Noel Hunt Scores to Leave Leeds Boo-Boys Red-Faced – by Rob Atkinson


Ipswich Hero Noel - not good enough for 15th placed Leeds

Ipswich Hero Noel – not good enough for 15th placed Leeds

Really, you had a feeling it might happen. After a barren spell at Leeds United, Noel Hunt has made the loan switch to high-flying Ipswich Town – and has become an instant Tractor Boys hero with a last-gasp winner at Charlton Athletic.

No Tractor Boys at Elland Road – but boo-boys aplenty. Sadly, ’twas ever thus. I go back as far as Terry Yorath, who was routinely slaughtered by those on the terraces with size 12 gobs to accommodate their size 12 bovver boots – and with a size zero brain ostensibly directing things from somewhere in the pelvic region.

Yorath was a Welsh international who went on to have a fine career with Coventry and then Spurs. He was just one of too many players chased out of LS11, confidence in tatters, by the hard-of-thinking masses whose idea of motivational support amounts, it seems, to monosyllabic, visceral abuse. Great way to back the lads, lads.

Two of Cloughie’s imports in the autumn of ’74, John McGovern and John O’Hare, suffered ignorant abuse and were likewise sent packing from Leeds, doubtless grateful to get away. Instead of pining for what might have been in the White shirt, they settled for an English Champions medal, two European Cups, sundry Wembley triumphs and a bucketload of glory down Nottingham way. The bright lads on the Gelderd, unabashed, continued to hold that they were “roobish. Not good enough for Leeds, like”. Our talent as fans for shooting ourselves in the collective foot was honed as sharp as a knife in the back, even then.

This level of expertise as assessors of footballing talent is still manifesting itself among the Leeds United faithful. A small but loud minority will concede nothing to the pros in terms of their ability to label a player as “crap”. Even in the immediate aftermath of Hunt’s late winner at Charlton, there were many rather defensive tweets in the ether, insisting that Noel is “still crap”. After all, what does his manager know? Or his fellow pros??

Several United players down the years have been unable to give of their best with this sort of “support” ringing in their ears. Unaccountably, a goodly proportion of these hopeless, useless articles have gone on to do well elsewhere – at clubs whose fans embrace old-fashioned and out-dated practices, like cheering on whoever wears the shirt. That’s far too naïve and unsophisticated position for the bright sparks in the Leeds crowd, though. Of course it is. We’re Leeds and we know best – right?

It could be that Noel Hunt might still have a future at Elland Road. It’s hardly unknown for a player, his confidence holed below the water line, to be buoyed up by the experience of a run in some other club’s side, a chance to play his way back into form. Perhaps Hunt will be an example of that kind of renaissance. But equally, he may prefer to pursue his career elsewhere. You could hardly blame him.

Players are a valuable asset for any club. Those assets may appreciate over time, given success and the adoration of the fans. But some may sink without a trace and feel no option but to start again elsewhere, if anyone will take a punt on them. Ipswich boss and Leeds United fan Mick McCarthy must be pleased right now that he took a punt on Hunt.

Leeds fans are as self-congratulatory a mob as you’d find anywhere in football. They are prone to applauding themselves as the best supporters around. Taking an army of 7,000 to Blackburn as well as frequently following Leeds in numbers for midweek games away on the south coast – this speaks volumes for the fanaticism of the United support. But support is about more than just turning up in numbers, and sadly Leeds fans in my experience are frequently lacking in the aspect of support that involves actually being supportive. And that’s a significant fault that can have real consequences for players’ careers and, by extension, the club’s prospects of success.

Good luck to Noel Hunt in his loan spell at Ipswich, and beyond – wherever that might be. It’s difficult to envisage him back at Leeds, but I for one would be delighted to see him return, confidence restored. But confidence is a fragile flower, easily blown away by the scorching wind of spectator scorn in a white-hot cauldron like Elland Road with its mad up. The question Hunt might be asking himself in January, with a successful loan at Portman Road behind him, is: “Do I really need that??

The answer to that question might well result in Noel Hunt bearing down on the Leeds goal in some other team’s shirt in the not-too-distant future, to score against us and condemn the Whites to a possibly costly defeat. It’s happened before, it’ll almost certainly happen again. And you know what? We’ll bloody deserve it.

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25 responses to “Noel Hunt Scores to Leave Leeds Boo-Boys Red-Faced – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Gary George

    Articulate and right on the money. It appears Hunt was villified by the fans after Cellini went on record quoting that Noel was on an outrageous salary – which was apparently untrue and just made up on the spot. It seems he was then villified by fans everywhere he went, culminating in a hate campaign on Facebook. Very sad.

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  2. Same at Blackburn last week Rob when Varney walked on the pitch to the sound of ‘your too shit to play for Leeds’ ringing round the ground you just knew it would come back and bite us on the arse! We rarely sing the names of our own players nowadays. From the 60s through to the 90s fans would shout out to each individual player in the warm up, now we just mock whoever is playing against us thinking it may upset them in some way

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  3. disagree rob ,,. it always seemed to me that Leeds was too big for noel hunt and the harder he tried the more things went wrong ,, the expectations at ipswich and reading are no where near the pressure of Leeds ,, good luck noel but honestly would you swap him for Antenucci

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    • I take your point – but what IS the pressure of Leeds? What does it consist of? A baying crowd with unrealistic expectations and an exaggerated sense of their own knowledge and judgement football is concerned, I’d say. It’s the kind of pressure a club could do without. On form, I wouldn’t replace Antenucci with Hunt – but what if Noel now belts in 8 goals by the end of his loan spell, and Mirko hits a dry run in the same period. Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen – but it could. And where’s the clever money then? If Hunt proves himself to be a Championship performer, he’s at least worth having in and around the fringes of the team – in case he’s needed.

