Goal.com's Top 50 English Players: Roger Hunt (42)

Goal.com are counting down England's greatest players of all time and at number 42 is the first of our Boys of '66 - Liverpool's Roger Hunt...
No.50 - John Terry
No.49 - Tony Currie
No.48 - Terry Butcher
No.47 - Gerry Hitchens
No.46 - Paul Ince
No.45 - George Camsell
No.44 - Wayne Rooney
No.43 - Jackie Milburn

Roger HUNT

Born

20/07/1938

England

34 caps, 18 goals

Clubs

Liverpool, Bolton Wanderers


Hunt was born in Golborne, Lancashire, on July 20 1938, and began his career with Stockton Heath of the Mid-Cheshire League, where he came to the attention of Liverpool scout Bill Jones when he was at the relatively advanced age of 20. Jones had actually gone to watch another player who was featuring for Stockton's opponents, Knutsford. That relatively late entry into the professional ranks of the game did not prevent Hunt from making an immediate impact on the Anfield first team.

Shankly gave Hunt his debut for the Reds in a Second Division fixture at Anfield against Scunthorpe United on September 9 1959, in which the forward scored in a 2-0 victory. The striker's subsequent record at Liverpool was phenomenal.

After helping the club win promotion from the Second Division in 1962 he went on to score 286 goals in 492 appearances, 245 of those strikes coming in the league - a club record that still stands. His partnership with Scotsman Ian St John became one of the most feared in the English First Division and allowed the Merseysiders to win the title in 1964 and 1966, along with the FA Cup in 1965, after years of unremarkable mediocrity.

His role at Anfield was a penalty box predator, a pure goal scorer who was fed by two out-and-out wingers in the shape of Ian Callaghan and Peter Thompson. Or as Bill Shankly put it, "We wanted him to concentrate on goal scoring, in the same way Jimmy Greaves did at Tottenham. Mind you, Roger didn't just slide them in quietly, like Jimmy. He blasted them in."

The goals also brought him to the notice of England, where he had to adjust to a different kind of striking role, as Alf Ramsey built a hard-working side based around a 4-3-3 formation, with the full-backs providing attacking width and Bobby Charlton sitting behind two strikers. The ethos of Ramsey's team was built upon hard-running and graft, and Hunt fitted in perfectly, his team-mates appreciating the effort he put in on behalf of the side.

BEST USER COMMENT

"Ah, that's more like it; a real English legend of the game. Truly an inspiring player, and the stats don't lie; he scored the goals that won the game. He was a similar player to van Nistelrooy, actually. The England contraversy wouldn't have mattered in the end, but it was an oversight from him not to plough the ball into the net just to be sure. Still, one of the greatest players every to wear the shirt." Dan | Liverpool
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"And even if he didn't score," international colleague Martin Peters remarked much later, "we all knew that Roger would run his socks off for the good of the team."

Hunt, initially handed the No. 21 shirt in the 1966 World Cup squad, worked his way up the pecking order to become indispensable to Ramsey's plans. He was the only forward to start every game of the finals, which were, of course, held on home soil; he scored three goals in the process, despite the reservations of the press about his selection.

The key moment of that World Cup occurred in the final, and Hunt would play a significant role in what was to be one of the most debated goals in the competition’s history - Geoff Hurst's infamous 'in off the bar' second and England's third. Whether or not the whole of the ball crossed the line has been debated in England and Germany just about ever since, but, in the eyes of many, not least former Arsenal striker Ian Wright, Hunt could have pre-empted the need for such debate by simply slamming the rebounding ball into the net.

He didn't, of course, choosing to wheel away in celebration instead, something which Hurst and others have indicated as positive proof that it did indeed cross the line.

After the World Cup, Hunt remained an England regular until January 1969, when the criticism of the public and the media became too burdensome for him. Hunt had been selected 34 times by Ramsey, scoring 18 goals in these fixtures. In the seven years since his debut, England had lost only two games in which he had played.

Around the same time, Shankly's great Liverpool side was ageing and key personnel were being replaced. Hunt decided to move on and played for Bolton Wanderers until he retired in 1972, having netted 24 times in 76 games for the Trotters.

His career is probably best summed up by Bobby Charlton, who said of Hunt, "You could make huge plans around him, and he was greatly missed when he wasn't there."



HONOURS


Liverpool: First Division Championship 1963-64 & 1965-66
FA Cup 1965
Second Division Championship 1961-62

England: World Cup Winner 1966 (34 caps, 18 goals)

Hunt was awarded the MBE by the British government in 2000, after a media campaign brought attention to the fact that he, the late Alan Ball, George Cohen, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson had received no recognition for their World Cup win. The other six team members, plus manager Alf Ramsey, had already been honoured in one way or another.

DID YOU KNOW ...
That Roger Hunt scored the first goal ever shown on BBC's flagship football programme 'Match of the Day'? Sir Roger was shown netting against Arsenal in a 3-2 victory at Anfield on August 22, 1964.

Zack Wilson, Goal.com

Goal.com
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