A STATUE commemorating the miners who won the first football Work Cup more than 100 years ago has been lifted into place.

The three-metre high bronze statue was unveiled on the village green in West Auckland, near Bishop Auckland, this afternoon (Tuesday, March 12), under the watchful eye of sculptor Nigel Boonham.

Work on the plans started in 2009, which was the centenary of the year a team of miners from West Auckland went to Italy to compete for the Sir Thomas Lipton trophy.

The project stalled while funding was secured, but today those who helped make it happen said it was worth the wait.

Mr Boonham, of London, said: “It is a really nice story. People were surprised when I told them what I was doing, they had never heard of it.

“I did research and put a lot of thought into the design. There are hidden meanings. I really hope people like it.”

West Auckland, an amateur side made up of miners, was 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 onto retain it two years later.

The 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).

The statue 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.

Coun Yorke said: “It is a fitting memorial to the village’s achievements and it is another link in the regeneration of West Auckland.”