Coronavirus claims life of Leeds United legend Norman Hunter
LONDON – Tributes have been paid to Norman Hunter – a ‘legend in the truest sense of the word’ – who died on Friday after contracting coronavirus.
The 76-year-old, who played 726 games in 15 years for Leeds, was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 last week and passed away in the early hours of yesterday. A spokesperson said Leeds were devastated at the news which ‘leaves a huge hole in the Leeds United family.’ Former captain Gary McAllister hailed the man known as ‘Bites Yer Legs’. ‘In the truest sense of the word, he is a legend and he set the levels at Leeds,’ said the former Scotland midfielder.
As devastated fans mourned their hero online, others saluted Hunter, a tough-tackling but stylish centre back who won 28 caps for England and was in the 1966 World Cup squad. Sir Geoff Hurst, who scored a hat-trick in the final, said he was ‘enormously shocked and saddened to hear the awful news about my friend’. Former England captain Gary Lineker added: ‘Grew up watching that great Leeds side of which
Norman Hunter was a huge part. This awful virus was one crunching tackle too far but he’ll be biting yer legs somewhere.’
Hunter made his debut for Leeds at the age of 18 and would go on to become a key member in the club’s stunning rise under Don Revie — from the Second Division to two-times English champions.
💬 Norman Hunter: In His Own Words pic.twitter.com/2gDgkU17He— Leeds United (@LUFC) April 17, 2020
Hunter was the recipient of the PFA’s first Player of the Year award, in 1973-74.
After a glittering era at Elland Road, Hunter left Leeds to play for Bristol City in 1976 prior to a spell at Barnsley.
He also managed the Oakwell club to promotion to the Second Division and had a spell in charge of Rotherham.
Leeds say Hunter ‘remained part of the furniture at Elland Road throughout the years’. He was a regular speaker at the club and had a suite named in his honour.
On March 7 he watched Leeds beat Huddersfield 2-0 — a victory which sent Marcelo Bielsa’s men to the top of the Championship. Then, after a tremendous battle against the virus, hopes were raised that Hunter could stage a recovery. Sadly it was not to be. ‘His legacy will never be forgotten,’ the club added.
McAllister said: ‘When you discuss players in different eras you talk about the physicality of Norman, but top players adapt. He would have been a top player today.’
Former Spurs midfielder Alan Mullery played with Hunter for England and was a close friend. He said: ‘We used to go on cruises. I remember we were on a trip, we were playing the crew and I was the referee and he hit this fella in a 50-50 and he did three somersaults and landed on his backside. I said, “Norman, these passengers have paid a lot of money to come on here” and he said, “We’ve still got to win, Alan, we can’t let them win”.’
Former team-mate Gordon McQueen said: ‘He was a very, very skilful player. He wasn’t just tough-tackling Norman, he was a great player as well. Great skill, great ability.’
Hunter leaves behind wife Sue, the couple’s two children and grandchildren. Although the pandemic complicates matters, Leeds are considering ways to pay homage to one of the best to wear their famous shirt. Fans started a Twitter tribute #HangYourScarvesFor Norman.Daily Mail