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Statue commemorating footballing pioneers closer to reality

TRAIL BLAZER: Laurie Cunningham

HOPES OF seeing the goal celebration of three history-making black footballers immortalised in stone are closer to being realised.

Former players Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson, and Cyrille Regis are subject to a 10ft bronze sculpture, featuring them celebrating a goal – the statue is scheduled for unveiling in the summer of 2014.

The trio, who all played for West Bromwich Albion during their careers, have now been fully sculpted in clay for a complete replica version of the intended finished article, which is being created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson.

Upon seeing the clay version of himself in the statue that is to be called ‘The Celebration,’ Regis said: “When I first saw it I thought, ‘wow.’


HISTORY-MAKER: Brendon Batson

“Graham and the team have done an absolutely fantastic job. You play in the top division, you play in cup finals and play for your country, but you never expect to see a statue of yourself.

“It feels a bit surreal but I’m very proud of what it represents. We were part of that first generation of black players in this country and I’m sure that if you ask any second generation player they will tell you they were inspired by Laurie.

“That’s why the statue will be so important”, added the ex-England player.

Apart from marking the achievements of the three players, the statue is also intended to highlight the struggle to rid the game from racism.

The enterprise was initiated by businessman Jim Cadman, who said: “As well as being a lasting and poignant tribute to Laurie, Cyrille and Brendon, the statue will act as a high-profile and powerful symbol in the ongoing battle against racism in football.


IN THE GAME: Cyrille Regis

“Sadly we’ve seen in recent months and years that this appalling issue has not gone away from the game. The Celebration statue will be seen as making a positive stand against racism in the game and celebrating the achievements of those who had to contend with and overcome vile abuse from the terraces”, he added.

The sculptor himself said he was happy so far with how his artwork has progressed.

Ibbeson said: “Cyrille and Brendon came down and loved it.

“They took one look at Laurie and said ‘that’s him,’ so I’m really pleased with the outcome of the work and the reaction it has received.”

The plan is to unveil the sculpture on the 25th anniversary of Cunningham’s death on July 14, 2014.

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