THE WAITING GAME – Roger Hunt and his Liverpool goal drought

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Updated: April 17, 2014

One of the hardest things a striker has to to deal with is a goal drought. When Andrew Cole was struggling to find the net for Man United during the 1995/96 season, he woke up one day to find that fans had erected a “For Sale” sign outside his house. With every minute that passes, the pressure grows, the dissenting voices become louder and that elusive goal becomes harder to find.

For some players, a goal drought might mean ten games or more without scoring before any feelings of anxiety start to creep in but for others, it can be considerably less.

On 30 November 1968, Roger Hunt scored the only goal for Liverpool in a tight away win at Nottingham Forest. Not only did that goal keep the Reds at the top of the first division table, but it also meant that Hunt was now just one goal away from overtaking Gordon Hodgson as Liverpool’s top league goal scorer of all-time.

It seemed inevitable that the prolific striker would break the 233 goal barrier but few people realised the pressure and anxiety that Hunt suffered during the barren six weeks that followed. Hunt described that period as: “The six-week drag,” as he endured his leanest scoring spell since he made his league debut in September 1959.

He was so keen to beat the record that he seemed to completely lose his scoring touch. He started to miss the kind of chances that he used to thrive on and his once unshakable confidence in front of goal began to elude him. It had been a tough season all round for Hunt as he had yet to score a league goal at Anfield and at the age of 30, he was reaching the twilight of his career on Merseyside.

Over the next six league games, Hunt missed a handful of clear-cut chances and became visibly stressed. He knew that this might be his last season at the club and he was desperate to break the milestone set by Hodgson. At every game the crowd were also willing him to score but after each fluffed chance, the groans of frustration grew louder in his ears.

Hunt continued to battle internally with his anxious feelings; encouraged by the unswerving faith shown in him by manager Bill Shankly. A home FA Cup goal in early January against Doncaster seemed to relieve some of the tension but that decisive league goal once again eluded him in the next game against West Brom at Anfield. After an illustrious career that had included a World Cup win, Hunt was now facing one of his toughest periods as a footballer.

On the 18 January 1969, Liverpool travelled to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea and with over an hour gone and the score at 0-0; Liverpool had the Blues well and truly on the back foot with some relentless attacking play.

Peter Thompson was having a good game and made yet another surging run towards the edge of the box. With Chelsea’s defenders closing in and a lack of options available, Thompson elected to shoot from distance. His well-struck shot travelled at pace and Chelsea’s reserve keeper, Tommy Hughes, failed to hold on to the ball.

Like all good strikers, Hunt had anticipated the goal keeper’s mistake and was first to pounce on the loose ball. He now had the seemingly simple job of moving the ball a few feet to the side and tapping it into the net and this time he did not fluff his lines.

Hunt admitted afterwards: “I have never felt so relieved,” as the back of the net finally rippled for the 234th time. It had only been six weeks but for Hunt, it had seemed like a lifetime and at times he wondered if he would ever score for Liverpool again. Finally, the drought was over and the record books had been re-written.

The man the fans dubbed “Sir Roger” went on to score a total of 245 league goals for Liverpool before he eventually departed for Bolton Wanderers the following season. His league tally remains a club record to this day.

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