Norman Hunter's Leeds United legacy will live on with influence far beyond a football pitch

NINETY minutes alongside Norman Hunter was rarely an enjoyable occasion for opposition forwards.

By Lee Sobot
Saturday, 16th May 2020, 4:46 pm

The prospect of facing a defender nicknamed ‘Bites Yer Legs’ gave strikers just about all the warnings they needed.

The irony is that off the pitch there were few nicer individuals to be around.

These days, fans enjoying Leeds United’s matchday hospitality had been blessed with Hunter’s presence and aura at Elland Road.

'HOME': Leeds United legend Norman Hunter at Elland Road in March 2013, pictured holding the 1972-73 FA Cup runners-up medal. Picture by James Hardisty.

Leeds United Football Club lost more than just a legendary player when Hunter so sadly lost his battle with coronavirus aged 76 on April 17.

The club also lost a gentleman, a friend and someone whose presence was cherished by football followers spanning at least three generations.

Some of them, like fellow Whites legend Eddie Gray, were lucky enough to have played alongside Hunter in the all-conquering Whites side of the 1960s and early 1970s under Don Revie.

“Norman was as important as anybody in Leeds United’s history and I mean anybody,” said Gray as part of his moving tribute to Hunter following his sad passing.

NATIONAL TREASURE: Norman Hunter kisses his medal for representing his country in the 1966 World Cup triumph, presented by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009. Photo by Ian Nicholson/WPA Pool/Getty Images.

Yet there was much more to Hunter than just the football.

“He was a great lad, and a truly great footballer but he also had time for everybody,” added Gray.

“He was a great mate.”

Whether young or old as Hunter strutted his stuff, there are also Whites fans that were lucky enough to see him play.

Yet Hunter also had a huge impact on a younger generation, some of whom were still being blessed by his company in the weeks and months before the United legend and 1966 World Cup winner passed away.

One of them, 44-year-old Andy Couzens, himself had the honour of playing for Leeds - but nearly 20 years after Hunter’s final outing for the Whites which came in 1976, when Couzens was just 16 months old.

Couzens finally bagged his United debut in 1995 but the defender knew all about Hunter’s exceptional Whites career; 726 appearances featuring 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.

With his own playing career having also finished, Couzens regularly worked alongside Hunter as part of United’s matchday hospitality.

“The best thing I can say about the guy is that he was the gentlest and nicest man you will ever meet,” said Couzens.

“We all know him as Norman Hunter on the football pitch and being a hard man but we knew him as Norman Hunter off the pitch as a nice gentle man.

“It’s just heartbreaking and for us on match days it’s going to be an emotional day when we get back down there.

“He used to wait for us on the other side.

“We would be in the East Stand doing our tour with the sponsors and then we would come over to the dressing room and Norman was always waiting.

“We would all have a big massive hug and that’s not going to be there now. It will not be the same again.”

Neither, without Hunter, will Elland Road ever be the same again. Even when fans are finally allowed to return, a giant, legendary Whites figure will be missing, an institution.

Yet such was Hunter’s influence and legacy, deep down, Bites Yer Legs will always be there, maintaining a legacy even for future generations to come.

“He always had time for every single person and made everybody feel special and that’s why the guy is such a legend,” said Couzens.

“He has got the Norman Hunter Suite named after him and now the South Stand too and that’s what the man should have. He will be massively missed by all of us and in the future going forwards but equally he will always be there.

“He’s an absolute legend.”