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Trio of West Brom legends remembered

REMEMBERED: West Brom's iconic threesome

THEY WERE pioneers who paved the way for today’s black footballers in Britain – and now iconic West Bromwich Albion stars Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis are to be immortalised in a statue showing them celebrating the beautiful game.

Detailed plans have been unveiled for the ten-foot high bronze monument of the trio, expected to cost around £200,000, that will take centre stage in the heart of West Bromwich. It will be unveiled on July 15 2014 – the 25th anniversary of Laurie Cunningham’s death in a car crash in Madrid, Spain.

Renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson, who created the world-famous statue of comedian Eric Morecambe, will design the public work of art. The project is being led by Black Country businessman Jim Cadman with support from Sandwell Council.

Funds for the statue to be called The Celebration, will be raised through a number of schemes including the 1979 Club – an exclusive club for 500 Baggies fans who can be involved with the project.

The three players, who manager Ron Atkinson dubbed ‘the Three Degrees’ after the US soul trio, ran the gauntlet of ugly racist crowds that blighted English football in the 1970s.

But their faultless behaviour on and off the pitch and indomitable union led them to become role models for the next generation of black players.

During a press conference unveiling the statue project, footballer Garth Crooks sent this message: “Their contribution made the game all the more beautiful. Without their fortitude, black players of today may not have had the inspiration to succeed.”

French Guyana-born Regis and Batson, from Grenada, who have both been awarded MBEs for services to football said they felt deeply humbled by the project.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Cunningham’s first cousin Claudette Samuel with Brendon Batson and Cyrille Regis (right)

Praising the warm reception he always received from Albion fans, Regis said: “This statue is not just about the three of us. It represents the journey and progression made by black footballers and the acceptance and encouragement shown by Albion fans and supporters everywhere.”

Several members of Laurie Cunningham’s family were present. His mother Mavis has returned to Jamaica where she now lives in Constant Springs, Kingston.

Cunningham’s first cousin Claudette Samuel, whose daughter Collet was born in the year he died, said: “There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of Laurie and how he would be today. We very much appreciate a project like this that keeps his memory alive for everyone.”

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