KEVIN KEEGAN: Roger Hunt was an absolute legend and icon of Liverpool
Liverpool record scorer and England 1966 World Cup winner Roger Hunt was laid to rest on Thursday when his funeral took place on Merseyside.
Hunt, the second highest scorer in Liverpool club history with a staggering 285 goals, passed away peacefully at home last month at the age of 83.
Held at Liverpool Cathedral, the service was led by Canon Neal Barnes and supported by Reverend Bill Bygroves – the Chaplain of the Liverpool Football Club – with emotional tributes from former players including Kevin Keegan – and here is his powerful eulogy of the shift.
Roger Hunt, one of England’s 1966 World Cup heroes and a Liverpool legend, died last month at the age of 83.
Hunt (pictured in 2006), is the second highest scorer in Liverpool Football Club history
Emotional tributes were paid at his funeral by former players, including Kevin Keegan (right)
In my career I shared a locker room with hundreds, literally thousands of players. I played for five clubs. Liverpool, of course; Scunthorpe for them. Bill Shankly called them the club that Liverpool robbed. They got Clem for 27 grand and me for 33 grand. I also played for Hamburg, Southampton and Newcastle.
My two all-time favorite players are here today. Ian Callaghan and Roger. mr roger. True gentlemen, both great teammates. Roger was an absolute legend wherever he went. No one has played more games for Liverpool than Cally and chances are no one ever will.
No one has scored more (league) goals for Liverpool than Roger Hunt. Chances are, no one ever will. Liddell. Saint John. toshack. Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen. Torres, Suarez. Sir Kenny Dalglish. russian. Rushie tried three times to break Sir Roger’s record of 244. He played once, went to Juventus and quickly came back to try and beat Roger’s record. He didn’t quite make it, not even Rushie the goal machine.
When you talk about the history of Liverpool Football Club and its amazing achievements, it’s easy to forget what an incredible player he was. Every player who has donned a shirt has contributed, some more than others. Roger Hunt’s contribution falls into the ‘much more than others’ category.
He had to replace Billy Liddell. Billy Liddell was so influential at the time, people in this room who saw in the game will tell you they didn’t call them ‘Liverpool’ – they called them ‘Liddelpool’… He had to replace him, like a 20 year old . He was with Bob Paisley.
Liverpool fans put banners on the fence in front of Anfield as they prepared for the hearse
Hunt’s hearse stopped just outside Liverpool’s Anfield stadium
He was there with Joe Fagan. He played with Ronnie Moran. He was there before Bill Shankly. 20 players left after Shanks came in, he never replaced him. He was there for Ron Yeats, he was there for Ian St John. These big names – these are the people you just know, who built this club.
Roger Hunt gave me my debut in England. I know he was not an England manager but Alan Ball withdrew from his testimony and he (Hunt) came to see me on the training ground to ask if I wanted to play in his place. I will never forget the night – especially because a very good comedian named Jimmy Tarbuck showed up late. There were 56000 people there.
It was a terrible evening, it was pouring rain from the sky. Poor old Roger was worried if anyone would come. He had been gone for three years, he thought people would forget him. He needn’t have worried. 55,240 in the ground; another 10,000 locked outside. The Boys Pen had so many children with beards, the average age was 45!
The turnout for Sir Roger’s testimony was the second-highest turnout of the entire season.
Hunt (top row, fourth right) is pictured among the victorious England squad celebrating with the Jules Rimet Trophy after the 1966 World Cup Final. Back row (left-right): Peter Bonetti, George Eastham, Harold Shepherdson, Jack Charlton, Gordon Banks , Hunt, Bobby Moore, George Cohen, Bobby Charlton. Front row: Nobby Stiles, Martin Peters and Ray Wilson
Just for the record, the team consisted of: Lawrence, Lawler, Yeats, Smith, Stevenson, Byrne, Strong, Peter Thomson, Cally, St John and, of course, Roger.
In the England team that night there were Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Nobby Stiles – with his teeth! – and myself.
Liverpool was founded in 1892. In all that time, only 19 players have scored more than 100 league goals. You know them: Dalglish, Fowler, Barnes, Gerrard – from a midfielder it’s just unbelievable. Mo Salah joined them just 18 days ago in Brentford.
Then he did it again, when he scored that very stupid goal against Manchester City. I don’t know about you, but I think one of my cartilages came out when he went around him for the third time!
The 200 club is more exclusive. There are only four members. Billy Liddell, 215. Ian Rush, 229… you were almost there, Rushie. Gordon Hodgson, not many people in the room will remember because he died in 1951, he scored 233 goals.
But Roger Hunt is on top. He was the winner of the World Cup in 1966. For eight years he was Liverpool’s top scorer. He scored the first goal on Match of the Day. He scored five hat-tricks in a season. I could go on.
A supporter held up a ‘Sir Roger’ banner showing the striker in his Liverpool kit
But I have to end with this – and no one pushed me to say it. Roger was an icon. Even in the last years of his life I know how difficult it was. My interaction with him over the past 10 years has been at the barber shop in Hale. He always had to go first because he thought I would get a perm!
But may I just say this: why isn’t there a statue of Sir Roger Hunt, on The Kop End, where he was knighted, with something like ‘244 goals – catch me if you can’ as inspiration for everyone passing by, the children who want to play football.
If you did, I think Roger would look down and want one of those kids to get there and he’d want someone to play for Liverpool one day… and one day catch up with his record.
Rest in peace, Roger.