Leeds United chief on Norman Hunter's battle, NFL and Serie A insight, kit designs and a 'deliberately erroneous' report

This week, life at the club has been dominated by the devastating news that Norman Hunter is seriously ill in hospital with Coronavirus.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 5:55 am
FIGHTER: Leeds United legend Norman Hunter is battling coronavirus in hospital. Pic: Getty.

Norman’s playing record alone easily qualifies him as a Leeds United legend.

Seven hundred and 26 appearances in the most successful 14 years of the club’s history, amassing First Division, FA Cup and League Cup medals, alongside success in Europe and 28

England caps, made him one of the greatest centre-backs the game has ever seen.

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However, his legendary status is truly distinguished by his continued commitment to, and passion for, our great club which has extended for decades longer than his playing career.

Norman is still an Elland Road regular and, as well as entertaining the guests in the suite named in his honour with his football insight, he has always got time for the current players and management to offer them his unparalleled experience and advice.

Norman is a wonderful ambassador for the club and whilst he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, he is an absolute gentleman and it is only the firmness of his handshake that hints at the menace he once brought to the pitch.

As he told the assembled dignitaries when he was honoured with the Freedom of the City of Leeds earlier this season: “Referees used to give you your first tackle for free, so I thought it was my responsibility not to waste it”.

METICULOUS: Angus Kinnear says Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa is following the EFL and government protocol. Pic: PA.

However, those that saw him play knew there was much more to his game and he would have equally thrived in the modern era with all the attributes to be a top-drawer ball playing centre-half.

Whilst Norman remains seriously unwell, his fighting spirit has surprised all his doctors, but will not surprise anyone who knows him well or who played against him.

I know every member of the Leeds United family would like to thank the NHS staff who are providing Norman and so many other patients, with such dedicated and professional care and his family would also like to thanks all the Leeds United supporters and members of the global football community who have sent their best wishes and prayers.

Whilst Norman’s battle has put everything else at the club into sharp perspective, our plans to return to football when it is safe to do so, continue in the background.

This week’s virtual board meeting included insight from the NFL and Serie A on how ‘return to play’ strategies were being managed by teams abroad and there was a semblance of normality as we signed off the fantastic kit designs for the 2021/22 season.

On the football side, a deliberately erroneous press report online last weekend suggested that Marcelo Bielsa was still running full training sessions at Thorp Arch.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As you would expect, Marcelo and his team are meticulously following EFL and governmental protocol.

The training ground is only being used for individual rehabilitation and for locally based players to undergo solo outdoor exercise in a lower risk environment than residential streets.

The players remain dedicated to the cause and are following bespoke daily programmes provided by fitness coach Benoit Delaval, with the incentive to adhere to them being the prospect of being weighed twice daily on their return to full training.

I hope that all the Leeds United family will continue to pull together for the next three challenging weeks knowing that, when we re-emerge, our club and city has much to look forward to as our current crop of players aim to make their mark on history.

But, for the moment, all our thoughts should be with Norman, a man whose place in football history is already assured.