Roger Hunt had a favorite chair in his living room for the past few years. He spent most weekends on it, studying and marveling at the Premier League’s sharpest shooters.
He loved Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, two men who do what all great Liverpool strikers have to do and regularly loot goals.
Hunt was enthused by the trickery of Tottenham’s Harry Kane and the cunning of Leicester’s totem Jamie Vardy.
Roger Hunt, who has died aged 83, was the original master of scoring – and remains Liverpool’s all-time league record scorer – but he also marveled at modern strikers
Hunt had a rocket shot and scored for Liverpool against Inter Milan in May 1965
In his later years, Hunt would watch Liverpool and marvel at Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane
“He loves them all,” his wife Rowan told the Liverpool Echo in December 2019. “Goal scorers… it’s his heaven.”
It was heaven because he was a master of the trade. He marveled at the current generation because it took him back to a time when he was so successful that he conquered the world with England in 1966.
Although it has been over 50 years since Hunt last played for Liverpool, one idea of the role he plays in the history of this club is the fact that he set the standard – in so many ways – to which every other striker who has followed. has had to strive.
Jurgen Klopp, the current manager, was so impressed that on his 80th birthday he wrote a letter to Hunt – whom The Kop called ‘Sir Roger’ – expressing his admiration for all he has achieved.
No one has managed to eclipse Hunt’s tally of 244 league goals for the club, only Ian Rush has surpassed his record 285 in 492 appearances.
Harry Kane (left) and Jamie Vardy (right) were two more modern strikers Hunt admired
Hunt scored 18 goals in 34 appearances for England, including this one against Northern Ireland in a European Championship qualifier at Windsor Park in October 1966. England won 2-0
1959-1969 – 416 appearances, 261 goals in all competitions
Won the First Division title 1963-64, 1965-66
Second Division title 1961-62
FA Charity Shield 1964, 1965, 1966
1969-1972 – 76 appearances, 24 goals in all competitions
1962-1969 – 34 caps, 18 goals
Won 1966 World Cup
As exciting as Salah has been, his domestic century for Liverpool – which he scored in Brentford on Saturday – came in his 150th game. Hunt arrived there in 148.
Hunt was the young man, fresh out of the army, who signed Phil Taylor, then Liverpool manager, from Stockton Heath in the Cheshire League in 1959 on a contract of £12 a week. He scored on his debut against Scunthorpe, a strike that would open the floodgates.
It was the arrival of Bill Shankly in December 1959 that really set him on fire, his 41 goals in 41 games helping them to be promoted from the Second Division to the title in 1962.
He would add two more league titles, plus the FA Cup in 1965, when his header set Liverpool on course against Leeds United.
He was the top goalscorer for eight consecutive seasons, the first man to score in a European final for Liverpool, the first man to score a goal on Match of the Day; he was artistic with fine timing for goal, but also a relentless desire to work hard. His attributes would have easily fitted into this current team.
So that’s why his death after a long illness is so profound, another light on Anfield goes out.
Hunt was one of the pillars on which modern Liverpool was built, a man whose name commanded reverence. You didn’t have to see him play in person to be impressed with who he was — or what he’s accomplished.
“I was lucky enough to meet him a number of times, at the club when I was playing and later at other events,” said Robbie Fowler.
Roger Hunt started the 1966 World Cup final when England defeated West Germany 4-2 at Wembley, but became one of the triumph’s forgotten heroes
There were no such recognition issues in Liverpool, where Hunt is known as ‘Sir Roger’. He scored 244 goals in 404 league games and twice helped the Second Division club to the top division champions in the 1960s.
‘You don’t need me to tell you what he did for the cause, it’s there for all to see. He was truly a genius, ahead of his time in finishing.
“What I’m saying is, more than anything, he was just a gentleman, a nice person to be around. When you were in his company, you knew he was so humble and quiet. Everyone loved him, everyone cared for him. He was just a hero to so many.”
For club and country. The 1966 World Cup final cannot be discussed without Hunt’s name coming up as it was he who drove off to celebrate when Geoff Hurst’s shot fell off the crossbar.
His response prompted Azerbaijani linesman Tofiq Bahramov to award the goal.
‘1966 was my year, wasn’t it?’ Hunt, who was capped 34 times by England and scored 18 goals, said in that same Liverpool Echo interview in December 2019.
Hunt begins to celebrate when Geoff Hurst’s shot fell off the crossbar and over the line in 1966
Hunt scores past Alan Hodgkinson for Liverpool against Sheffield United in a Division One game in April 1968
“It was so great to win the game. And a relief. There was so much pressure. I feel very proud. We won. And yes (it went over the border), to answer your next question!
“I was actually back training with Liverpool for the season preparation, two weeks after winning the World Cup and the first person I saw was Shanks.
He said, ‘Well done, son. But we have better things to do now!’ But it was a good year, because we had also won the competition.’
The FA will be honoring Hunt next month ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Hungary, and it should not be forgotten the pivotal role he played – he started all six games and scored three times, including both in the 2-0 defeat of France.
An intensely private and humble man – he worked for the pool panel for over 30 years after retiring, as management never appealed – Hunt may have been entranced looking at today’s stars, but looking back on his achievements tells you something profound.
Despite all they’re doing, they still have a long way to go to be on par with the late, great ‘Sir Roger’.