Stoke City classic revives memories of the great Leeds team and Norman Hunter


Our columnist Lou Macari has his say, this week paying tribute to Norman Hunter……

“It is one of the most memorable wins in Stoke City’s history – famous because they were up against a great side.

“I can only add my voice to the tributes paid to Leeds United legend Norman Hunter, a brilliant player who passed away last week.

“Hunter was a key part of those tremendous Leeds United teams in English football in the 1960s and 1970s under Don Revie.

“Stoke managed to beat them 3-2 in a classic at the Victoria Ground in February 1974, a win that is still fondly remembered because Stoke played so well against the top side – they had to.

“How good were Leeds? All their players were household names. But they weren’t only talented, they were tough, uncompromising and determined to win.

“Their reputation for being hard was fair because of their desperation to win. Mind you, that wasn’t just Leeds, it was typical in the game. If the opposition were going to take your win bonus off you then you would do anything to stop that.

“But, in my opinion, that Leeds side would blow away any Premier League team today physically.

“So, to have even a chance of beating them, Stoke had to match that, which they did in a classic which finally ended Leeds’ 29-game unbeaten run.

“As for Norman Hunter, fans who didn’t see him play might just judge him on his ‘Bite Yer Legs’ nickname. It was an appropriate name because he was a hard player, but my goodness he could play as well.

Allan Clarke (right) of Leeds United walks across to console team-mate Norman Hunter, (head in hands) as Stoke City’s Jimmy Greenoff hugs team-mate Denis Smith, who had just scored the winning goal during the First Division match with Leeds United at the Victoria ground. The goal, which gave Stoke a 3-2 victory, ended Leeds United’s run of 29 successive League games without defeat – one short of Burnley’s record. Leeds players on the goal-line are (from left) Trevor Cherry, goalkeeper David Harvey and skipper Billy Bremner.

“For a centre half who was uncompromising and rough and ready, he had great technical ability. He was cool and calm under pressure. He could win the ball from you, he could tackle, but he could knock the ball around. He was an all-rounder, and there have been very few of those over the years.

“I remember seeing Leeds play Celtic in the European Cup semi-finals in 1970. I was a youngster at Celtic at the time and among the 135,000 at Hampden Park for the game.

“Massive crowds weren’t unusual. In my first Scottish Cup final against Rangers, we drew the first game and the replay was on the Wednesday night – and the crowd for both was over 100,000.

“As for that Leeds game, Celtic won it, but there was also great respect for Leeds. The semi-final proved they were two of Europe’s top sides. In those days the only way you could get into the European Cup was by being champions of your country, so it really was the cream.

“It might be hard to imagine for younger supporters who have only known Leeds trying to get back into the top flight. But they were a damn good side, and Norman Hunter was damn good player.”





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