Football has a statue fetish. It might as well admit it, there’s too much evidence to hide now to have any credible chance of denying it. The statues have, as one, come out of the artists’ studios and are standing, proudly on their plinths outside stadia all over the country.
For Michelangelo’s David, read Manchester City’s David. Silva that is. Will the will-o’-the-wisp of the Manc’s light blue soon be mounted outside the East Stand of the Etihad? Time will tell-although I suspect Sheikh Mansour will probably have himself sculptured in bronze first. Make that gold. Adorned with diamonds.
A total of 43 footballing luminaries from the games past have been immortalised outside football grounds and public areas in Britain since 1987. Seven of these were unveiled last year. Amongst those who have been honoured are George Best, Duncan Edwards, Bobby Moore and Jock Stein. There is even a Norwich City connection to one of them; Martin Peters who accompanies his 1966 team mates Moore, Geoff Hurst and Ray Wilson in the salubrious surrounds of the Barking Road in Newham.
Amongst those honoured more than once are two great Managers, Bobby Robson and Brian Clough. Overall, half of the current Premier League teams have a connection with a statue-Fulham make it eleven from the twenty, although Al Fayed’s ‘tribute’ to Michael Jackson is tackier than anything you might have seen in his one-time altar to vulgarity in SW1X.
Statues, statues everywhere. So how about having one in NR1? There is certainly no shortage of candidates. We could even follow Fulham’s lead and have one of a great entertainer ourselves. What about Allan Smethurst, the late, great Singing Postman?
Statues are not, I believe, best suited for the living. A tribute, memory, focal point, whatever it becomes; it doesn’t make sense to ‘remember’ a person when there is every chance that they could come walking around the corner-do you really want to witness your own epitaph? This would does rule out quite a few candidates for Carrow Road. Managers, players, long time fans and club benefactors-all, happily, still with us-and all, with that in mind, ineligible.
The time to look back on somebody’s life and times should be when they have had a life to look back on, not when they barely halfway down the path. Take the club’s Hall of Fame. laudable initiative, brimmed worthy names. Allcock, Ashman, Bly, Bond and Watling. Canary greats all. But has the gravitas of even that honour been watered down a little bit in recent years? Some of the more recent entrants are still young men with much still to achieve and whose contribution to our football club, whilst telling in one way or the other, might not be seen to hold up to those of their more illustrious peers.
Take the case of Efan Ekoku. His stay at Carrow Road was a fleeting one. But what a contribution he made. Not only our very first goal in European football, but the swift follow up of four goals at Goodison Park in a 5-1 win against Everton. So, despite the brevity of Ekoku’s time spent with us, you cannot dismiss his part in our recent history-those are facts that will be part of our clubs fabric forever. It is, therefore, a case which argues for his Hall of Fame inclusion quite forcibly. But would anyone suggest him as a candidate for a statue outside the ground? Of course not-and he’d be the first to agree with that.
But what about someone like John Bond? He ticks all of the boxes. A memorable seven year tenure at the club in which he dragged us into the twentieth century, introducing the legacy of our reputation for attractive football. He arrived too late to save us from relegation-but not only took us straight back to the top flight, but threw in a League Cup Final for good measure. He took us to our first ever top ten finish in Division One; added names such as Boyer, Fashanu, Neighbour, Peters, Reeves and Suggett to the Carrow Road pantheon, but, not only that, immediately, upon his arrival at the club masterminded the introduction of the clubs revered youth policy, one that has, and will always, make multi-million pound footballing superstars out of school kids. Adored in Norfolk and respected throughout the game-Harry Redknapp with added tactical nous-he was even part of the BBC’s World Cup panel in 1978. Someone from Norwich as a BBC pundit? Unthinkable now.
So, surely, if anyone from Carrow Road’s past deserves recognition, then it is him?
Yes, absolutely without question. He and all the countless others who have served the club throughout its history. Each and every one of them. Managers, coaches, members of the Board, club owners, administrators. And the fans. Definitely the fans.
Because however insignificant one part of a 1000 piece jigsaw might be, the bigger picture is never complete until that slots into place. You can have 999 pieces, all pieced together, the result of hours and hours of work and dedication. But what’s the first thing someone will say when they look at it?
“It’s not finished”.
Because nothing is complete without the full sum of all its parts, however small, insignificant and easily dismissible they may initially seem. And that applies to our football club. We are what we are and all we have achieved; we continue to exist and prosper precisely because of all those parts, big and small, have come together to create the whole that we see today. And for that reason, I say “no” to a statue outside Carrow Road. Because the tribute, the essence of the football club is what you see and what you feel every time you go there. We are all part of it. We are all the celebration. We are all the legacy. That is our focal point and Norwich City.
We are all that statue. And that statue is of all of us.