to Kenneth Wolstenholme
Wolstenholme died last night at the age of 81 at a private hospital
in Torquay with his daughter by his side.
Davies, BBC Commentator: "He was the first television football
commentator and so set the standards for everyone else. He had a
great voice and knew when to use it and when to remain silent. He
produced the definitive line of commentary at the most important
moment in the history of English football - 'They think it's all
over, it is now'. This is a comment that will never be matched.
It is hard to believe that the next time I go to White Hart Lane
there will not be the chance to have a chat with him. He will be
Motson, BBC Commentator: "Kenneth Wolstenholme will always
be remembered not just for his magical last line of commentary at
the end of the 1966 World Cup Final, but for the time span in which
he was, for over 20 years, almost the solitary commentary voice
that the nation associated with football."
Paul Fox, Controller of BBC-1, 1967-73: "I employed Kenneth
to work on SportsView in the mid-fifties. He was brought to my attention
when he was working in Manchester. He came in as a commentator and
most of his work was done on film. Kenneth has above all a wonderful
voice and was an excellent reader of the game. In those days we
flew him by helicopter back from matches so he could bring the film
with him, so we could process it and show the game on the evenings
programme - which later became Match of The Day. Kenneth became
our chief commentator. He was popular in football clubs, and was
very easy going. He had no grandeur and his head never got too big.
high point of his career was of course the commentary on the 1966
World Cup Final and the unforgettable 'They think it's all over.
people did not know that Kenneth also had a distinguished war record
and served in the airforce from the beginning of the war."
Cowgill, Head of BBC Sport, 1963-1973: "Working with Kenneth
was always a great pleasure. We started working on Match of The
Day in the mid sixties. He will forever be remembered as a highly
effective commentator and was largely instrumental in taking the
techniques of broadcast commentating from radio onto television.
He was one of the first to recognise that the camera was an effective
commentator as he was himself.
will of course always be remembered for the 1966 commentary, when
Geoff Hurst scored that goal. 40 years on it is still as fresh as
ever in peoples minds.
was also a war hero, a bomber pilot and was one of the elite Pathfinders."
Weeks, BBC principal producer, 1961 -1971: "We covered
all the Cup finals together from 1965 onwards and all the World
Cup matches from Wembley, especially the final on July 30 1966 when
the famous words were uttered. I can guarantee that those words
were completely off the cuff. Kenneth had a beautiful voice and
the perfect illustration was in 1966. The girders were shaking and
Kens voice cut across the screaming crowds perfectly. You
could listen to him for hours. About ten years ago we met up and
did a match together, Liverpool v Millwall in 1992. This was 15
years after we had last worked together - when he started his commentary,
shivers went down my spine. His voice was as beautiful as it was
30 years earlier. His voice never altered. Quite a man to work with."
Coleman, former BBC Grandstand presenter "I first met Ken
in 1950/51 on the same North Sports programme in Manchester. He
was already established. Ive worked with him dozens of times
since, me in front of the cameras and him commentating. I last saw
him in December and he was in extremely good form. I am very sad
to hear about his death because he seemed to be in such good health."
Salmon, Director of BBC Sport: "For those of us who grew
up in the early days of football television coverage, Kenneth Wolstenholme
was an iconic figure. His commentary on the 1966 World Cup final
is now legendary and the phrase 'They Think It's All Over' has entered
the annals of sport history. He captured an extraordinary sporting
moment brilliantly, and as a consequence his reputation will live
on for ever. Everyone in sports broadcasting will miss him and we
send our condolences and best wishes to his family."
Hansen, BBC Football Analyst: "He had a great voice and
was a great commentator. The line in 1966 was the best three or
four seconds ever, and was just what the man was about. That is
the best line anyone has come up with in the last 40 years of football
Lineker, Match of the Day Presenter: "I was so sorry to
hear of Ken’s death. He was the voice of football when I was a boy,
and his closing commentary on the World Cup Final came to play a
big part in my life through They Think It’s All Over. He kept working
in various capacities after leaving the BBC and latterly had been
heard on Channel 4’s Football Italia, and I was privileged to meet
him on several occasions and enjoyed his company. He was a pioneer
of sports broadcasting, and paved the way for those of us fortunate
enough to work in BBC Sport."
Wolstenholme was born in Worsley, near Manchester on 17 July 1920,
at Farnworth Grammar School, near Bolton.
leaving school he began work as a journalist on a local newspaper,
but on 1 September 1939 as a member of the pre-war RAF Volunteer
Reserve he was mobilised. He served throughout the war as a bomber
pilot, first on low-level daylight raids and then as a member of
the elite Pathfinder Force, which marked the targets for the main
force during the heavy bomber offensive. He completed 100 operations
as a bomber pilot and was twice decorated, first with The Distinguished
Flying Cross and then with the Bar to the D.F.C. The Bar to the
D.F.C was awarded for continual duties as a Pathfinder Marker and
completion of 100 sorties over Germany and occupied territories
despite heavy anti-aircraft fire and night fighter activity.
the war he began broadcasting in Manchester, and in 1948 he did
his first television commentary, although he had never seen television
in his life. From then, until he parted company with the BBC in
1971, he was television's number one soccer commentator. He travelled
all over the world covering international games and he commentated
on 23 FA Cup Finals, 16 European Cup Finals and five World Cup Finals,
the most famous of which being that of 1966 when he produced the
most famous line in sports commentating, "Some people are on
the pitch. They think it's all over. It is now" as Geoff Hurst
scored England's fourth goal. He was also the first presenter of
Match Of The Day in 1964, when he used to commentate on a game in
the afternoon and then go back to the studio to front the programme
in the days when Match of the Day attracted an audience of more
than 10 million each Saturday. Often, after the programme, he would
fly to the continent to do the live commentary on a Sunday afternoon
his work on television he was one of only 12 recipients of The Baird
Silver Medal for Services to Television. He was also awarded a silver
medal for services to international sport by The Brazilian Sports
Confederation. He also worked for Chrysalis Television on two Italian
football programmes a week for Channel Four and did many commercials,
the best known being the Dunlop Grand Prix commercials in the 1960's
and the Reebok commercial featuring Ryan Giggs and Manchester United
stars of the past.