The Gills versus England 1966 | Norman Hunter

Norman Hunter is the latest player to feature in Andy Ford's series.

Norman ‘Bites Yer Legs’ Hunter, his nickname coming from his strength in the tackle, was one of the seven squad members not to play for England during the 1966 World Cup Finals.

The centre back’s international career spanned just under nine years, with the first of his twenty-eight appearances coming in a friendly against Spain in December 1965, whilst the last was a 3-0 European Championship qualifier victory against Czechoslovakia in October 1974. The central defensive partnership of his Leeds team-mate Jack Charlton, and Bobby Moore, meant that Hunter spent much of his time as an international as an understudy. He was in the England team that needed to win their match against Poland in 1973, in order to qualify for the 1974 World Cup Finals. The score was 0-0 when Hunter went to make a tackle, but instead trod on the ball and lost it, the resulting Poland counter-attack leading to a goal. Although Allan Clarke equalised with a penalty, the 1-1 draw meant that we missed out.

His playing career was mainly spent at Leeds, whom he joined at the age of 15, going on to make his début in 1962 and forming a partnership at the back with Charlton that lasted for a decade. After 540 league appearances for the Elland Road club, during which he picked up winners’ medals from two League titles, the League Cup, FA Cup and Fairs Cup, Norman signed for Bristol City in October 1976.

Hunter joined Barnsley in 1979 and one of his thirty-one appearances for the club, prior to his retirement from playing in January 1983, came against the Gills in a third-tier match at Priestfield Stadium on Saturday 23 February 1980, the only time he faced us. Gillingham were fifteenth, three points clear of the drop zone, whilst the Tykes were in eighteenth position, with two fewer points than us.

Ronnie Glavin gave the visitors the lead in the 66th minute before we scored a late equaliser. Tony Hudd’s match report included, ‘Pat Walker’s eleventh-hour point-saver provided but a moment’s respite as question marks concerning Gillingham’s survival in the Third Division gather over Priestfield. Walker, anonymous for 85 minutes, ripped the lid off Gillingham’s coffin to snatch a face-saving 89th minute goal. There was little in Saturday’s performance to ease growing anxieties or hint of better days ahead. Too many of the side appeared shorn of all confidence, while certain individuals looked downright uninterested.’ The Gills finished the season in fifteenth place, three points clear of the bottom four, whilst Barnsley ended eleventh.

Norman began his managerial career at Barnsley in September 1980 and led the club to promotion at the end of 1980-81. He was sacked in February 1984, became a first-team coach at West Bromwich Albion a week later, remaining with the club until he became manager at Rotherham United in June 1985. His time at Millmoor ended with the sack in December 1987 and, in 1989, he became a coach at Bradford, a role he was dismissed from in February 1990.

Hunter passed away on 17 April this year, at the age of 76, from COVID-19.