateful. RIP Motty’

Motson’s heartbroken family revealed he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 77 last night. Pictured: Motty ahead of the UEFA EURO 2008 final

John Motson, pictured here at Everton’s Goodison Park in 2018, commentated on thousands of  football matches and at two Olympic Games

Motson is survived by his wife Anne, pictured here with him at Royal Ascot in 2018, and his son Frederick

Fans of the man who was known as ‘the voice of football’ and who commentated on more than 2,000 matches on TV and radio, including 29 FA Cup finals, 10 World Cups and 10 European Championships for the BBC, have been sharing the letter in tribute to him after news of his death broke this morning.

READ MORE HERE -Farewell to ‘The voice of football’ John Motson: Sports world mourns legendary sheepskin coat-wearing commentator who narrated over 2,000 games including 29 FA Cup finals and 10 World Cups – as family say he died peacefully in his sleep last night aged 77 

They have joined thousands of others who have paid tribute to the man who was a fixture of Match of the Day for 46 years and who painted the picture of the game for generations of supporters.

Many took to social media to pay tribute to his unmistakable voice and his iconic sheepskin coat, worn on and off screen at many of his matches.

They also shared memories of his commentaries during the defining moments of the biggest matches of their lifetimes including Gazza’s tears in Turin in 1990 and Gascoigne’s later destruction of Scotland at Wembley at Euro 1996.

Motty himself said his favourite match to commentate on was the 5-1 thrashing of Germany in a World Cup qualifier in Munich in September 2001, where he declared: ‘Oh, this is getting better and better and better. One, two, three for Michael Owen’ as millions of ecstatic fans watched back home.

He left the BBC at the end of the 2017/18 season – with a final match between Crystal Palace and West Brom – but months later he was returning from retirement to work for Talksport.

Drafted in as a late replacement for David Coleman, who was in a contractual dispute with the BBC, Motson covered his first FA Cup final in 1977 when Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 – all the goals coming in the space of five minutes early in the second half.

A unique take on the beautiful game, honed from hours of diligent research, utilising the scrapbook maintained by his wife Anne, won Motson, who remained a life-long Barnet fan, the affections of the sporting public.

From Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang beating the Culture Club of Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final at Wembley to the drama of Italy’s 3-2 win over Brazil at the 1982 World Cup, France’s last-gasp extra-time victory against Portugal in the 1984 European Championship, ‘Tigana…. Tigana… Platini, Goal!’ – there was a Motty Moment for all of them.

‘This is getting better and better and better,’ Motson declared while watching England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich during a 2002 World Cup qualifier – which left the then Three Lions boss Sven-Goran Eriksson happily repeating the phrase the next time they met.

There were, though, also more serious moments.

Motson was the commentator on the 1989 FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough. He later went on to give evidence at the inquest.

Selhurst Park was the venue for his last Match of the Day commentary, as the 2017/2018 Premier League season drew to a close with Crystal Palace beating West Brom.

Afterwards, Motson went on to collect the Special Award by BAFTA, back at the Royal Albert Hall, in recognition of his distinguished career in broadcasting – which was swiftly dedicated to all at the BBC sports department who had helped him along the way.

‘We will miss John Motson. His voice will always be ringing in our ears,’ Football Focus presenter Dan Walker posted on Twitter, summing up the sentiments of the nation.

Motson, awarded the OBE in 2001 for services to broadcasting, returned to work for a spell at talkSPORT and also provided voiceovers for some football computer games.

He is survived by his wife Anne and son Frederick.

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