Norman Hunter, one of the most famous English defenders of his day, has died of coronavirus.
The 76 year old was admitted to hospital last week after testing positive for the disease, and lost his fight for life on April 17th.
Hunter was a combative and tough tackler who earned the nickname “bites your legs”, He was a key member of the Leeds United side who enjoyed their heyday in the late 1960s and early 1970s, under Don Revie, a team known as much for their uncompromising nature and win at all costs mentality as for their style of play.
The team has recently been immortalised in the book, “The Damned United” and the film that was subsequently made of it, which chronicled the short-lived reign of Brian Clough in charge of the team after Revie resigned to take the England job.
He may not have been one of the ring-leaders against Clough but, as a key member of the dressing room, he had his part to play.
He joined Leeds as a 15 year old and went on to play for them 726 times in all competitions, the fourth highest in the club’s history. He won the league title with them twice, the FA Cup and League Cup with them, and was in the team that lost the European Cup Final to Bayern Munich in controversial fashion in 1975.
He played for England 28 times, and was a member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad, although he did not play in the tournament itself. However, like all the non-playing members of the team he was belatedly given a winners’ medal in 2007.
Unfortunately, he is best remembered in an England shirt for a mistake he made. In 1973 England played Poland at Wembley in a vital World Cup qualifier. Defending on the halfway line with the scores goalless, Hunter missed a tackle and trod on the ball instead, allowing the Poles to break forward and score. England equalised, but it was not enough and it was Poland who progressed to the following year’s World Cup.
However, he will always be associated with Leeds where a conference room still bears his name to this day.