A Brief History Of English Football’s Statues

Ollie Irish

6th, October 2010


By Ed Barrett

The new Peter Osgood statue at the Bridge

A statue of Chelsea legend Peter Osgood was unveiled this week at Stamford Bridge in the presence of, among others, Ossie’s wife Lynn, Frank Lampard and the current Mr Chelsea, JT. Most Blues fans – or rather, those who supported the club before 2004 and have heard of Peter Osgood – are pleased that Roman Abramovich has put money aside to honour the club’s heritage, even if he is spending considerably more on building a subterranean private nightclub under the stadium. As for the statue itself, reaction has been mixed, as it usually is in these cases. Some think something more dynamic would have been more suitable.

But it’s dignified and looks good against its understated background, even if it bears more than a passing resemblance to Bobby Moore. Which got me thinking about Bobby Moore’s statues. Which got me wondering whether they ever get it right. So I had a look at some of England’s other football statues, to see how they shaped up…

Who: Duncan Edwards
Where: Dudley town centre
Is it any good? Very nice indeed. Local lad “Big Duncan” in action, and the paint adds character (the Romans painted their statues too, you know). Somehow embodies both his physical power and his personal modesty.

Who: Billy Wright
Where: Mollineux
Is it any good? It is. The Wolves and England legend looks purposeful to the point of aggression, as if he’s about to chin some cheeky Hungarian for leaving him flat on his back. All good stuff. Are all Black Country statues painted?

Who: Johnny Haynes
Where: Craven Cottage
Is it any good? Yes. A lovely tribute to the former Fulham and England skipper and first ton-a-week pro. Nice quiff too.

Who: Billy Bremner
Where: Elland Road
Is it any good? The jubilant pose could also be mistaken for a mutant form of Morris dancing (confirming fears that the fiery Scot went native on English soil). But it captures something of the wee man’s borderline psychosis when he pulled on a football shirt, and the Leeds faithful love it. NB: A Don Revie statue is on its way, and not before time.

Who: Brian Clough
Where: Derby, Nottingham, Middlesbrough
Is it any good? They, actually – there are three of the boogers, as Cloughie might have said. The Borough statue is of the young Brian playing for his home town club, and is pleasingly and uncharacteristically modest. The ones in Derby and Nottingham (the latter with right-hand man Peter Taylor) have one very odd feature in common: In both, Clough looks startlingly like Billy Davies, who is not only the current Forest boss, but also the latter manager of arch-rivals Derby County, just like Old Big ’Ead, in fact.

Who: Stanley Matthews
Where: Britannia Stadium
Is it any good? Very good, and it looks like him too. As with Clough, there are three statues, representing Stan at three different stages if his lengthy career. The difference is that these three statues are all on the same plinth, and show him dribbling and shooting. If the Chapman brothers did that in one of their sculptures it would be called obscene, but the good people of Stoke seem to be more broad-minded.

Who: George Best, Denis Law, Bobby Charlton
Where: Old Trafford
Is it any good? Denis Law appears to be flanked by Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe (disguised in a Beatle wig) and fellow serial killer John Christie (disguised by removing his glasses). No wonder he is signalling for help.

Who: Matt Busby
Where: Old Trafford
Is it any good? Good likeness, authentically baggy trews, and a slightly camp hand on hip. A worthy tribute outside the ground where he built two great teams and owned the souvenir shop.

Who: Bill Shankly
Where: Anfield
Is it any good? Aggressive and slightly scary, like the man himself. Captures him perfectly, and the scarf is a masterstroke.

Who: Bobby Moore
Where: Wembley and West Ham
Is it any good? Better late than never, the solo statue at the new Wembley is imposing and impressive – especially the thighs. Facially it looks like, er, one of the Tremeloes (well, at least they were from Essex too). Never mind, you can’t have everything. The statue at West Ham might have made more sense at Wembley, featuring as it does England’s three Hammers – Peters, Hurst and Moore – but also Everton’s Ray Wilson, the latter included for historical accuracy (the scene is an Iwo Jima style concoction from photographs of the 1966 celebrations). All in all, a nice idea well-executed, even if the man holding the cup aloft is Chelsea’s John Hollins.

Who: Alf Ramsey
Where: Corner of Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way
Is it any good? There’s something poignant about this. Ramsey, like Bobby Moore, was forgotten by the Football Association in the decades following the triumph of ’66. But whereas the FA made amends with Moore’s statue at Wembley, there is still no place for Sir Alf. This humble memorial near the Ipswich ground commemorates the man who led them to their sole league title. Surely another at Wembley – possibly of him angrily preventing his players from swapping shirts with the Argentine “animals” – is the very least he deserves.