A (Motson) Memory Match

January 16, 1982: Liverpool 2 Wolves 1

Hugh Atkinson is congratulated by Wayne Clarke and Andy Gray after his Anfield goal in 1982.

There was a choice of dozens but our attention was grabbed by this piece of film and, in particular, by the man at the microphone…

Some may think John Motson was a slave to statistics and with a tendency to overload the viewer with facts. For the most part, though, he had an effortless turn of phrase that made him very easy listening.

He has also been one of the primary soundtracks to our football lives for generations and his death will be mourned across the game.

‘Motty’ had been a regular voice on the BBC by a decade by the time relegation-threatened Wolves went to Anfield 41 years ago and he stayed for more than another 35 years.

Not only does it seem opportune after his passing-away at the age of 77 to look back to this fixture – there are further topical aspects with Wolves going back to Anfield next week and having been under caretaker management this season.

The 20-minute film on Youtube begins with a shot of under-fire chairman Harry Marshall in his seat in the directors’ box. His choice of coat suggested he may have used the same gents’ outfitter as the commentator. while the commentator refers to Ian Ross – a Liverpool player for eight years – in conversation a couple of rows behind him on the day he took charge of the team for the first time after John Barnwell’s departure.

Now for some of the brighter moments from Motson’s script from a Wolves point of view…..’And Atkinson has got in ahead of Grobbelaar and put Wolves ahead’ for one. ‘Twenty minutes to go….1-0 to Wolves’ is another.

Ross had opted for a younger look to the line-up, recalling Mick Matthews, Hugh Atkinson and Wayne Clarke in place of Alan Birch, Mel Eves and Colin Brazier.

And the changes paid off after only a quarter of an hour when Atkinson lunged in to nod home Matthews’ hooked cross in front of The Kop – his first and only senior goal of the season and his third for the club.

Matthews might well have doubled the lead when he sliced a left-foot volley against the bar early in the second half for a side who had Andy Gray playing behind Clarke and John Richards and Liverpudlian Joe Gallagher as captain.

Wolves had high hopes of three points off the side who would win that season’s title until Ronnie Whelan equalised with a header from a cross by substitute David Johnson, who has also died this winter. It was a similar goal to Atkinson’s, one coming 15 minutes after the start, the other 15 minutes from the end.

And then came the additional blow of a typical Kenny Dalglish winner on the turn with only six minutes left. ‘Wolves have got three players flat out in the area,’ Motson said. ‘Bradshaw is one. But how do you stop a goal like that?’

It finished 2-1 to Liverpool and the visitors were locked into a nightmare run of nine successive defeats, eight of them in the League. But ‘Motty’ sounded an optimistic note when he concluded: ‘Until 20 minutes from the end, Wolves were leading and resisting’.

Now for some other observations…..the crowd numbered only 26,438, the goalkeepers were picking up back passes and the teams went in at half-time to the strains of ‘Wan-der-ers’ from the away section. When did that chant stop being heard?

No doubt ‘Motty’ found the right consoling words…..Willie Carr is comforted by John Barnwell after Wolves’ FA Cup semi-final defeat at Villa Park in 1979.

We close this tribute piece with a reminder that we presented this piece Wolves Heroes » Blog Archive » Motty: Wolves And Me after interviewing John Motson about his Molineux recollections in November, 2017.

And here are five famous Wolves games on which he commentated after sitting next to David Coleman at the 1973 FA Cup semi-final against Leeds at Maine Road:

November 15, 1975: Burnley 1 Wolves 5 (a huge away win in the rain on a day John Richards scored after 14 seconds).

March 31, 1979: Arsenal 2 Wolves 0 (FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park).

January 24, 1981: Watford 1 Wolves 1 (FA Cup fourth round in a season in which Wolves went to the semi-final).

April 15, 1981: Tottenham 3 Wolves 0 (FA Cup semi-final replay at Highbury).

August, 1982: Wolves 2 Blackburn 1 (first match after Wolves went into Receivership for the first time).

Thomas Publications