Fifth in a series of articles profiling the career of England 1966 World Cup winner Roger Hunt and the clubs he represented

SHORTLY after his National Service was completed, 21-year-old Roger Hunt signed professional forms with Liverpool on July 29, 1959, writes Garry Clarke.

He admits it would be unlikely he would be signed at such an age in the modern game.

“People miss the chance if they go over a certain age,” said Hunt, who grew up in Culcheth and studied at both Culcheth High School and Leigh Grammar School.

“You have to be picked up very early now, but it was not like that in my day, when you would still have a chance even at 19, 20 or 21.”

Having taken the plunge and entered the professional ranks, would he make it and be as successful after leaving Stockton Heath as he had been in the amateur game?

Hunt told “I made up my mind that if I didn’t succeed at Anfield it wouldn’t be for the lack of determination.

“From the first day I threw myself into training, ran and tackled for everything and practised my ball skills at every opportunity.”

> Part 4: Why Hunt turned down more lucrative offers to join Liverpool

He didn’t have to wait too long for first-team action, as after playing just six games for the reserves, in which he scored eight goals, he was called up for his Liverpool debut in a second division fixture against Scunthorpe United at Anfield on September 9, 1959.

Replacing Liverpool legend Billy Liddall, he played like a seasoned pro, scoring on his debut, and he fondly remembered the occasion telling “The game was a lot quicker than what I was used to.

“We were 1-0 up when we got a free-kick around the hour mark. Jimmy Melia spotted me and played a short pass into my stride. I looked up and hit it instinctively. I knew it was in as soon as I struck it and I can’t describe how good it felt to see it smash in off the crossbar.”

Golborne-born Hunt was praised by the media, especially the News Chronicle and Daily Dispatch which reported “Roger Hunt, 21, had a dream debut for Liverpool. Hunt, stand-in for Billy Liddell, may not be an orthodox centre-forward, but by lying deep he emphasised his footballing ability, creative artistry and control.”

Hunt quickly established himself in the Liverpool first team, ending the term as the club’s top scorer having netted 23 goals from 38 appearances in his debut season as the Reds finished third in the second division.

Liverpool missed out on promotion the following season, finishing third again, but when Ian St John arrived in the 1961/62 promotion season Hunt started to fire on all cylinders.

He scored 41 goals in 41 league matches, including five hat-tricks, as Liverpool finished top of the table and returned to the top flight.

Hunt made his England debut on April 4, 1962, in a friendly against Austria at Wembley, scoring on his international bow to help England to a 3-1 victory.

He went to the 1962 World Cup Finals in Chile as part of Walter Winterbottom’s England squad, but did not feature in any games.

The next few years were golden ones for Liverpool and for Hunt.

He scored 129 times in 160 games during the next four seasons, a period in which the club twice won the League Championship and had good cup runs at home and in Europe.

His greatest personal achievement at club level was arguably the FA Cup Final of 1965 against Leeds, a competition Liverpool had never won before.

Hunt’s stooping header broke the deadlock early in extra-time before St John scored the winner. Greater glory was just around the corner on the international stage.

n Part 6 next week