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Remembering Norman Hunter

Matchday programme contributor Paul Gainey shares his memories of the late Norman Hunter.

Every now and then a player comes along that doesn't quite fit the typical maverick bill. Sometimes, you'll be loved just as much by the fans if you spend the entire 90 minutes simply hoofing the opposition all over the park. That's not a fair description of Bristol City legend Norman Hunter but he certainly did his fair share.

I met Norman in 1977 when he made a guest appearance at a Clevedon sports shop, cycling 10 miles in pouring rain to get his prized autograph. Nicknamed 'Bites Yer Legs', Hunter made 122 appearances for City, after more than 700 for Leeds, with them winning the First Division title twice, the FA Cup, the League Cup and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups.

He was also a member of England's World Cup winning squad in 1966, eventually winning 28 caps for his country. Put simply, you could not meet a man that was so different from his 'hard man' reputation. He spent hours posing for photographs and signing memorabilia.

When Hunter arrived at Elland Road as a scrawny 15-year-old in 1958 then Leeds manager Don Revie decided the talented youngster needed to bulk up so put him on a strict diet to help him develop. So each morning the young Hunter would have a raw egg, washed down with a glass of Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry.

His playing style, of course, was neither detached nor genteel. His reputation was that of a hard man with an uncompromising tackle. But he was so much more than a highly effective bruiser. Though he's gone down in history as one of the game's hardest of hard men, Hunter performed his role at Leeds United to the tee. That's why, in 1974, he was the first-ever player to win the PFA Player of the Year Award.

His name is synonymous even now with the turbo-charged tackle but his ability on the ball and the quality of his passes, particularly with that cultured left foot, will always be remembered by City fans. He almost single-handedly kept City up for three seasons, notched up 122 appearances and even scored five goals.

He supplied the class that enabled City, not only to survive in the top flight, but to also challenge for a European place in 1978/79.

Norman Hunter sadly passed away on Friday, April 17th aged 76.