‘We celebrated all right’ – Norman Hunter on the time he scored against Leeds United

THE late, great Norman Hunter scoring against his beloved Leeds United? Never...

Captain for the day: Norman Hunter leads out the Bristol City team against his former team-mates at Elland Road on April 20, 1977.

Well, it did happen. Way back on October 8, 1977 to be precise.

Hunter, who made a colossal 726 appearances for the club between September, 1962 and October, 1976, was for many the embodiment of Don Revie’s all-conquering Whites in one unyielding figure and the archetypal ‘one-club man’.

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But all that changed in late 1976, with Hunter – just shy of his 33rd birthday – was allowed to leave Elland Road to join top-flight new boys Bristol City.

LEGEND: Norman Hunter, the former Leeds United defender pictured at Elland Road in 1969. Picture: PA

Hunter – who passed away earlier this month – enjoyed a wonderful 17-year playing association with Leeds, having signed aged just sixteen-and-a-half back in 1959.

Proof that time stands still for no-one arrived when manager Jimmy Armfield – aiming to build a ‘new’ side with a host of greats in the twilight of their careers – let him head to Severnside for £40,000.

Hunter then had to wait six months before returning to the ground he graced for numerous years in April, 1977 when hosts Leeds triumphed 2-0 against their Bristolian visitors.

City did win the reverse fixture not long after at the end of 1976-77, a key one in their successful fight against relegation from the top-flight.

ON YOUR WAY: Former Leeds United manager Jimmy Armfield was the man who sold Norman Hunter to Bristol City for £40,000.

But it was in the autumn of that year that Leeds supporters had cause to rue the presence of their former hero when he struck the Robins’ decisive third goal in their 3-2 victory over United at Ashton Gate that October.

Captain for the day, Hunter netted with a sweet left-footed strike to raise the biggest cheer on a cold, wet afternoon in the West Country, his strike making it 3-1 to the hosts.

It was a milestone moment for Hunter in every sense, with the veteran centre-half netting his first goal in the red of City, with his effort one of just four he scored in 108 appearances for the Robins, having managed just 18 in his epic career with Leeds.

While big striker Ray Hankin pulled one back with a late second for Leeds, it was to no avail as the red half of Bristol toasted a famous win – just their second in nine league games at the start of 1977-78.

On whether he laid off the celebrations after his strike, Hunter – fondly recalled by Robins supporters for his time at the club and widely acknowledged as one of their best all-time players, said: “Well, I must be honest, it was that type of club and it was little Bristol City playing against Leeds... So we celebrated all right!

“It was from the edge of the box. It was amazing as I didn’t get many goals, but happened to get one against Leeds United that day.”

Hunter was the subject of interest from Bristol – fresh from promotion to the top-flight for the first time in their history in 1975-76 – and FA Cup holders Southampton when it was made known by Leeds that they were willing to part company with him after the first few months of the 76-77 campaign.

There had also been rumoured interest from Hull City – where Billy Bremner was captain – and Nottingham Forest, managed by one of the most controversial figures in Whites history in Brian Clough.

Following Hunter’s arrival, City went on to bring in several other well-known names in football including his ex-Leeds team-mate Terry Cooper, Peter Cormack and Joe Royle, with the Ashton Gate outfit managing to stay up after getting the draw they required at Coventry, with Sunderland relegated after losing at Everton.

Speaking about his time at Bristol in an interview in 2011, Hunter, who left to become player-coach under Allan Clarke at Barnsley in June, 1979, commented: ”It was a huge wrench for me to leave Leeds. I would have stayed at Leeds United and played in the reserves and brought on the young players. But they didn’t want me at the club.

“There were only two clubs who came in for me. Southampton, which was far enough away and then Bristol City! But I chose Bristol City because of the manager Alan Dicks and Tony Collins was there as his assistant, and he used to be at Leeds. Tony really talked me into going to Bristol.

“I went there and I’ve got to be honest, I’ve got nothing but great memories of my time there.

“In my brief, what I had to do with my experience was keep them in the old First Division. When my contract was up, there was talk I could have got the manager’s job, but I didn’t think I was ready for that.

“But I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.”

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