Feature by Bio Man
Updated Friday, 11th August 2006
Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter.Norman "Bite Yer Legs" Hunter (born October 24, 1943 in Eighton Banks, Gateshead, England) was one of the more uncompromising members of the much respected and feared Leeds United team of the 1960s and 1970s.
Initially an inside forward, Hunter was moulded by Leeds into a solid and tough central defender who made the No.6 shirt his own in 14 much-decorated, controversial and eventful years with the club he joined at the age of 15, giving up a job as an electrical fitter in the process.
He had been spotted playing for his local amateur side. He made his first-team debut in 1962 and ended up staying in the side for the rest of that season, forming a formidable partnership at the back with Jack Charlton which would last for a decade.
Hunter's reputation as one of the harder and less forgiving defenders in the game was soon sealed, although he was also a skilful, sure-footed footballer - especially for a defender - and had a cultured left foot.
Leeds were promoted as Second Division champions in 1964 and a year later came very close to the "double" of League championship and FA Cup with Hunter to the fore. However, they lost the title to Manchester United on goal average and were beaten 2-1 by Liverpool in the FA Cup final, though Hunter's accurate long pass into the Liverpool area did start the move which led to Billy Bremner's goal.
Hunter made his debut for the England team in 1965 but the blossoming partnership between Charlton and Bobby Moore meant that he spent much of his international career as an understudy, winning 28 caps in total. He was in the squad which won the 1966 World Cup but never kicked a ball.
Leeds progressed through the 1960s, never once coming lower than fourth in the title race, and Hunter picked up a medal as they won the League Cup and their first European honour with the Fairs Cup (later UEFA Cup) in 1968.
A year later he won his first title medal and then in 1970 he was part of the team which ceaselessly sought a unique "treble" - but won nothing. Leeds chased the League championship but lost the race on the last day of fixtures to Everton, went close to the European Cup but were beaten by Celtic in the semi finals, and went after the FA Cup but lost after a replay to Chelsea.
Hunter spent a short part of that season injured but despite his race for fitness and disappointment at the end of the campaign, he was still in Alf Ramsey's squad for the summer's World Cup in Mexico, coming on as a substitute in the 3-2 defeat by West Germany.
Leeds were again thwarted in 1971 when Arsenal took the League title with a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur. Defeat or a score draw for Arsenal and the title would have gone to Leeds.
In the FA Cup, Leeds fell victim to one of the competition's great giant-killing acts when Colchester United beat them 3-2 in the fifth round. They were 3-0 up, with Hunter then scoring one of Leeds' goals as they attempted a comeback.
Leeds did win their second Fairs Cup. In 1972, Hunter's joy as he fought the Leeds cause was captured in one of football's most magnificent photographs. Leeds once again reached the final of the FA Cup, a competition they had yet to win, and at Wembley they faced holders Arsenal.
In a tight and not thrilling game, Leeds opened the scoring midway through the second half when Allan Clarke headed home a cross from Mick Jones.
Hunter's defensive position meant that he was at the opposite end of the pitch to Clarke when the Leeds striker launched his diving header - Hunter, like most central defenders, only went forwards for set-pieces or when running with the ball at his feet.
A photographer behind the Leeds goal, at the opposite end to Clarke, captured the moment as Hunter leapt high in the air in celebration with arms and legs spread, as if in the midst of a star-jump.
Leeds held on to win 1-0 and Hunter had his FA Cup winners' medal at last. At the end of the game, Hunter climbed the steps to the Royal box twice - once to collect his own medal, and then again to help the badly injured Jones negotiate his way up and down.
Jones had been receiving treatment for a dislocated shoulder while his team-mates had been getting their prizes. The next year, Charlton retired and Hunter had to forge a new central defensive partnership after ten years.
Long-time team-mate and utility player Paul Madeley took up the role as Leeds reached two finals - that of the FA Cup again, and also the European Cup Winners Cup.
