THE death of England legend Roger Hunt means there are just three heroes of the 1966 World Cup winning team still with us.
As the ball rebounded out after hitting the bar, Roger was the closest man to the action. He could have bundled it in — but instead turned away, hands held aloft in celebration, sure Hurst had scored.
He always insisted: “I thought it was over the line.”
Roger played in every match en route to the final and contributed three goals. Yet he achieved the right to be considered an all-time great beyond his success with the national side.
At Liverpool, where he won two league titles and an FA Cup, he is still the club’s record scorer in the league — finding the back of the net 244 times in 404 appearances — and is only second on the all-matches list to Ian Rush.
The blond-haired and green-eyed striker, who was awarded an MBE in 2000, also scored the first ever goal shown on BBC’s Match Of The Day highlights programme in 1964.
Paying tribute, current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, 54, said: “Roger Hunt comes second to no one in his importance in the history of Liverpool FC, that much is clear.”
Despite his status as a footie legend, Roger was a modest man who preferred to stay out of the limelight.
‘My manager thought I was a home bird’
After retiring from the game in 1972 he joined his family’s road haulage business and stayed in the same quiet village in Cheshire for his whole adult life.
During his weekly visits to the pub and out on the local golf course, he rarely spoke about that triumphant day at Wembley.
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But in one of his last interviews, he said: “It was so amazing to win the match. And a relief. There was so much pressure. I feel very proud. We won it.”
Born in Lancashire, Roger had always wanted to play football, but had to put those dreams on hold when he was called up for National Service at the age of 18.
This meant that not only could he not sign for a football team, he only had two days for his honeymoon in Llandudno, Conwy, after he married first wife Patricia.
It was later when playing for amateur side Stockton Heath Albion, now Warrington Town, he was spotted by scouts.
He was offered more money to join Swindon, but decided to stay close to home with Liverpool instead.
Roger said: “I’d done National Service so I got into football late. My manager thought I was a home bird and advised I stay in the North West.”
On his arrival at Anfield in 1958 he was an unknown earning £12 a week, with the Reds in the second tier of the English league.
Roger’s 41 goals in 41 games during the 1961/62 season were key as Liverpool won the then Second Division to return to the top flight. But though he was an instant success at Anfield, not all the fans were happy.
After one defeat in 1962 he was spotted having a pint with two team-mates in the pub — not an unusual sight back then.
An irate fan told him, “You’ve no right to be in the pub when Liverpool have lost”, before sweeping away the players’ glasses. It nearly descended into a brawl before cooler heads stepped in.
Roger’s prolific scoring made him indispensable to Liverpool’s great manager Bill Shankly, who nurtured his raw talents.
By 1966 he was on £76 a week and that was enough to buy him a Triumph 2000 car and a semi-detached house in Culcheth, near Warrington.
My manager thought I was a home bird and advised I stay in the North West.
He had two children, David, now 61, and Julie, 56, with Patricia and was more than content to be a family man.
Looking back on his life, he said: “I had a nice house and a good lifestyle in my early 20s.”
There was a lot of apprehension about England’s chances before the 1966 World Cup — and debate about whether Roger was worth his place in the team.
Up front, he partnered goal-scoring machine Jimmy Greaves — who died aged 81 ten days ago — scoring twice against France and once against Mexico to see England through the group stages.
With an injured Greaves then losing his place to Hurst, Roger became the only striker to play all six games as England won their first and only World Cup.
Despite only losing twice with England, he quit international football after earning just 34 caps in 1969 because he was fed up with all the criticism from supporters.
On announcing his retirement from the national side, he said: “I came home depressed and discussed things with my wife, Pat, who had so often heard the England fans moan when my name was announced before World Cup games. Today I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from my mind.”
The only other time Roger’s life appears to have faced serious trouble was when his marriage to Patricia ended after he had an affair with a much younger woman from his village.
‘I’m not the most elegant of players’
Fearing that gossip would reveal his secret trysts, Roger confessed to everything in 1981.
Patricia said in 2006: “Roger was the love of my life and I never imagined he could have cheated on me. I was devastated. It felt as if my heart was breaking.”
He was 42 at the time and the other woman was just 28. Initially, Patricia forgave him, but the marriage did not survive — and neither did his relationship with his mistress.
His ex-wife wondered whether he had struggled to cope without the thrill of football after his retirement from the game in 1972.
Rather than staying in the world he knew — by going into management or coaching — Roger joined the family road haulage business in Warrington.
He said: “I had one or two offers to go into soccer management but I wasn’t interested. Though I miss football, I enjoy running the business.”
The affection felt for him at Anfield — where he spent 11 years of his career — was shown when he returned for a testimonial match in 1972.
Known to fans as “Sir Roger” despite the fact he was never knighted, he was so popular that 10,000 supporters were locked out of seeing his tribute match and the gates had to be closed long before kick-off.
Roger’s quite reserved really, he keeps himself quite private. He’s modest, that’s just his way.
He was known for his modesty, downplaying his achievements and saying: “I appreciate I’m not the most elegant of players.”
That self-deprecating manner earned him a lot of friends and respect throughout the game.
He was pals with Greaves, despite keeping him out of the World Cup final in 1966.
Roger said: “I stayed good friends with Jimmy and Geoff, we all got along.”
The Liverpool forward was also great mates with his Anfield strike partner, the late Ian St John, who died aged 82 in March.
He remembered: “I gelled straight away with Ian. We had a great partnership and we just clicked on and off the pitch.”
Later, Roger found new love with Rowan Green, who he was married to until his death.
She cared for him as his health deteriorated and filled in the gaps during interviews when Roger’s memory failed him.
In a recent interview, Rowan said: “Roger’s quite reserved really, he keeps himself quite private. He’s modest, that’s just his way.” But there was nothing to be modest about.
And “Sir” Roger will always be remembered as a true great of the beautiful game.