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Leeds great Hunter dies at 76 from Covid-19

Norman Hunter, 76, won 28 England caps and was part of a Leeds side that won two First Division titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and two Fairs Cups

Former England and Leeds defender Norman Hunter has died aged 76.

Hunter, who made 28 appearances for the Three Lions and was part of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad, was last week admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

Leeds said in a statement: “Leeds United are devastated to learn of the passing of club legend Norman Hunter at the age of 76.”

The statement on Leeds’ website added: “Norman was taken to hospital last week after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and despite continuing to battle and the best efforts of NHS staff, he sadly lost his fight earlier on Friday morning.

“He leaves a huge hole in the Leeds United family, his legacy will never be forgotten and our thoughts are with Norman’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Hunter did not play in England’s triumphant World Cup campaign as he could not break the partnership of Jack Charlton and Bobby Moore.

He made 540 appearances for Leeds and won two First Division titles, the FA Cup, League Cup and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups.

He also played for Bristol City and Barnsley, managing the Tykes after he retired as well as Rotherham.

The EFL tweeted: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of former @LUFC, @BristolCity and @BarnsleyFC defender Norman Hunter at the age of 76. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this very difficult time.”

Ex-England midfielder Peter Reid, a former Leeds manager, wrote: “RIP Norman Hunter, a giant of a man.”

A tweet on the England team’s profile said: “We’re extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Norman Hunter at the age of 76.

“Norman was part of our @FIFAWorldCup-winning squad and won 28 caps for the #ThreeLions. All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and supporters at this time.”

Former England striker Gary Lineker said: “Sad news: Norman Hunter has passed away. Grew up watching that great @LUFC side of which he was a huge part. This awful virus was one crunching tackle too far but he’ll be biting yer legs somewhere. RIP Norman.”

Hunter was the winner of the Professional Footballers’ Association’s inaugural player of the year award in 1974, and the players’ union said: “All at the PFA are deeply saddened to hear of Norman Hunter’s passing.

“Football has lost a legend and we join the entire football community in mourning this loss.”

Former Leeds team-mate Gordon McQueen paid tribute to “a great man and a great player”.

The Scot, who played alongside Hunter in Leeds’ backline from 1972 until 1976, told talkSPORT: “He was a great player to play alongside. I remember my first game, the team was: four (Billy) Bremner, five McQueen, six Hunter.

“He was a very, very skilful player. He wasn’t just tough-tackling Norman, he was a great player as well, great skill, great ability.

“He was a great man and a great player. He was a great man, he was very, very modest and a great player as well, never went on about his playing ability, never went on himself as a human being.

“He was a great human being and a great player.”

Another former Leeds team-mate Eddie Gray said on talkSPORT: “Norman was an iconic figure in football, especially at the club. He had a reputation as everybody knows – Bite Yer Legs – but Norman was a truly great football player.

“A lot of great players have walked through the gates of Elland Road and Norman was right up there with the best of them. It’s a sad day for everybody connected with the club.

“Norman set the example. People would think of Norman as ‘Bite Yer Legs’, he quite enjoyed that reputation, but he was also a terrific footballer.

“He was a great reader of the game, great left foot on him, great passer of the ball, so influential in our team.

“He was a great player but as well as that, he was a great lad, great around the dressing room, nobody had a bad word to say about Norman.”

England’s all-time record appearance maker Peter Shilton tweeted: “Very shocked and deeply saddened at the loss of Norman Hunter I played with him @England and continued to meet him at various football events over the years it was always great to catch up with him, a wonderful man. Condolences to the family such a terrible loss.”

FA chairman Greg Clarke said: “This is very sad news and my thoughts are with Norman’s wife Sue and his family. I had been privileged to get to know him in recent years with his regular visits to Wembley to support the England team, and was always struck by his passion and knowledge.

“I have a particularly fond memory of being able to see at first hand just how much Norman was revered at Leeds United. When Gareth and the team played at Elland Road just before the last World Cup, it was more than fitting that he was part of our delegation in the suite that bears his name.

“While he will be especially missed at Leeds, the whole of English football will mourn his passing today.”

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