Roger Hunt, the revered former Liverpool striker and member of England’s World Cup winning team, has died aged 83. Hunt died at home on Monday after a long illness, prompting a host of tributes to a player who was instrumental in Liverpool’s rise from the Second Division under Bill Shankly and appeared in all six England matches at the 1966 World Cup.
He won 34 caps and scored 18 goals for his country – including three during the victorious World Cup campaign – and famously celebrated Geoff Hurst’s controversial strike against West Germany in the final when it came down off the underside of the crossbar. “I thought it was over the line,” said Hunt who, as the closest England player to the ball, was regularly asked in the intervening years why he had not converted the rebound.
English First Division: Liverpool v Burnley
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26: (THE SUN OUT) Legendary Liverpool striker Roger Hunts signs autographs for fans after a warm up prior to the English First Division match between Liverpool and Burnley held on December 26, 1969 at Anfield in Liverpool, England. Liverpool won the match 5-1. (Photo by Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
Roger Hunt encapsulated Liverpool’s rise and influence under Shankly
Hunt is the sixth member of England’s World Cup-winning side to die in the past three years, after Ray Wilson, Gordon Banks, Martin Peters, Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles. Hurst, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Cohen are the only surviving players from Sir Alf Ramsey’s team.
The Liverpool forward was never knighted – he received an MBE in 2000 – but was affectionately known as “Sir Roger” by supporters for his part in the club’s transformation under Shankly. Hunt scored 285 goals in 492 appearances for Liverpool and was the club’s all-time leading goalscorer until Ian Rush broke his record in 1992. He remains the second-highest goalscorer in Liverpool’s history, and no player has scored more league goals for the club than Hunt with 244. He was Liverpool’s leading goalscorer for eight consecutive seasons.
Liverpool were in the Second Division when Hunt signed as a 20-year-old and his 41 goals in 41 games helped them win the title in 1962. First Division titles swiftly followed in 1964 and 1966, with the club’s long-awaited first FA Cup triumph arriving in 1965. Hunt scored the opening goal in a 2-1 victory over Leeds with his strike partner Ian St John, who died in March, supplying the winner.
Roger Hunt in action for Liverpool in 1968
Roger Hunt in action for Liverpool in 1968. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Bob Thomas/Getty Images
Hunt spent 11 and a half years at Liverpool before joining Bolton Wanderers, the club he supported as a boy, for £32,000 in 1969. He scored another 25 goals in 84 appearances for Bolton before retiring in 1972. After his playing days ended, Hunt worked for the Pools Panel for more than 30 years and for the family’s haulage company near Warrington.
Liverpool’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, led the tributes to one of the most important figures in the club’s history. “It’s really sad news and our thoughts and our love go to his family,” said Klopp. “Unfortunately, it feels too frequent in this moment we are saying farewell to these giants of our club.
Roger Hunt: a life in pictures
“Roger Hunt comes second to no one in his importance in the history of Liverpool FC, that much is clear. To be the goalscoring catalyst of the Shankly team to actually achieve promotion and then go on to win those precious league titles and the FA Cup puts him in a bracket of LFC legends who are responsible for making us the club we are today. Not only that, he was also a World Cup winner in 1966, too.
“I am told the Kop christened him ‘Sir Roger’ for all his achievements. A goalscorer who never stopped working to help his teammates; I believe he would have fit in well within our current team. So, it is Sir Roger we will remember, honour and pay tribute to over the coming days. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”