Opponents knew Big Al was around

LESS than ten seconds into the 1978 FA Cup final, Allan Hunter thundered into a tackle on Arsenal striker Frank Stapleton on the left touchline and conceded a free-kick.

Nick Garnham

LESS than ten seconds into the 1978 FA Cup final, Allan Hunter thundered into a tackle on Arsenal striker Frank Stapleton on the left touchline and conceded a free-kick.

It was typical of the no-

nonsense type of challenge that Ipswich Town supporters - not to mention opponents - associated with Hunter.

'Big Al' was an intimidating opponent - and he was not about to change his style just because he was playing in an FA Cup final in front of 100,000 spectators plus a worldwide television audience.

Even before Hunter got on the pitch he had made his presence felt.

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“Charlie Woods (who was on the coaching staff at Ipswich) tells the story that while we were in the tunnel waiting to go out Arsenal's Malcolm Macdonald spoke to me and said 'may the best team win' but I just glared at him.

“It did the job and intimidated him.”

Hunter, who played in an era with the likes of feared hard men such as Liverpool's Tommy Smith, Norman 'Bite Your Legs' Hunter of Leeds United and Chelsea's Ron 'Chopper' Harris, instantly remembers the tackle on Stapleton when it is brought up in conversation.

“I wanted him to know I was around. It was in a lot of defenders' make-up to hit your opponent hard early on and they would then always be looking for you after that.

“It was part of your game plan as was having chit-chat with certain players, telling them what you were going to do to them.

“ It was all psychological. I was not tougher than anyone else. I suppose you could say it was bullying, although I don't like to use that term, but if you could intimidate someone then you did. Some players you could get through to, but others told you to **** off.”

Hunter, who was one of the finest defenders ever to wear an Ipswich shirt after being signed by Bobby Robson for £80,000 from Blackburn Rovers in September 1971 to shore up the Town defence, also had a reputation for kicking the ball into the stand - and sometimes even on top of the East Stand, now known as the Cobbold Stand.

Hunter, who still regularly watches Ipswich play, said: “I did it because the crowd expected it. However, at times when you were under pressure you needed to put the ball in the stand. It sometimes took five minutes to get it back!

“When Ipswich played at Norwich earlier this season if they had someone to do that a few times they would not have lost a 2-0 lead and drawn 2-2.”