Sportsmail columnists Danny Murphy and former referee Chris Foy look back at the 1972 FA Cup final in which Norman Hunter starred as Leeds beat Arsenal 1-0 and the England centre back showed that he was so much more than just an old-school clogger.
8min: Tidy little run under pressure and inch-perfect ball down the line to Allan Clarke.
Murphy: That he wants the ball off a throw-in says it all. A centre-half in an FA Cup final and he’s saying “I want the ball, give it here”. He’s taking responsibility. A couple of touches and a lovely pass. If I was watching him for the first time, I would be thinking he looks a player.
Norman Hunter shone in the 1972 FA Cup final as Leeds defeated Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley
The Leeds United icon passed away on Friday from coronavirus, sending football into shock
26min: Lets Charlie George know he’s there by crunching through the back of him with two feet. The referee plays on.
Foy: I would describe it as a very strong tackle but a fair one in which he wins the ball. Charlie George knew he had been tackled but the referee waved play on and that was the right course of action.
36min: Booked for a cynical swipe at Alan Ball leaving the Arsenal maestro writhing.
Foy: Commentator Brian Moore suggested that Hunter was booked because he had committed a few fouls but this was a caution in its own right. Alan Ball had slipped the ball away from Hunter who quite cynically took him down.
Hunter was famed for his tough tackling, a trait which unfairly overshadowed his skill
47min: Cool under pressure and quick feet to get the better of George Armstrong and George.
Murphy: He never wants to waste the ball. He could play the percentages here, especially in the final and hoof it forward but he doesn’t.
He is calm and authoritative. Not many centre backs possess that level of comfort on the ball. He reminds me of Aymeric Laporte at Manchester City. Years ahead of his time.
80min: Cruyff turn under pressure on the touchline and pass back to the keeper with the outside of his left foot.
Murphy: For someone who had the reputation of a tough tackler, this is superb. We are talking serious technique of someone who is excellent on the ball. It’s almost too easy for him.
Hunter’s skills with the ball went underestimated, and his quick feet were on show in the final
81min: Dispossesses George, dummies Ball and lays off a pass inside his own half.
Murphy: Sometimes you can get carried away with yourself and try something fancy. But he doesn’t. He does the hard bit to nick the ball past the forward but then keeps it simple. Excellent decision-making and another sign of a top player.
83min: Wins the ball from George, skips past George Graham and Ball and then crunches through Pat Rice.
Foy: It was a really strong run by Hunter up the pitch but a heavy touch makes Pat Rice think he can get there first. But there’s only one man getting there first. Yes, Hunter goes in hard, very hard, but he does win the ball cleanly.
Hunter’s clean sheet in the final was testament to a super display as Leeds lifted the cup
90min: Hunter dispossess George, receives the ball back off Johnny Giles (as ITV commentator Brian Moore gushes: ‘it’s Giles to Hunter, my man of the match’) and slides a perfect ball to Mick Jones.
Murphy: It’s the simplicity I love here. He could have a physical battle but his intelligence means he doesn’t have to. You see Virgil van Dijk or Rio Ferdinand do it. Nicks in front and plays the right pass.
My impression of what Hunter was has been completely changed. Never mind this image of him as the brutal tackler, here is an intelligent footballer years ahead of his time.
I also believe that the best players then would still be the best players now. They would evolve with the game and the fitness demands. Hunter looks like he’s playing in the Man City or Liverpool team.
The side were known for their brutality, and came out on top over Arsenal at Wembley
Norman Hunter had the hard-man reputation but that doesn’t do any kind of justice to him as a defender. When you look at the footage of the 1972 FA Cup final you see a player at the top of his game, winning tackles, nearly always fairly.
It’s impossible to say he would have just collected red cards galore in this era because he would have had the knowhow to adapt to the modern laws. Things were different back when Hunter was playing.
He’ll be sorely missed.