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  4. The energy put into berating opposition players and even some of our own could be much better spent supporting the team. We focus so much on the negatives we blind ourselves to the positives.

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  5. You’ve written some great articles, mate, but this isn’t one of them.

    One goal doesn’t change the fact that Noel Hunt is a very average League 1 player with a poor scoring record. He should never have been signed, and, along with the awful Scott Wooton is a glaring example of a former manager’s lack of ability.

    Thanks Brian.

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    • You rather illustrate my point, Rex, by going on as if you think you know what you’re on about. I presume Mick McCarthy would disagree with you and I also presume that wouldn’t worry you one bit – nor make you think at all about why these things happen.

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  6. Ropey Wyla

    I don’t like the way some “fans” treated Hunt but I also don’t think he was ever good enough for Leeds. He’s moved on, albeit temporary and so shall we, as for Varney being too shit to play for Leeds, well he was!!!

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    • It’s all about opinions, and everyone’s entitled – but there needs to be some recognition that some opinions – those of the pros who earn their living at the game – are of higher value than those of the shouty bloke on the terraces, or in the Twittersphere. I honestly believe there’s no justification for hounding a player. It’s not good for him and, more importantly, it’s no good for the team.

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  7. I’ll tell you why these things happen Rob , it’s because these days when players earn more per week than most of us do in a year we expect something from them, Noel Hunt has been garbage from the first time he pulled on our shirt, he had plenty of chances before the fans started to get frustrated so its difficult to blame us for his below average performances, Varney got stick because he didnt seem to like us very much, he hardly ever bothered hanging around to clap or acknowledge our support and behaved a bit like a spoilt child at times, there have been plenty of instances of average players getting near hero status at Leeds in recent times – Andy Hughes is an example – he never put in Messi type performances but you always got the feeling he’d given his all and that is what Leeds fans expect, I cant say the same for Hunt and Varney. Its not our fault we have high expectations, we’re not like other clubs, we were once probably the best club side in Europe, not many other English teams can claim that.

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  8. Ok – point taken.

    But N R clearly agrees with me, as they get nowhere near the first team squad and have now been offloaded.

    Football is all about opinion. Who’s to say who is right or wrong?

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  9. Don’t think you can put hunt and varney in the same category, while hunt couldn’t hit the proverbial bovine arse with a banjo at least the lad put a shift in and worked at it. Varney on the other hand Is a lazy player with an attitude and also a cheating git.

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  10. I’m sorry but to make out Noel Hunt was mistreated at Leeds because he scores one goal for a team that is flying is deluded. He was afforded every opportunity to shine at Leeds but didn’t . You berate paying fans for having an opinion. I do not believe in getting on players backs but if you pay your entry fee, you have bought the right to air your opinion even if it is wrong.
    How dull would football be if everybody agreed or weren’t allowed to voice their point of view. Your article is typical of the middle classe elite wishing to sanitize our game and kill the atmosphere inside grounds.
    PS I’lol bet that Hunt doesn’t get anywhere near double figures this season, wherever he’s playing

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    • You don’t believe in getting on players’ backs but then you pull out that old chestnut about paying customers having the right to have a good old moan about things. OK, contradictory, but still. I suppose I could point out that you pay sod-all to read this blog, yet here you are, whinging away like a good’un.

      You also seem to equate said carping, as carried out by a whole, vindictive section of fans, with “atmosphere”. Quite frankly, that’s bollocks. Atmosphere comes from mass support and having a go at the other lot’s fans – not the orchestrated destruction of one hapless performer who’s having a bad time. Your response is typical of those who are bang to rights on the charge put by the article – and who feel uncomfortable at being thus identified.

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  11. keith white

    as always spoken like a true gentleman Mr A

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  12. Eddie Gray has ALWAYS said that you have to be a special type of player to play for Leeds, both mentally strong and physically strong and he is totally spot on with that statement.
    Kebe and Hunt were free scoring forwards, when they were playing brilliantly for the non-pressure, nice, small club Reading, but playing at high pressure Leeds, is totally different and they both completely melted under the pressure and under-performed.
    I wish that playing for Leeds was not so pressurised for players, but it is and I will always blame the huge expectations of the fans, from the past glories of the 60’s, 70’s and maybe even the early 90’s.
    Every team will even always revel in playing Leeds from those past reputations and raising their games against the current mid-table Leeds team, does still happen and sadly some Leeds players still can’t realise this.
    Players like Noel Hunt are better off at clubs, where there is zero pressure, but I can’t help feeling that the Leeds fans are being cheated, because of this disadvantage.
    For most Leeds fans the glass is always half empty and not half full and former the glories are totally to blame for that.

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  13. With regard to expectations within the Leeds faithful isn’t it time we gave this present squad a chance of fullfilling that. Why for example do they persist to show old footage of former greats knocking the goals in from the glory days, why not show (as blackburn did) footage and goals from this season and the players that are in the shirt now. Also the young imports must be wondering who, Dom Matteo, Gary Speed and Beckford are and why the fans are singing about Chelsea and Manchester? Yeah great to hear this stuff on the SS when its rocking but even better to hear songs about Antenucci, Warnock and Jason Pearces magic hat surely

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  14. what has happened to “Smith”? the lad that use to play for Oldham who I predicted big things for? I have gone and put the mockers on him?

    Like

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