Yet again, however, there would be disappointment for Leeds - Sunderland surprisingly won the FA Cup final and then A.C. Milan were victorious in the Cup Winners Cup final in Greece, though the latter was tainted by a despairingly biased performance by the referee, who sent Hunter off late in the game after "missing" a foul committed on the Leeds defender who retaliated in frustration.
The referee was quickly banned by UEFA from officiating again, but the result stood. This dismissal was, contrary to received wisdom, a rare thing for Hunter.
In his ten years of playing, he had acquired a reputation as a dirty player, apparently happy to use methods not within the laws of the game to curtail the effect of opposition striker.
As such, he was often referred to by supporters, journalists and commentators as Norman "Bites Yer Legs" Hunter, a nickname which stuck and was always meant to be affectionate, despite its comedically violent undercurrent.
Yet Hunter was not by any stretch the dirtiest player in English football - indeed, he was not the dirtiest player at Leeds, with captain Billy Bremner and midfield player Johnny Giles capable of far more malicious tackles than Hunter.
What Hunter was, however, was brave and tough. He never shirked a tackle to any extent and as such made him a brutal player for opposition forwards to deal with.
He was also a far more skilled and cultured footballer than most gave him credit for. His fellow professionals made him their Player of the Year in 1974 - the award's inaugural presentation.
Months earlier, Hunter was in the England team which needed to win their last qualifying tie for the 1974 World Cup, to be held in West Germany. The opposition at Wembley were Poland, who just needed a draw.
Hunter's whole international career was cocooned into one moment of this match, midway through the second half. It was 0-0 but England had dominated, with Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski in particularly inspired and charmed form.
Then Hunter raced across to the touchline to make a tackle but inexplicably trod on the ball and lost it. Poland quickly exploited the space on a devastating counter attack and took the lead. Clarke equalised with a penalty but England could not get past Tomaszewski from open play and a 1-1 draw saw them miss out on a place at the World Cup.
Another famous photograph from Hunter's career was one of him in an inconsolable state being led off the pitch by Bobby Moore, whose place in the side he had taken.
Hunter had a new defensive partner for the next season with Leeds, with Gordon McQueen taking the No.5 shirt made famous by Charlton. Leeds started the season with an astounding 29-match unbeaten run, which led them to the title.
Hunter was ever-present in the League for an astonishing fifth season and the departure of inspirational manager Revie to the England job meant that Hunter's own international career continued through to 1975, even though many expected him to be axed after his error against Poland.
Also, in 1975, Leeds at last reached the European Cup final but yet again disappointment would come their way when they were beaten, again with controversy, by Bayern Munich.
Leeds were denied a clear penalty and had a goal disallowed, and this defeat would herald the end of the club's glory days. Revie had already gone and the team was starting to age.
Hunter ended 1975 in personal controversy with another sending off after an on-pitch fistfight with Derby County striker (and England team-mate) Francis Lee. Both were fined by the Football Association.
Hunter played one more season with Leeds before leaving in the autumn of 1976 (at the same time as Bremner) and joining Bristol City. He played there for two years before returning to Yorkshire as a player for, and then manager of Barnsley.
He subsequently assisted his former Leeds team-mate Johnny Giles at West Bromwich Albion and then unsuccessfully managed Rotherham United.
During a spell of "old boys network" appointments to the coaching staff at Leeds in the 1980s, Hunter became a first team coach (Clarke, Eddie Gray and Bremner all had spells as manager) but lost this job when Howard Wilkinson arrived and re-organised the club.
Hunter decided at this point he no longer wished to work within the game, and spent some time selling sports goods and insurance. The after-dinner circuit has since become a regular outlet for Hunter's anecdotes and a living earner, and he has also worked for local station BBC Radio Leeds for many years as a summariser at Leeds games.
In good and bad times at Elland Road, Hunter has maintained a refreshing honesty and open-mindedness in his opinions at a time when many of his old team-mates lazily trot out the "it was better in our day" line.
Hunter released his autobiography, Biting Talk, in 2004. He married Sue in 1968 and the couple have a son and daughter and two grandchildren.