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Pride of town as statue unveiled
10:05am Monday 14th October 2013 in News
STATUE UNVEILED: David Ticer Thomas, left, Tim Healy, Sir John Hall and ball girl Jessica Ingleby, nine
After years of planning, a statue dedicated to West Auckland FC winning the first World Cup, then retaining it two years later, was unveiled at the weekend. Duncan Leatherdale was among those welcoming it
FIVE years ago, on a wet winter’s night, six or so people huddled together in West Auckland FC’s clubhouse to plan a commemoration of an amazing feat.
After much discussion, the group of businessmen, club officials, councillors and residents decided to have a statue built to celebrate the centenary of their club winning the first World Cup, a date that was looming in the next spring.
Four years and £167,374 later, a statue celebrating the remarkable achievement of those hardy miners who became unlikely global victors has been unveiled on the village green.
Much has changed since the statue’s conception, but two things remained evident at the unveiling on Saturday afternoon – the pride of West Aucklandians in their ancestors’ success, and the weather.
The drizzle failed to dampen the delight of the hundred or so residents and officials gathered around the bronze statue atop a stone base.
It was unveiled by actor Tim Healy, who cheerily greeted the crowd with “It’s warmer in Benidorm”, former Newcastle United owner and North-East entrepreneur Sir John Hall, and former England international David Ticer Thomas, whose same-named grandfather captained West Auckland in the 1909 final.
Mr Thomas junior, who enjoyed a professional playing career for numerous teams, including Middlesbrough, said his grandfather would have been proud. He said: “My grandfather died when I was 13, but he told me the story.
He was very proud of it and I think he would have loved this statue.”
Healy played the part of Charlie Hogg in the 1982 film A Captain’s Tale, the story of West Auckland’s win, and said it was the role that launched his career, winning him a part in the hit series Auf Wiedershen, Pet.
He said: “It was the bestest job I ever had, 13 lads going to Italy to play football and getting paid for it.
“I want to thank West Auckland; every time I drive by that statue I cry ‘yes’.”
Watching the unveiling was Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowdon, who said: “What these men did epitomises the trait of County Durham, determination.”
Also in the crowd was Terry Robinson who, while working in Egypt, ensured that a video of A Captain’s Tale was placed in the new library in Alexandria.
County councillors Rob Yorke and Andy Turner, who led the project, said the statue was worth the wait.
While the statue is now finished, apart from the installation of some lights, the celebrations will carry on.
Sir John Hall challenged the politicians attending to lead a campaign to have a stamp commemorating West’s win issued in time for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
More to sculpture than meets eye
SCULPTOR Nigel Boonham is keen for people to know the reasoning behind his creation – two bronze figures on a plinth made with stone from local quarry Dunhouse.
He said he knew little about football or mining before he started, both of which he wanted to incorporate in the piece.
He said: “I wanted the statue to be a bit ambiguous, meaning different things as you looked at it from different places.”
Both figures, one standing, his leg raised to boot the ball, the other lying prone at his feet, share the same face, modelled on the man in the front of the 1909 team photo. Mr Boonham does not know his name, but it is thought it could be captain David Ticer Thomas.
The horizontal figure is modelled to look like a miner at a coal seam, and a keeper diving for the ball.
Both would have worn flat caps and shorts.
The standing figure’s raised foot connecting with the ball is at the same height as the roof of the coal seam in the West Auckland Colliery pit.
There is more to it than first meets the eye.
‘Folk heroes should never be forgotten’
JOHN WOTHERSPOON, commercial director of Lipton Teas, said the story of West Auckland FC and their “folk heroes” should never be forgotten.
Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Liptons, was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and in 1909 he agreed with Italian King Victor Emmanuel III to put on an international football tournament in Turin.
Invitations were sent to all the football associations in the world, but the English FA refused to send a team, so the amateurs of West Auckland FC were invited (the story that they were mistaken for Woolwich Arsenal is untrue).
The miners scraped together money to fund the trip, travelling by train from Darlington to London, then by boat to France, before another rail journey to Turin.
They beat German side Stutggarter Sportfreunde 2-0, a score they repeated the next day over Swiss team FC Winterthur in the final.
In 1911, West Auckland returned to Italy with three of the 1909 squad members remaining, where they retained the trophy by beating FC Zurich 2-0 and hammering hosts Juventus 6-1 in the April 12 final.
On a side note, had Pickles the dog not found the Jules Rimet Trophy stolen while England hosted the World Cup in 1966, West’s trophy would have been used as a substitute.
The West trophy was stolen in 1994, a replica replacing it at West Auckland Workingmen’s Club.
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