Joker in the Pack: The Ernie Hunt Story, by Chris Westcott

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The Independent Football

When Ernie Hunt fell 10 feet off a ladder while cleaning windows and broke eight ribs he rang his second wife Carole to tell her. She burst into tears.

When Ernie Hunt fell 10 feet off a ladder while cleaning windows and broke eight ribs he rang his second wife Carole to tell her. She burst into tears.

(Tempus, £20)

But the tears were not for him. "I've lost Roger the budgie," came the explanation. Hunt is a survivor, a throwback to the swinging Sixties and liberated Seventies. There is not much he has not done and trying to tell his life story is tricky because of working out where to start.

Chris Westcott made a wise decision: to tell it chronologically. From birth - he was christened Roger and occasionally confused with Liverpool's version - to second marriage; from gravedigger to donkey kicker; from Swindon Town apprentice through stints with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton, Doncaster Rovers and Bristol City; from council official rationing toilet paper to match-fixing whistle-blower; from amateur barber to goalscorer supreme, this life is nothing if not rich.

His womanising, drinking (six drink-drive offences at the last count) - and the match-fixing revelations, published in a Sunday paper a while back - it is all here. As is that infamous donkey kick.

He and Willie Carr practised it like mad and had it perfected by the time Everton turned up at Highfield Road in October 1970. Coventry were awarded a second-half free-kick just outside the penalty area. Everton carefully placed their wall. Then, when they were ready, Hunt moved in for the kill.

"Willie stood over the ball with it wedged between his ankles. He flicked it up with a backward, donkey-style flip of both feet. As the ball came down I smacked it on the volley with my right foot and the ball flashed into the net with Andy Rankin stranded."

Sadly, the donkey kick was eventually banned by Fifa, football's world governing body, but Hunt was at it again when he was playing for Bristol City. This time the manoeuvre was called the "Nutcracker" and it worked again.

Hunt is a fun-loving person who admits he is as soft as anything. He was not a soft touch on the pitch, as those of us privileged to have watched him can attest. If the book has a fault it is that the editing of it lets the author down once or twice. But Hunt's story is well worth the telling and is most definitely well worth the reading. Enjoy.

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