A FORMER England international footballer, who has been living on the Isle of Wight for the past 20 years, has put his time in lockdown to good use.

Steve Hunt played for Midlands clubs Aston Villa, Coventry City and West Brom.

But the highlight of his career came when he was just 20 years old — and was told he had been sold to giant United States club, the New York Cosmos.

It proved an incredible, but sometimes controversial move for the talented midfielder, who has spent the past year writing his autobiography.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt and Pele in action for the Cosmos in 1977.Steve Hunt and Pele in action for the Cosmos in 1977.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt with his prized England shirt.Steve Hunt with his prized England shirt.

He said: “Because of lockdown, I was able to fully focus on the book, which opened up a lot of windows in my memory.”

It’s a no-holds-barred account of his time playing on both sides of the Atlantic, with his time at Cosmos giving him the opportunity to perform alongside two of the greatest footballers ever to grace the game — legendary Brazilian ace, Pele, and West Germany World Cup winning captain, Franz Beckenbauer.

Salisbury Journal: The cover of Steve Hunt’s autobiography, I’m With the Cosmos, out next month.The cover of Steve Hunt’s autobiography, I’m With the Cosmos, out next month.

Both superstars, along with Pele’s Brazilian team mate, Carlos Alberto, not only became team-mates, but also great friends of Hunt, who vividly describes his good and not-so-good times — even the time he swore loudly at Pele on the pitch during one match ... and suffered the consequences!

His book, co-written with Ian McCauley, is entitled I’m With The Cosmos.

Steve smiled: “The ‘I’m with the Cosmos’ phrase was used by New York Cosmos players to reserve a table at the city’s best restaurants, or skip the queues at the glamorous Studio 54 nightclub.

“Studio 54 was massive then, so I got used to trotting out the phrase. It was better than queueing!”

The move from Aston Villa to Cosmos came completely out of the blue.

Steve said: “I had just broken into the Villa first team and felt I was doing all right.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt reading his autobiography, I'm With the Cosmos.Steve Hunt reading his autobiography, I'm With the Cosmos.

Salisbury Journal:

“Then one day at the training ground, the then Villa manager, Ron Saunders, called me into his office and told me there was someone in the players’ canteen to see me.

“It was a Cosmos representative, who said Villa had decided to sell me to them — and had even agreed a fee.

“I had no idea the deal had been done behind my back. It came as a bombshell.

“Moving to New York was a bit different to going up the road. It was a massive shock.”

Suddenly, Steve was in the States playing alongside no fewer than three legendary World Cup winners.

His story reveals all about those heady days in the Big Apple — and also a stellar career back in England.

Returning to the West Midlands, Steve played for Coventry City and West Bromwich Albion, before returning to his beloved Aston Villa for a second spell.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt in action for the New York Cosmos.Steve Hunt in action for the New York Cosmos.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt in action for Aston Villa.Steve Hunt in action for Aston Villa.

At the age of 28, he won the first of two England caps under Bobby Robson, realising an ambition held since early childhood.

Eventually, Steve was forced to retire from the game with a serious knee problem.

While living on the Island, Steve has worked in a hardware store, carried out football coaching clinics at schools and had a spell as manager of Cowes Sports.

Salisbury Journal: Steve Hunt in action for England.Steve Hunt in action for England.

For the past few years, he has been caretaker at an Island primary school. In his book, he talks frankly about his football career, as well as his life outside the game.

He said: “I knew I had a lot of stories and initially I decided to write them down for my family, but it just grew from there.”

‘I’m With The Cosmos’ is published by Pitch Publishing Ltd on March 8, priced £19.99.

It will be available at Waterstones, WH Smiths, many other book shops and through Amazon, which can now be pre-ordered.