WORK has finally started on a statue commemorating miners who won the first football World Cup more than 100 years ago.

The idea had been to build a statue in the centre of West Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, in 2009 to mark the centenary of the team’s famous victory in Italy.

However, the scheme stalled while funding was secured but today (January 25) work officially began on the statue plinth on the village green.

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Organisers said that despite the delay it was still an important milestone to celebrate.

Oliver Graham, from Groundwork North East, the charity managing the build, said: “West Auckland winning the cup was such a phenomenal feat that it should be recognised for all time.

“This statue, which has been created by a nationally renowned artist, will not only mark that achievement but also be an attraction to bring people into the area.”

The 3m high bronze statue is being built by Nigel Boonham and is due to be unveiled on its new plinth in West Auckland in June.

West Auckland, an amateur side made up of miners, were invited by tea-magnate and philanthropist Sir Thomas Lipton to play in an international tournament in Turin in 1909.

The team astounded all comers by winning the trophy, which is known as the first World Cup, and went on to retain it two years later.

This project has been led by West Auckland County Councillors Rob Yorke and Andy Turner who have each given money to the project from their neighbourhood budgets, which are provided by the Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action partnership (AAP).

Councillor Turner joked: “If they wanted to the England team could wear three stars on their shirts for each World Cup they have won, two of them would belong to West Auckland.”

Councillor Yorke said: “West Auckland is proud of its football heritage and this statue will be an everlasting monument to their achievements."

The statue has cost £167,374 with funding provided by West Auckland Parish Council, the Arts Council, the councillors and Section 106 agreements made with local housing developers.