Project to mark careers of pioneering Baggies trio making progress
PLANS to build a statue celebrating the careers of Albion’s three pioneering black footballers have received a double boost.
Baggies stars Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson MBE and Cyrille Regis MBE will be immortalised when a ten foot bronze sculpture of them celebrating a goal is unveiled next summer.
Known as ‘The Celebration,’ the statue will not only mark the achievements of the players but also highlight the ongoing fight against racism in football.
A significant milestone in the initiative was reached when a full-size clay version of the sculpture was unveiled by renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson.
And there was another fillip for the project with the news lifelong Albion fan Frank Skinner will host a show – which immediately sold out – to help raise funds for The Celebration statue.
Awarding-winning comic Frank will host the one-off charity evening at Town Hall, Birmingham, in July, with proceeds going towards The Celebration statue.
Skinner will be joined on stage by Regis and Batson, in addition to fellow Hawthorns stars Ron Atkinson, Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown, Gary Owen, Alistair Robertson, Derek Statham and John Wile.
One of the very first to see the clay model of the statue was former England international Cyrille.
“Graham and the team have done an absolutely fantastic job,” he said.
“You never expect to see a statue of yourself and 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.”
The initiative is being led by Black Country businessman Jim Cadman, who added: “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.”
The project is being supported by Sandwell Council Leader Darren Cooper, who said he was honoured to play a role in bringing the sculpture to West Bromwich.
“As a lifelong Baggies fan, I take enormous pride in being involved with The Celebration statue,” he said.
“It will proudly sit in the heart of the regenerated West Bromwich town centre, giving the town a new focal point and attracting visitors from up and down the country.”
The statue is planned to be unveiled on July 14, 2014 – the 25th anniversary of Laurie’s death in a car crash in Spain.