Tommy McCallion pays tribute to his 'coach and friend' Victor Hunter

Tommy McCallion paid a heartfelt tribute to Victor Hunter after the passing of his former mentor on Saturday.

Hunter, who was a player, coach, manager and Honorary Vice President of Coleraine FC, played an integral role in the development of young players for many years.

McCallion was one of those rising stars who went on to have a stellar career under the tutelage of Hunter.

But it wasn’t just on the pitch that the iconic goalkeeper had an impact on McCallion, he helped shape him as a man and was a close personal friend of the family.

Victor Hunter, former player, coach, manager and Honorary Vice President of Coleraine FC, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 84

Hunter’s death came as a big shock for McCallion, but he led the tributes to the man he not only called his coach but also his friend.

“In life you can be lucky and meet a giant of man, a man who stands head and shoulders above others,” he said.

“Many many years ago I met that man, Victor Hunter. A friend to my dad for longer than we can remember and a man who has had such a big impact on my own football career.

“He may not be a name known to some but to many this is a sad day as we hear of his passing.

“To me I am truly devastated, such is the impact he had on me.

“Victor was someone who said what he meant and meant what he said. No punches pulled and when he said it you listened.

“Not often in life do we meet such honest characters or personalities but today I will be sad as I remember him. He was a gentleman, coach, character, friend.”

Hunter first brought McCallion down from the Maiden City as a 13-year-old as he began the first of three spells with the Bannsiders.

As well as kickstarting his footballing career it also imparted some huge life lessons on the then teenager.

“I was sent on the 8.10am train down to Coleraine on a wet and miserable Saturday morning to play for local Coleraine team Killowen and later for Coleraine Youth Team, and the rest is history,” he recalled.

“How I was treated, accepted and involved at that age sowed the seeds for everything that came afterwards.

“A love for a club and a love for a man who challenged us not just to become better players but to be accepting of others at a time when the troubles were taking control of so many communities, young people and society.

“Victor was bigger than that. When I say he changed us all I make no exaggeration.

“He was Coleraine FC to me and many others.

“They don’t make them like that anymore and it won’t be the same without him around. My thoughts are with all your family and friends.

“Victor will never be forgotten. We all owe you so much for what you did for us.”