Cooney and Black

This might seem like a coke and bull story. It’s not, because it involved Arthur Montford – a man who displayed a remarkable restraint when it came to alcohol

Arthur Montford

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HOPEFULLY there won’t be a “stramash” when they lay Arthur Montford to rest.

The former television broadcaster, who introduced the word to the English language in his commentaries to describe a melee around the penalty box, has died, aged 85.

Arthur was one of the last survivors from a once-glorious era at STV when the Glasgow-based TV station was a match for its BBC rival.

He was also a genuinely nice man, whose cheery smile and impeccable manners endeared him to his colleagues, first as a print journalist and later as an instantly recognisable “face” on the box.

Arthur presented 2,000 editions of Scotsport and carried out nearly 400 football commentaries in a 32-year career at STV, before hanging up his microphone in 1989.

A true giant of Scottish sports broadcasting, it was a measure of his standing and popularity that he was appointed rector of the University of Glasgow.

While football was his first love, Arthur’s other great passion was golf, writing a column for both the Sunday Post and, more recently, Bunkered Magazine.

Although born in Glasgow, Arthur was brought up in Greenock and was a huge fan of Morton, becoming a director of the club before being elected an honorary vice-president.

In fact, the last time I met him was at Cappielow several years ago at a Scottish Cup-tie against Kilmarnock. But we go back a lot longer, 39 years to be precise. I first encountered him in his role as a columnist for the Scottish Sun newspaper, shortly after I had been appointed that publication’s chief sportswriter.

Not that I imagine Arthur would have recalled our first meeting with any fondness, given it was in the company of the paper’s sports editor, Frank Nicklin, a true legend of Fleet Street.

Frank was a man who enjoyed a drink or twenty and, while partaking of a few large ones on a visit to Glasgow, announced that he was keen to meet his columnist.

Arthur was duly summonsed to the Albany Hotel, and immediately on his arrival was invited to sample the formidable Frank’s hospitality.
“Just a coke,” replied Arthur.

The look on Frank’s face suggested he had just been struck a glancing blow as he fought to regain his composure.
“A coke, a f*****g coke?” he spluttered. “Are you telling me you don’t drink? I don’t employ people who don’t take a drink.”

Seemingly unfazed, Arthur stood his ground and his coke was duly delivered – along with another 23 bottles!

Frank had only gone and ordered a crate of the stuff for what he saw as a form of punishment for Arthur’s abstemious ways, adding that if his mild-mannered guest did not make serious inroads into the delivery, he would be out of a job.

I think Arthur got through six bottles before holding his hands up and surrendering to a combination of sudden bladder weakness and flatulence!

In addition to displaying remarkable restraint when it came to alcohol, Arthur was also “careful” with his cash, adhering rigidly to the old Scottish adage that “many a mickle maks a muckle.”

I recall a trip to Prague in 1976 for a World Cup qualifying tie against the then reigning European champions, Czechoslovakia. The press corps were billeted at the splendid Intercontinental Hotel, with the notable exception of one of our number!

Arthur had chosen to stay at a somewhat less salubrious establishment on the outskirts of the city in an effort to defray expenses. He also chose to use the local bus service over taxis as his preferred mode of transport.

Whether these cost-cutting measures were reflected in the expenses he submitted to his employers I cannot say.

But what I can say with absolute certainty is that Arthur Montford was a thoroughly decent human being with a unique style.

Always keen to accentuate the positives, no matter the at times overwhelming negativity of a given situation, he wore his heart on his sleeve and was recognised as a fan with a mike.

Those of us of a certain vintage still recall with a smile the evening at Hampden Park in 1973 when Scotland beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 to reach the World Cup Finals in West Germany. Arthur abandoned all pretence of neutrality, screaming: “Jordan. It’s Jordan. He scores!”

Four years later at Anfield, when Kenny Dalglish’s goal sealed victory over Wales, it was an emotional: “Argentina, here we come!”

Arthur Montford’s style of broadcasting would probably not meet with the approval of the powers that be in the current age of over-exaggerated drama and self-important sounding hype.

But how many of his successors will be honoured in the way he was in 2010 when he received a Special Merit award from the Scottish Professional Footballers’ Association for services to football broadcasting and journalism?

Arthur was a one-off; the doyen of Scottish broadcasting. He will be remembered for far more than just the trademark Houndstooth sports jacket he eventually donated to the Help The Aged charity. They auctioned it for five times what he paid for it in the first place.

R.I.P. Arthur.

 

 

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