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Tributes to Leeds legend Norman Hunter following coronavirus-related death

Martin Cooper April 18, 2020
Photo by Ian Nicholson/WPA Pool/Getty Images

The world of football has been paying tribute to former Leeds United and England centre-back Norman Hunter, who has passed away at the age of 76 after contracting coronavirus.

Hunter was one of the hard men of football in the days when you could (almost) get away with murder on the football field.

He was part of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad but failed to make an appearance as Sir Alf Ramsey played Jack Charlton and skipper Bobby Moore in central defence.

Hunter made his name at the heart of Don Revie’s silky but cynical Leeds side of the 1960s and 1970s. He earned his nickname “Bites Yer Legs” from a banner displayed by fans at the 1972 FA Cup final, in which Leeds beat Arsenal 1-0.

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Team-mate Eddie Gray told the BBC: “The ‘Bites Yer Legs’ took away from his actual ability as a player. He never got as many caps as he deserved because of the great Bobby Moore, but he was as good as any defender that played the game.”

Photo by Ian McLennan/Getty Images

Cups and titles

With Hunter at the heart of the defence, Leeds also won the First Division titles in 1969 and 1974, the League Cup in 1968 and the Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971. He was also part of the side that lost to Bayern Munich in the 1975 European Cup Final.

England World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst tweeted: “Enormously shocked and saddened to hear the awful news about my friend Norman Hunter, he will be very sadly missed.”

England striker and pundit Gary Lineker wrote: “Grew up watching that great Leeds side of which Norman Hunter was a huge part. This awful virus was one crunching tackle too far.”

Greatest players

I’ll leave Don Revie, who passed away in 1989, to sum up Hunter: “Norman is a player any manager would give a king’s ransom to have. The sort of player you dream about.

“One man could always be counted on to battle it out until the final whistle. That man was Norman Hunter – one of the greatest players to have lived.

Note: Hunter’s alleged conversation with Brian Clough is sadly unprintable here (but well worth looking up). RIP Bites Yer Legs.

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Martin Cooper is a senior editor and writer at The Focus. The man behind the style guide comes from a newspaper and magazine background and has worked in the sports, aeronautical and hospitality industries. While head of production at The Argus he appeared on the Jeremy Vine radio show and worked as a freelancer on the sports desk at The Sunday Times. Martin is also an FA Level 1-qualified coach and took his youth team from division five to division one in two seasons before going out at the top.