FORMER England and Leeds defender Norman Hunter has died at the age of 76.

Hunter, who made 28 appearances for the Three Lions, was last week admitted to hospital after contracting coronavirus.

Leeds said in a statement: “Leeds United are devastated to learn of the passing of club legend Norman Hunter at the age of 76.”

The statement on Leeds’ website added: “Norman was taken to hospital last week after being diagnosed with Covid-19 and despite continuing to battle and the best efforts of NHS staff, he sadly lost his fight earlier this (Friday) morning.

“He leaves a huge hole in the Leeds United family, his legacy will never be forgotten and our thoughts are with Norman’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

Hunter made 540 appearances for Leeds and was one of English football’s fiercest competitors, in a bygone era renowned for its hard men.

His unflinching tackles earned him the nickname ‘Bite Yer Legs’, but there was more to the former Leeds and England defender than that.

Hunter, whose warmth and friendliness off the field belied his teak-tough reputation on it, won the Professional Footballers’ Association’s inaugural Players’ Player of the Year Award at the end of the 1973/74 season and the honour remained his personal high point in a trophy-laden playing career that spanned 20 years.

He was one of the most accomplished centre-halves of his generation during a 16-year spell at Leeds.

While at Elland Road, Hunter won two Division One titles, the FA Cup, the League Cup, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups and the European Cup Winners’ Cup, as well as earning a European Cup runners-up medal with one of the great English club sides.

He was also included by Sir Alf Ramsey in two England World Cup squads, and had a winner’s medal from the 1966 final at Wembley.

He also played for Bristol City and Barnsley, managing the Tykes after he retired, as well as Rotherham.

Hunter later returned to Elland Road as a coach under Billy Bremner.

When the latter was dismissed in October 1988, Hunter was installed as caretaker manager for three matches, before the arrival of Howard Wilkinson heralded a new era.

He briefly coached at Bradford City just after that too, from 1989 to 1990.

In retirement, Hunter worked as match-day summariser for BBC Radio Leeds for 15 years from 1993 and remained a hugely popular figure at Elland Road.

The club opened the Norman Hunter Suite at the stadium in his honour in 2015, but his legendary status had long been secured.

He is survived by wife Sue, son Michael, daughter Claire and grandsons Sam, Max and Ted.

The EFL tweeted: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of former @LUFC, @BristolCity and @BarnsleyFC defender Norman Hunter at the age of 76. Our thoughts are with his loved ones at this very difficult time.”

Ex-England midfielder Peter Reid, a former Leeds manager, wrote on Twitter: “RIP Norman Hunter, a giant of a man.”