Norman Hunter, former Leeds and England defender, dies aged 76


Tributes from all over the football world are being paid to the former Leeds United and England defender Norman Hunter, whose death at the age of 76 was announced on Friday morning.

Hunter had been admitted to hospital on 10 April after testing positive for coronavirus, and although famed for his strength and determination in his playing days close friends were aware he had underlying health issues in retirement and might be at risk.

A statement from the club confirming his death read: “Leeds United are devastated to learn of the passing of club legend Norman Hunter at the age of 76. He leaves a huge hole in the Leeds United family, his legacy will never be forgotten and our thoughts are with Normans family and friends at this difficult time.”

With more than 700 appearance in a 15-year first-team career at Elland Road, Hunter was synonymous with the success Leeds enjoyed in the late 1960s and early 1970s under Don Revie, a manager whose personal relationship with the centre half was so strong that other members of the squad would jokingly refer to him as “Normans dad”.

Only three players have made more appearances for Leeds, Jack Charlton, Billy Bremner and Paul Reaney, all teammates of Hunters at a time when the club were the most powerful force in English football. Hunter helped win the league title in 1969 and 1974, the FA Cup in 1972, and in 1974 became the first ever recipient of the Professional Football Associations player of the year award.

Peter Reid, a former Leeds manager, described Hunter as a giant of a man and speaking a day before the death was announced, Johnny Giles said the players hard-man image was slightly misleading. “Norman was one of the best professionals I ever played with or against,” his former teammate said. “A top-class individual and one of the most humble people you could ever meet. He was always grateful for what football had given him.”

The World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst – Hunter was a non-playing member of the 1966 squad and had to wait 41 years to receive a medal – said: “Norman was a huge part of the England squad back in the day. He will be very sadly missed.”

Peter Shilton, the former England goalkeeper, described Hunter as “a wonderful man” whose company he had always enjoyed. “I played with him for England and continued to meet him at various football events over the years,” he said. “It was always great to catch up. My condolences to the family on such a terrible loss.”

Gary Lineker posted: “Grew up watching the great LUFC side of which Norman Hunter was a part. This awful virus was one crunching tackle too far.”

Chris Kamara, now a Sky Sports presenter but once, briefly, of Leeds United himself, said: “A Leeds and England legend and one of my heroes as a kid. What a man.”