Our most recent England outfield international
STEVE Hunt’s wasn’t the lengthiest international career that any Albion man enjoyed. Over the course of two substitute appearances for Bobby Robson’s England side, Hunt amassed just 39 minutes for his country, but in doing so, he became the last Albion player to wear the three lions on his shirt for well over 20 years.
When the England call-up came, Hunt had only played a dozen games for the Baggies after an £80,000 move from Coventry City in March 1984, but he was no stranger to the international stage having first made his name in the United States when the North American Soccer League first tried to take football to the Yanks.
Hunt crossed the Atlantic in February 1977, leaving Aston Villa, where he’d been an apprentice, at the age of 20. He didn’t just go to any American side though. Hunt found himself with New York Cosmos, the Real Madrid of the NASL, the club that took the “galacticos” approach to the game.
Generally, that meant collecting a group of big name players who were coming towards the wrong end of their career, giants such as Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. Hunt was a junior partner in that enterprise but that didn’t stop him from making a huge impression as Cosmos swept to the title in 1977 and 1978.
After learning the game at the feet of some of the greatest players in the game, Hunt returned to England to try his luck, making a big reputation at Highfield Road before joining the Throstles.
An intelligent, attacking midfielder, Hunt’s misfortune was to join us at a time of transition, just after Johnny Giles rejoined us as manager after the sacking of Ron Wylie, but he played his part in keeping Albion in the top flight, form which took him into the England set up.
He made his debut at Hampden Park, coming on in the 75th minute, just two minutes after Gary Lineker had done likewise. Hunt replaced Mark Chamberlain and slotted into a midfield that included Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins and John Barnes.
The game ended 1-1, both goals coming in the first half from Mark McGhee and Tony Woodcock, bringing down the curtain on the old Home International Championship, all four countries ending up on three points, the Northern Irish ending up top of the table on goal difference.
Hunt made a longer appearance a week later, replacing Barnes in the 66th minute of the 2-0 defeat to the USSR at Wembley Stadium, defeat which intensified the calls for Bobby Robson to get the push.
A couple of weeks later, after England had beaten Brazil 2-0 at the Maracana and John Barnes had scored the goal of his life, those calls ended. Hunt had been part of the England squad that toured South America, but he didn’t get a game. His England career was finished.
He returned to the Baggies and scored 11 goals as the Throstles ended the 1984/85 season in mid-table but the following season was, as we know, dismal.
Though Steve recorded a respectable eight goals in 29 games, Albion were all-but relegated by Christmas and in the new year, the Saunders cull commenced. Hunt was one of the first to escape, sold to Aston Villa in exchange for £90,000 and Darren Bradley.