Noel is one of those guys that you just have to like. There is not a bad bone in his body and when you spend time in his company you come away richer for the experience. He always has a broad smile and he is full of life and fun.
He is of course extremely serious when it comes to his trade. He was bestman at his brother Stephen’s wedding on Friday, May 30, in Tipperary and by all accounts he was superb when delivering his speech at Kilshane House in Bansha. “It was a great day, a lovely day and I am sure Stephen and Joanne will be very happy. I have spoken to him a lot since he went on his honeymoon and he is having a super time.”
When I met up with Noel on Monday week last he was being linked with a number of different clubs, including Reading, Bristol City. Leeds United and Celtic. Not surprising considering he scored 18 goals for Dundee United last season.
Noel admitted that it was flattering to be chased by so many different clubs. “Needless to say it is nice to take up the newspapers and see your name linked with such clubs but to be honest I have heard nothing from any of them. It is out of my hands and for now it is a case of wait-and-see. My contract with Dundee United expires in January so I could leave for nothing at that stage if something is not sorted quickly.
“I want to be fair to Dundee United because they have been very good to me and I have a good working relationship with Craig Levein, the manager. He has said he does not want to lose me and he has also said that the reported figure [£400,000] was nowhere near his valuation. All I can do is keep working away and already I am training hard out in the sandhills [Tramore] and I have stopped eating the wrong food, even though I am halfway through a seven-week break. You have to do it because it would be too hard when you return for pre-season training if you didn’t.”
Looking back on the past season, Noel, 25, has mixed views on how the term panned out. “We should have won the CIS League Cup final but we lost to Rangers on penalties and that was hard to take. We drew with them in the league 3-3 and we should have won that game also. I love scoring against Rangers and their fans don’t like me very much.
“We were pipped at the end for 3rd and 4th positions [in the SPL] and that was disappointing considering the amount of work we put in throughout the season. I was the top goalscorer in the league outside the Old Firm and that was great. I was injury-free for most of the season. The previous season I missed out on three months and I found that hard to take.
“Moving from Dunfermline Athletic was a big move for me, so if a move does come it will have to be the right one. Scoring 18 goals was good but I feel if I did move to a big club in England or indeed Celtic I could score even more because the supply would be good. Stephen has filled me in on the scene at Reading and he has some great things to say about them.”
Despite the fact that Noel has been scoring on a regular basis in the SPL he has not yet figured in the Republic of Ireland plans under the new management team. “I saw some of the boys named in the squad of 40 and I felt some of them are not with such big clubs. If for example I had scored 18 goals for Reading or Celtic or some club that would be rated bigger than Dundee United then I feel I would have got a call-up. International football is a must for me in the future so I will have to take that into account when something is sorted out.”
With those parting words, Noel headed off to meet up with some friends in Tramore for a Barbeque. “Stay away from those burgers,” I pleaded with him as he jumped into his fine mode of transport. “You bet I will,” he replied. Quite simply Noel Hunt is a good egg!
*Footnote: The following statement was released by the Dundee United chairman, Eddie Thompson, on Friday last. “We have already sold one of our top players to Celtic not so long ago for what proved to be an absolute snip in the modern day market, so we won’t be doing that again. I am sure the manager might look at it if someone was to come in with a bid in the region of one million (sterling) for Noel, but right now we don’t want to lose any of our best players and certainly not at a cut-price rate.”