Feature'I don't think my dad will ever be forgotten at Liverpool'
Roger Hunt's imprint on Liverpool FC will never be forgotten.
A certified Reds legend, he scored an incredible 285 goals in 492 appearances over the course of an 11-year career at Anfield and etched his name into the history books.
Before Ian Rush came along, Hunt was the club’s all-time top goalscorer, and no-one has ever yet surpassed his total of 244 for the club in the league.
Hunt became a spearhead for years of sustained success following his initial arrival in 1958, thriving in Bill Shankly’s 1960s revolution.
He was a prolific figure in the side that lifted the Second Division crown in 1962, which signalled the beginning of a trophy-laden run that hauled Liverpool to the top of English football.
The striker went on to help inspire the collection of two First Division titles, three Charity Shields and a first-ever FA Cup triumph for the club – including the opening goal in the final at Wembley.
In 1966, he would also play a key and underrated role in England’s World Cup-winning side as the only Red in the starting line-up.
His achievements saw the Anfield faithful bestow an honorary knighthood by renaming him ‘Sir Roger’ and it was that phrase that adorned the Kop following his sad passing a little over 12 months ago.
For one magical minute up and down the country, applause rippled around stadiums ahead of kick-off as fans saluted a true Liverpool and England great.
“It was a bittersweet moment for us, his family,” daughter Julie tells Liverpoolfc.com
“Just a few days earlier we’d gathered around his bedside to say our goodbyes. I received so many cards and letters sharing stories about him, and at his funeral I saw how much he meant to ordinary people who lined the route all the way to Liverpool Cathedral.
“I saw an elderly man, scarf around his neck, crying openly – Dad was a football hero first and foremost, but I believe people took him to their hearts because of the kind-hearted, modest man he was.”
Spotted by ex-Red Bill Jones as a 21-year-old plying his trade for Stockton Heath FC, Hunt was signed by Phil Taylor and scored on his Liverpool debut at home to Scunthorpe United in what was the start of a true love affair.
During his national service, he also played football for the army before he was demobbed to return home. Hunt, who was born and raised in Glazebury, preferred the quieter life despite his obvious football stardom – and it was those roots that remained until his passing in late September last year.
“Sometimes there would be a knock on our front door in the small village where we lived, and Dad would stand on the step signing autograph books and photos,” Julie said.
“Our street and village was mobbed when he returned from the World Cup as a winner in 1966, but we were just like any other family and I think that’s the way he liked it.
“Most of his friends were people he’d grown up around and he liked to go to the local pub for a pint with them and his younger brother Peter, who he was very close with. Now and again, we’d have someone famous at our house – I recall David, my older brother, being very excited to get home from school one day as he knew Bobby Charlton was coming round.
“On matchdays he would drive my mum and David to Anfield, picking up teammate Tommy Lawrence on the way. David loved the matches, especially when Dad scored and the crowd went wild in celebration.
“Although his life revolved around football and his other big love, golf, Dad always had time for us and in later years his only grandchild, Megan.
“He had a great sense of humour too and loved a bit of fun – he’d do anything to make us laugh.”
In 1969, as Shankly was constructing his second great Liverpool side, Hunt waved a tearful farewell to Anfield having left a hefty impact. He transferred to boyhood club Bolton Wanderers, though his heart stayed firmly in L4.
“I have in my possession a good luck telegram that Shankly sent him,” Julie continued.
“Even though Bolton was the team Dad supported as a kid and the then-manager – Nat Lofthouse – was his idol, he was very sad to leave Liverpool. He later reflected that in those first few weeks at his new club he would have given anything to go back. I know the fans missed him too. He received so many letters and other things even after he left.”
Three years later, Roger did return for a testimonial that saw a reported 56,000 in attendance, with hundreds more turned away at the gates, such was his impact at the Reds.
“When Dad retired from football in 1972, he was worried that the fans might have forgotten about him,” Julie said.
“He always said that he was amazed and choked up that so many people had turned out that night – even with the really bad weather too. It was lashing down with rain. It had meant such a lot to him to receive that adulation.”
And, in 2000, he finally received the recognition he deserved for his role in England’s World Cup triumph 34 years prior.
“He was honoured with an MBE along with four of the other so-called ‘unsung heroes’,” Julie added.
“You never heard him complaining about being forgotten, though, he was thrilled to bits and very honoured to be going to Buckingham Palace with David and I that day.
“His World Cup medal was originally kept in a display cabinet in our living room for years. But eventually the cabinet became so full of all his medals and caps that my parents decided to get our loft converted into a trophy room.
“I loved to go up and look at everything. I’d see the shirts that he’d played in, some of them still caked in mud – he wouldn’t let them be washed! The scrapbooks he kept of his career are amazing too and hearing all his stories were a childhood staple.
“His World Cup medal is still on display at Anfield to this very day.”
In the latter stages of his life and for almost a decade, Roger suffered greatly with dementia, like several of his footballing contemporaries.
Before that, he would visit Anfield and other big matches where possible, though enjoyed watching Liverpool games in the comfort of his own home surrounded by close family to cheer on the Reds.
He had returned to work and the family haulage company shortly after hanging up his boots, working alongside younger brother Peter. Hunt was also a regular at charity football events and was often spotted on the golf course with former England teammates Gordon Banks and Bobby Charlton.
“I don’t think my dad will ever be forgotten at Liverpool, his flag still flies in the Kop at home matches and his playing record speaks for itself,” Julie said.
“When Dad died, I received so many cards and letters with people telling me of their own memories of him. Hearing those stories just made me feel so incredibly proud of him, not just for his career, but for what a nice man he was and how he never forgot ordinary people.
“The man I knew was generous to a fault and an inspiration to us all. He was, quite simply, the best dad in the world and we miss him so much.”