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John Motson will always be grateful to Ronnie Radford for helping him launch his distinguished career with an FA Cup fairy tale.
Radford, whose death at the age of 79 was announced on Wednesday, wrote himself into English football folklore when he blasted home a stunning goal as non-league Hereford dumped first division Newcastle out of the FA Cup in a third-round replay in February 1972.
Ricky George scored the goal which ultimately secured a famous victory for the Southern League club, but it was Radford’s equaliser, which cancelled out Malcolm Macdonald’s opener, and Motson’s BBC Match of the Day commentary which provided the enduring memories.
Motson said: “I was on trial at Match of the Day for a year and I got given this game, which I know was a replay and they’d drawn up at Newcastle, but most people thought Hereford were going to lose by one or two goals – and when Malcolm Macdonald scored, it looked that way.
“And then Ronnie changed everything. He changed his life, my life, the history of the FA Cup with a goal that came out of nowhere. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen a shot fly through the air and go into the net quite like it.”
A crowd of 14,313 packed into Edgar Street on February 5, 1972, but for most football fans, it is the coverage on that evening’s Match of the Day and Motson’s description of the events they witnessed which live on.
Calling Radford’s goal at the time, he said: “Radford – now Tudor’s gone down for Newcastle – Radford again…
“Oh, what a goal! What a goal! Radford the scorer, Ronnie Radford, and the crowd, the crowd are invading the pitch and it will take some time to clear the field.
“What a tremendous shot by Radford. He got that ball back and hit it from well outside the penalty area, and no goalkeeper in the world would have stopped that.”
Radford’s exploits on a quagmire of a pitch made him an instant celebrity, but it proved a career-making day for Motson, a regular guest at the Hereford squad’s subsequent reunions, too.
He said: “It probably wouldn’t have happened that way had he not done that. The way that goal went in and when it went in, it changed everything.
It was the ultimate piece of giant-killing and topped off by one of the great goals of FA Cup history.
“It changed people’s concept of me as a commentator, it got me more important games, and Ronnie’s contribution to that was one of the most amazing goals in FA Cup history.
“Coming as it did for a non-league team against a first division side as Newcastle were, it made huge headlines. Ronnie became a celebrity from nowhere within a few seconds.
“It was the ultimate piece of giant-killing and topped off by one of the great goals of FA Cup history.”