The past week has seen thousands of tributes pour the way of Norman Hunter, who sadly passed away last Friday. Amongst those tributes, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani talked with passion about delivering Hunter’s wish of seeing his beloved club playing Premier League football once again in his lifetime.
Leeds United Football Club will mourn the loss of a great in Hunter; he won just about everything there was to win as a player under Don Revie, whilst his affiliation with the club, like a lot of Revie’s boys, has never waned throughout the years.
People share a variety of memories when it comes to Hunter. Many will remember the ferocious, but gifted, centre-back for Leeds and England, whilst others (like myself) will remember the ambassador, whose passion for Leeds United was evident whenever you crossed paths.
Dear Norman, we will make your dream, our dream, come true RIP true gentleman 💛💙 pic.twitter.com/7emYIzmiYE
— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) April 17, 2020
Hunter the player is the place to start, though, with the Leeds United No.6 shirt best associated with him. Hunter was at the centre of the club’s real glory days under the guidance of Don Revie, making 726 appearances across a 14-year period.
Revie’s side won promotion into the First Division in 1964, with Hunter’s partnership with Jack Charlton in the heart of defence growing strong after he made his way into the side in 1962. The pair would both be part of England’s World Cup winning squad in 1966, but whilst Charlton’s role was key, Hunter didn’t feature due to a certain Bobby Moore. Later in his life, Hunter would be deservedly awarded a medal for England’s success at the tournament.
At club level, honours soon followed Leeds’ promotion into the First Division: a League Cup and Fairs Cup in 1967/68 were backed up by the club’s maiden First Division title in 1968/69. Leeds were a force, with Hunter’s reputation growing.
The FA Charity Shield followed, as did another Fairs Cup trophy in 1971. Then, Leeds won the FA Cup in its Centenary Year of 1972, with Allan Clarke’s goal the difference against Arsenal. Memorable footage shows Leeds parading the trophy, but also of Hunter assisting Mick Jones – in agonising pain after dislocating his elbow late in the game – up the Wembley steps to receive his medal from the Queen: a mark of Norman Hunter the man.
Leeds went on to win the First Division title once again in 1974, whilst Hunter won individual plaudits and was named the first winner of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, underlining how he was valued within his trade.
The late 60s and early 70s were a trophy laden period for Leeds United and Hunter, but it could’ve been more; Leeds were runners up in the First Division in 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971 and 1972, whilst they were beaten in FA Cups finals in 1965, 1970 and 1973.
Despite success in Europe with the Fairs Cup, one major trophy that evaded Hunter and his teammates was the European Cup – Leeds were controversially beaten by Bayern Munich in 1975, the season after Revie had departed Elland Road to take on the England job.
By that point, Hunter had picked up the nickname ‘Bites Yer Legs’ for his tough-tackling, no-nonsense attitude to the game, whilst footage of him squaring off with Franny Lee of Derby County only adds to the hardman reputation Hunter had during his time as a player. Yet, 28 England caps and a medal collection many would crave tells you that Hunter was just as gifted as he was ready to mix it; a cultured left-foot and a place in Leeds’ history books after 700+ appearances during the club’s glory days.
Hunter would have spells with Bristol City and Barnsley after Elland Road, turning out over 100 times for the former. However, keeping him away from his beloved Leeds United would be no easy task and he would return.
Alongside Bryn Law, Hunter would commentate on Leeds United games in the 1990s, offering a new generation of fans the opportunity to adore him like those lucky enough to watch his playing days.
This went out as an advert for our @BBCLeeds match coverage many years ago. If you can, read what I wrote because I don’t think I could put it better now. My Dad finally got to meet Norm at my wedding. They got on famously. I miss them both. #NormanHunter pic.twitter.com/soUGwsX8bO
— Bryn (@BrynLaw) April 17, 2020
Like Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Paul Reaney, plus many more, Hunter was an almost unmoved figure on matchdays at Elland Road, even after his days in the commentary box came to an end. The players from the Revie-era are the elite ambassadors for Leeds; they represent the club’s most successful era, light up hospitality suites with colourful stories and still have that burning passion for the football club to be a success.
Stories about him tell you that Hunter wore his heart on his sleeve as a player, but he did the same in his later life, reading the riot act whether in the ‘Norman Hunter Suite’ in the West Stand or in the gantry watching Leeds look to battle their way back to the big time. But Hunter also had the knack of reminding current players just what the club was and what it meant to the supporters: the ultimate motivator decades after his playing days.
In wake of his tragic passing, Leeds have moved to rename Elland Road’s South Stand after Hunter. To many, it is a fitting tribute that drills home just how much Hunter did for the Football Club. Only Don Revie (North) and John Charles (West) have an entire stand honoured in their name, whilst Revie and Hunter’s captain, Billy Bremner, have statues outside Elland Road.
💙 The Norman Hunter South Stand pic.twitter.com/QjFOIopbk9
— Leeds United (@LUFC) April 23, 2020
The South Stand is where Leeds’ most passionate fans now house themselves, creating a boisterous and ferocious atmosphere whenever Marcelo Bielsa’s side welcome a foe to LS11. Ultimate passion in the way they support their team, from a stand named after a man that’s passion for football was Leeds United.
Thousands upon thousands of tributes tell you that Hunter will never be forgotten, whilst a stand at Elland Road pays tribute to a life given to putting Leeds United Football Club on the map. Now, as Radrizzani has promised, it is time for Leeds to give something back to Hunter by going on to deliver promotion back to the top-flight, as a fallen giant of a club looks to take the final step back into the big time.
A lifetime of motivating Leeds United and, now, leaving behind the ultimate motivation to the class of 2019/20 of delivering his dream.
RIP Norman Hunter. MOT.