Friday 24 April ~
If Alan Shearer manages to keep Newcastle in the Premier League this season, not only will he have the adulation of the Toon Army forever more, he will also have a bronze statue erected outside St James' Park at the cost of £60,000. The statue, presumably to feature Shearer in the arm-raised salute that was trademarked for use on keyrings and umbrellas among other things, was originally commissioned by ex-chairman Freddy Shepherd. But owner Mike Ashley will only part with the cash once he is still able to watch Premier League football again next season.
This would be the latest in a long series of statues to be put outside grounds recognising players' achievements. Recently, a statue of Johnny Haynes was unveiled at Craven Cottage and a figure commemorating World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore was erected outside the new Wembley Stadium. Sir Matt Busby also has a statue dedicated to him at Old Trafford, and former Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe has one outside the Stadium of Light, complete with his famous “jazz hands”, shown when running across the pitch in celebration of victory in the 1973 FA Cup final. The most eye catching figure of all is dedicated to Tom Finney outside Deepdale, the home of Preston North End, where he spent his entire playing career. Located in the middle of a fountain, it is based on a famous photograph of Finney trying to make a slide tackle on a waterlogged pitch.
All such figures tend to be straight-forward representations of their subjects – there has not yet been a trend for Henry Moore-style abstraction. But there was a bizarre bit of artwork in honour of Southampton's longest-serving manager, Ted Bates, erected briefly outside St Mary's Stadium. The first statue, which cost £112,000, was ridiculed by fans and the media. Many said that the disproportioned figure resembled comedian Jimmy Krankie, rather than the man who was known as “Mr Southampton” and is probably the most revered figure in the club's history. The statue was duly dismantled. Its replacement, which bears much more of a likeness to Bates, cost a further £120,000 – still a trifling sum when set against the profligate spending that pushed the club into administration this week.
If there is ever to be a statue put up outside Premier League headquarters, they could always consider a group scene featuring the Glazers, Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour, with no football in sight. Sam Inkersole