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RIP Arthur Montford: the commentator, the jacket, the legend


Gary Johnston




Thursday 27 November 2014




Late 1973. Scotland, who haven't qualified for a major international final in living memory, play Czechoslovakia in a winner-takes-all World Cup decider. It was live on STV and Arthur Montford was the commentator.


Everyone liked Arthur. Saying you didn't like Arthur would be saying you didn't like football. Ridiculous.


Taking the piss out of him, now that was another matter. Taking the piss? No, that's too harsh. It suggests 'making a mug out of', 'ripping to shreds' . You didn't - couldn't - do that to Arthur, it wouldn't be right, you liked him too much.



It was an affectionate sort-of piss-take. Affectionate, with a capital Arthur.


'Up go the heads'. More or less every corner that was ever given, especially in any game with even the hint of a bit of dig in it.


'Stramash'. A word that otherwise would have faded from the Scottish vernacular, were it not for Arthur.


A stramash was the perfect descriptive noun for a mud-strewn guddle in the penalty box when the bodies were flying and the blood was up. A stramash was what penalty boxes were made for.


The other reason it was hard to resist Arthur was the fact that he was a fan. A Morton fan admittedly, which made it easier for him to assimilate; his real love was for the national team.


And never was Arthur's passion more on show than the night we took on Czechoslovakia. I can still hear Arthur as we went one down. 'It's a shot - and it's a good one - and it's a goal! Disaster for Scotland!'


In reality it was poorly hit and should have been easy meat for our goalie to swallow. Did Arthur mention the shocking blunder? Of course not, he was a fan. 'The ball eluded his grasp!'


Then we got a corner. Up went the heads and big Jim Holton, our centre half and resident enforcer nodded it in. Arthur went bonkers. 'A beautiful header - up, under the crossbar - and it's 1-1!'


At this point, any notion of even handedness, of any fair minded let-the-best-team win impartiality would have been considered absurd. Arthur was Scottish, the team was Scottish and so were we. What's the problem there, pal?


(Had it been an England commentator on an England game of course, we'd have been screaming 'biased b******s' but then that's just the way we Scots are.)


And then. A shot from the right by Billy Bremner hits the post. Not cleared properly, it's crossed back in to be met on the six-yard box by big Joe Jordan. Goal.


Arthur speaks for every watching fan in Scotland. 'Still dangerous, Morgan flicks it across, Jordan… It's there, Jordan scores!! Magnificent, superb goal. The keeper can't reach it. Superb header, the ball's in the net and it's 2-1! Magnificent Scotland! Magnificent!'


Arthur was our pal, our fellow supporter, one of us.


As the game ran down and Scotland fought to hold their lead, Arthur was running on straight passion alone. 'Come on Denis, come on now Denis', he implored as the Lawman bore in on goal, 'Watch your back Willie', as Morgan looked to be losing possession.


And then the final whistle. 'The referee is looking at his watch. And that's it! Well done Scotland. Well done boys!' Seriously, who couldn't love that?


Of course there was more to Arthur than just one game. His very familiarity was totally comforting, like - and in a good way - part of the furniture.


He even gave his name to a type of jacket. The Arthur Montford. Even today, to men of a certain age, a hound's tooth jacket is and always will be: 'An Arthur Montford'.


Arthur loved his Scottish football, that's for sure. For a few years he was Scottish football - TV football at any rate.


He was a part of my life - our lives - people - primarily men of my generation. A big part, mostly a good part, sometimes a great part. As legacies go, that's not a bad one.



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