Roger Hunt, in recent years, had a favourite chair in his living room. He would spend most weekends perched on it, studying and marvelling at the Premier League’s sharpest shooters.
He adored Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, two men who do what all great Liverpool strikers must do and plunder goals on a regular basis.
Hunt was enthused by the guile of Tottenham’s Harry Kane and the cunning of Jamie Vardy, the Leicester totem.
Roger Hunt, who has died at the age of 83, was the original master of goalscoring – and remains Liverpool’s all-time record league scorer – but he marvelled at modern strikers too
Hunt had a rocket shot and is seen scoring 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. ‘Goalscorers… it’s his heaven.’
It was heaven because he was a master of the craft. He marvelled at the current generation because it took him back to the time when he was doing it so successfully, he conquered the world with England in 1966.
Though it is more than 50 years since Hunt last played for Liverpool, an idea of the role he plays in this club’s history is the fact he set the standards – in so many ways – to which every other striker who has followed has had to aspire.
Jurgen Klopp, the current manager, was so in awe, he wrote to Hunt – whom The Kop dubbed ‘Sir Roger’ – on his 80th birthday to express his admiration for all he achieved.
Nobody has managed to eclipse Hunt’s tally of 244 league goals for the club, only Ian Rush has bettered his all-time haul of 285 in 492 appearances.
Harry Kane (left) and Jamie Vardy (right) were two more modern strikers Hunt admired
Hunt scored 18 goals in 34 outings 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 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 World Cup 1966
As thrilling as Salah has been, his domestic century for Liverpool – which he notched at Brentford on Saturday – came in his 150th game. Hunt got there in 148.
Hunt was the young man, fresh out of the army, who Phil Taylor, the then Liverpool manager, signed from Stockton Heath in the Cheshire League in 1959 on a contract of £12 per week. He netted 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 alight, his 41 goals in 41 games helping them, win promotion from the Second Division as champions in 1962.
He would add another two league titles plus the FA Cup in 1965, when his header set Liverpool on the way against Leeds United.
He was the leading scorer for eight consecutive seasons, the first man to score in a European final for Liverpool, the first man to have a goal shown on Match of the Day; he was artistic with beautiful timing in front of goal but also a relentless desire to work hard. His attributes would have fitted easily into this current team.
So that is why his passing after a long illness is so profound, another light at Anfield going out.
Hunt was one of the pillars on which the modern Liverpool was built, a man whose name commanded reverence. You didn’t have to see him play in person to be in awe of who he was – or what he achieved.
‘I was fortunate to meet him a number of times, around the club when I was playing and at other functions later on,’ Robbie Fowler said.
Roger Hunt started the 1966 World Cup final, when England beat West Germany 4-2 at Wembley, but became one of the forgotten heroes of the triumph
There were no such problems of recognition at Liverpool, where Hunt is known as ‘Sir Roger’. He scored 244 goals in 404 league appearances, helping the club from the second division to champions of the top-flight twice in the 1960s
‘You don’t need me to tell you what he did in front of goal, it’s there for everyone to see. He was a genius, really, ahead of his time in terms of finishing.
‘What I will say is, more than anything, he was just a gentleman, a lovely person to be around. Whenever you were in his company, you knew he was just so humble and quiet. Everyone loved him, everyone looked after him. He was just a hero to so, so many.’
For club and country. The 1966 World Cup final cannot be discussed without Hunt’s name entering the conversation, as it was he who wheeled away in celebration as Geoff Hurst’s shot crashed down off the crossbar.
His reaction swayed 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 December 2019 Liverpool Echo interview.
Hunt begins to celebrate as Geoff Hurst’s shot crashed off the bar and over the line in 1966
Hunt scores past Alan Hodgkinson for Liverpool against Sheffield United in a Division One fixture back in April 1968
‘It was so amazing to win the match. And a relief. There was so much pressure. I feel very proud. We won it. And yes (it crossed the line), to answer your next question!
‘I was then actually back in training with Liverpool for pre-season two weeks after winning the World Cup and the first person I saw was Shanks.
‘He said: “Well done, son. But we’ve got better things to do now!” But it was a good year, as we’d won the league as well.’
The FA will honour Hunt next month, ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Hungary, and it should not be forgotten the crucial role he played – he started all six matches and scored three times, including both in the 2-0 defeat of France.
An intensely private and modest man – he worked for the pools panel for more than 30 years after he retired, as management never appealed – Hunt may have been in raptures watching the stars of today but looking back at his achievements tells you something profound.
For all they are doing, they still have some distance to go to stand comparable to the late, great ‘Sir Roger’.