My Yorkshire: Norman Hunter

Norman Hunter, pictured at Elland Road with some of his sporting memorabilia.
Norman Hunter, pictured at Elland Road with some of his sporting memorabilia.
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Norman Hunter is a Leeds United legend of the Don Revie era. The 71-year-old played more than 700 games for Leeds, winning two First Division titles, two European trophies, the FA Cup and the League Cup. With 28 England caps, he was in the World Cup-winning squad of 1966.

• What is your first Yorkshire memory?

It was quite daunting. I was 15 and a half and came to Leeds for a trial in the late 1950s. The train was late by two or three hours. I was supposed to get in at six or seven o’clock, but I remember coming into Leeds at 9.30 or 9.45pm. I hadn’t been away from home before and I thought it was frightening. My first impressions coming into Leeds station in those days weren’t the best. I was met and taken to Beeston and remember the cobbled streets and terrace houses. As it turned out, the digs were the best I could have gone into. Billy Bremner, a year older than me, was in the same house. I knew Billy longer than anyone.

• What is your favourite part of Yorkshire and why?

It has to be the Dales. From where we live in Horsforth, we can be there in 45 minutes. I always took the kids to Bolton Abbey and Burnsall and even now the grandkids still love to go there. The views are fabulous.

• What is your idea of a perfect day on perfect weekend in Yorkshire?

It would have to be in the Bolton Abbey and Burnsall area. We like walking by the river, but we also like going to the coast and Robin Hood’s Bay, although the walk up the hill is getting a bit steep now.

• Do you have a favourite walk or view?

Not particularly. I’ve been on so many walks, but if you were to ask me, the walk I’d pick would be from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall. You go to other places in the world and marvel at the views, but here in Yorkshire we take it for granted.

• Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take out for lunch?

It would be a lady. I thought what Jessica Ennis Hill did to win the Olympic Gold Medal in the heptathlon at the 2012 London Olympics was brilliant. She did not appear to be as big and powerful as the other athletes she was up against, but with her ability and determination she succeeded in becoming Olympic champion. Jessica is very, very special.

• Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take out for dinner?

That’s a difficult one. I think I’ll go for Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. He’s from Huddersfield and an accomplished Shakespearean actor.

• If you had to name your Yorkshire hidden gem, what would it be?

I was talking about this to my wife Sue because we like going to Saltaire which we find quite fascinating. What Sir Titus Salt did for his workers, the cottages and the other buildings he built is most interesting. The village is so well kept and we like the museum, the river and the gardens there. What Sir Titus did for his employees was unheard of then. I would certainly send visitors to Yorkshire to Saltaire.

• What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

I think it’s the people. Yorkshire folk have this image of cloth caps, but they are not like that at all. I’ve always had a very good relationship with Yorkshire people. They take a while to get to know, but once you are in with them, they are great. I like their humour and Yorkshire people are very proud of their county. To this day, wherever I go, they make me feel welcome and are extremely good to me and my family.

• Do you follow other sports in the county, and if so, what?

I love golf. I play at Horsforth Golf Club. I was single figures but now my handicap is 10. I’d love to meet Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who’s taking golf to another level.

I also love watching tennis, players like Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Rugby League is a favourite and I remember seeing Lewis Jones playing for Leeds. The sport is awesome. The players keep getting hit, they then get up and are hit again. I admire the players’ strength and fitness.

• Do you have a favourite Yorkshire restaurant or pub?

My favourite is Café Marinetti, an Italian in Town Street, Horsforth. The food is good and the staff friendly. We go there every other week. We also like another Italian restaurant, Buon Apps, the other side of Otley. It has such a good name and is very busy.

• Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most?

Sir Michael Parkinson. I liked his shows and as an interviewer, there was none better. I look at the chat shows now and the interviewers hog the limelight. Parky just let the guests talk. People were so natural on his shows. I managed Barnsley for three and a half years, and we used to see him at Oakwell. I liked him as a person.

• How do you think Yorkshire has changed, for the better or worse, in the time you’ve known it?

For the better. Leeds is a 24-hour city now. We like to walk in Leeds and there’s nothing better than when the lights are on. As for restaurants, there’s every type you want.