Fitting farewell to Leeds United legend Norman Hunter at Whites legend's footballing home
NORMAN HUNTER was just 15 years old when he signed for Leeds United, relocating to a life in Yorkshire from his Gateshead roots.
Seventeen glorious years with the Whites were to follow before the no-nonsense defender nicknamed Bites Yer Legs switched to Bristol City.
Barnsley were also lucky enough to be blessed by Hunter's talents - as a player and also as a manager in addition to Rotherham United.
Hunter's Leeds legacy, though, always lived on, right up until his tragically sad dying day due to coronavirus aged 76 on April 17, 2020.
Hunter was Leeds.
Leeds was Hunter's.
Elland Road, the scene of so many of his team's famous triumphs, was Hunter's home.
And it was only right that the defender's coffin should be carried through Leeds United's famous home as football, sport and moreover life said an emotional farewell to a club and city icon and wonderful human being.
Centre-back Hunter overcame countless battles in a Whites shirt as the defender helped Leeds to a glut of honours.
A Second Division title, two First Division titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, a Charity Shield, a League Cup and the club's one and only FA Cup triumph.
But for some very dubious refereeing decisions, there almost certainly would have been more, notably a European Cup in 1975 which instead went the way of Bayern Munich in one of football's most controversial finals.
A glittering career also saw Hunter earn 28 caps for his country with the defender part of England's 1966 World Cup squad and not featuring but a rock solid understudy to Bobby Moore waiting in the wings if required.
Then there were Hunter's individual honours including being named the PFA's first ever Players' Player of the Year in 1973-74.
Don Revie's all conquering Whites swept all before them in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In football, legends is an overused term but with this team every one of them lived up to that billing and none more so than Hunter with his 726 appearances for the Whites.
Hunter even returned to Leeds for three games as caretaker manager in 1988 but the defender's legacy was such that really the former defender was always part of Elland Road, even when not there in person.
The former centre-back soon had an Ellland Road suite named after him - The Norman Hunter Suite - and Hunter continued to be a regular inside LS11 cheering on his former side.
When Hunter tragically lost his biggest battle yet with coronavirus, it seemed inevitable that United as a club were always going to honour the defender in the best way they could.
Six days after his passing, the South Stand was renamed the Norman Hunter South Stand, perfectly fitting and more assurance that the former defender's memory will always live on at his famous footballing home.
Such was Hunter's influence, in any event, that was guaranteed.
It is only doubly cruel that as well as taking Hunter's life, coronavirus also prevented the former footballer's legions of fans from saying a final farewell at his funeral which of course had to abide by current laws and government guidelines in the fight against COVID-19.
Tributes, though, have been pouring in from all over the globe since Hunter's passing with wreaths and flowers regularly laid at Elland Road.
One Whites fan - 16-year-old Ollie Whitfield - spent over ten hours walking 26 miles from his Bingley home to lay a flag in memory of the fallen Whites hero.
Whitfield was born in 1995 - some 20 years after Hunter had played his last game for the Whites.
That itself speaks volumes with Hunter's legacy extending to far beyond those who were lucky enough to see him play, let alone those lucky enough to be the former defender's family and friends.
Hunter took no prisoners on the pitch yet it would be difficult to have met a nicer man off it.
The former Whites star was a credit to himself, his family and his friends and in truth, Hunter had hundreds of thousands of the latter.
Anybody associated with Leeds was Hunter's friend - a fan and an admirer of a club icon, a Whites hero, a true Elland Road great.
It was only fitting that as Leeds kissed farewell, the great man passed through his former club's famous home in front of the stand now bearing his famous name.
Norman Hunter's amazing career
Norman Hunter made 726 appearances for Leeds United over a 14-year period after making his debut as an 18-year-old against Swansea Town in September 1962.
Hunter joined Leeds aged 15 with a place on the club’s ground staff following a trial game after being scouted playing for Birtley Juniors.
Born in Eighton Banks, County Durham, Hunter had left school at the age of 15 to become an electrical fitter.
Hunter helped Leeds win the Second Division title in 1964 and then starred as Don Revie's Whites secured two First Division titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, a League Cup, a Charity Shield and the club's only ever FA Cup triumph.
Hunter's tough tackling earned the defender the nickname of Norman 'Bites Yer Legs' Hunter - stemming from a banner from Whites fans at the 1968 League Cup final against Arsenal at Wembley which declared 'Norman Bites Yer Legs'.
Hunter also made 28 appearances for England with the defender part of the Three Lions squad that won the 1966 World Cup.
Hunter finally left Leeds to sign for Bristol City in October 1976 and after three years with the club the centre-back finished his career with Barnsley. Hunter also managed Rotherham United and had three games in caretaker charge of Leeds.
Hunter already had the Norman Hunter Suite named after him at Elland Road and Leeds United then renamed the South Stand as the Norman Hunter South Stand following the Whites legend's passing aged 76 on April 17, 2000 after battling coronavirus.
Norman Hunter's playing career timeline
1943: Born on October 29 in Eighton Banks, County Durham.
1959: Hunter joins Leeds aged 15 with a place on the club’s ground staff following a trial game after being scouted playing for Birtley Juniors. Hunter had left school to become an electrical fitter.
1962: Hunter makes his Leeds United debut as an 18-year-old against Swansea Town.
1964: Hunter bags his first honour with Leeds who end four years in English football’s second tier by winning the Second Division title.
1966: Hunter is part of the England squad that wins the 1966 World Cup.
1968: Leeds win the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and League Cup.
1969: United win the First Division title and the following season’s Charity Shield.
1971: Leeds win their second Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.
1972: United win the FA Cup for the first time.
1974: Hunter’s final honour at Leeds in another First Division title. The defender is also named the first ever PFA Players’ Player of the Year.
1976: After making 726 appearances for the Whites, Hunter joins Bristol City.
1979: Hunter signs for Barnsley with whom the defender ends his playing career in 1982.