Ever been through Cork Airport? If you have, then you might have been taken slightly by surprise by the sight of a seated Jack Charlton, beaming proudly while clutching a large fish (possibly a salmon). Not the real McCoy of course but a bronze statue of the English World Cup hero still revered across the Irish Sea for his time in charge of their national team.
God knows what foreign visitors with no interest in football make of it but as sporting effigies go, Jack’s is one of the better ones (Check it out for yourself at the ‘From Pitch to Plinth: Sporting Statues Project’ website, which has photos and details of sporting-related statues currently on display all over the world).
Why is this subject of relevance to us Norwich City fans? It’s nothing to do with the ‘statuesque’ defending of late. No, it’s long been a question posed: “Why do we have no statues to former Canaries legends outside Carrow Road?”
Is there a formal club policy or has no one ever been sufficiently bothered to organise a design, the money and a sculptor to create such a thing?
Our first ground, ‘The Nest’ (Rosary Road), is sadly long disappeared and replaced by houses. In 2012, a stainless steel art work (a ball between two posts) was erected to mark the previous history of the location. It was certainly a generous and thoughtful gesture by the housing firm who commissioned it.
A couple of years back a City fan (Ffion Thomas), who worked on the Sporting Statues Project, published the results of some statistical wizardry which came up with the 3 most ‘worthy’ Norwich heroes deserving of being cast in statue form. The chosen trio were Ron Ashman and Johnny Gavin and Terry Allcock. All of a certain vintage but hard to argue against.
I would suggest maybe John Bond and Justin Fashanu for a more recent flavour with living legends, Kevin Keelan and Duncan Forbes also deserving.
On a wet and windy Sunday afternoon recently I had a trawl of the treats on display at the statues website and soon realised that the human desire to honour sporting legacies in such a fashion has resulted inevitably in the good, the bad and the downright pig ugly of careers set in stone (or metal or fibre glass).
Paradoxically the world of football statues does not stand still. The recently unveiled bronze tribute to keeper Arthur Wharton (the world’s first professional black footballer) at St. Georges Park ticks all the right boxes and is well crafted. Let’s hope it doesn’t suffer the same fate as the one of Gordon Banks, my personal boyhood hero, which now sits in a high school corridor in Stoke-on-Trent!
There are some real rum ‘uns out there. I highly recommend, amongst others, looking up Sven Goran Eriksson which is located at a Swedish swimming pool. Truly the ugly end of the statue spectrum.
Or how about a trip to the ground of Dartford FC in Kent to gaze in curious wonder at ‘The Wooden Fan’ which celebrates the role of the supporter. Placed in a stand, presumably it was never considered to be a fire hazard?
In Germany, Hamburg saw it fit and proper to honour their legend Uwe Seeler in bronze… but only by a giant foot! I guess that gets around any issues of bad resemblance.
In terms of great sporting moments, the choice of casting Zinedine Zidane’s World Cup final head butt in statue form is somewhat questionable you might think? If you travel to the Arab Museum of Modern Art, in Qatar, that’s what you can see outside.
It’s only right to bring the history of a club to the attention of future generations, as long as the final product does some justice to the person it’s supposed to depict. That’s the job of the sculptor of course but the sensitivities of living relatives of the subject must be observed and value for the money raised by fans or donated by the club or a generous benefactor for the purpose must be forthcoming.
However, I’m not a fan of those which are put up to players who have not even seen the other side of 50. As great as a Thierry Henry or a Tony Adams may have been, more time has to have passed in my eyes before putting someone on a literal pedestal for all to worship.
Some of those in place around the world bear little or no resemblance at all. The Samuel Eto’o fibreglass monstrosity erected back in his Cameroon homeland has to be seen to be believed. Sadly, it’s face looked more like Carlton Palmer than Samuel – a fact which could explain why someone lobbed the statue’s head off!
So what of Carrow Road? With the club in current financial rude health, it would be nice to think that a suitable sum of money from the top could be donated for one or two past heroes to be put in place.
Maybe Stephen Fry could make a gesture using some of the benefits from his most recent celeb memoir? He does have his own erection (more of a metal sheet) at the train station after all.
If not, then it’s down to us fans to ‘club’ together and donate a pound or two each. Anyone out there know a good sculptor?