I was genuinely saddened this week to read about the possibility of our wonderful statue of World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks potentially being moved from Stoke-on-Trent to Leicester.
When I say ‘our’ statue, I know full well that it actually belongs to the Gordon Banks Monument Committee. which was started and funded by Irish author and Banks fan Don Mullan.
However, I say ‘our’ statue because I honestly feel the wonderful sculpture – crafted with the help of Stoke City fans by Potteries-born artist and friend of mine Andrew Edwards – belongs here in our city.
As I understand it, the statue was originally intended to be one of three likenesses of England’s greatest goalkeeper – echoing the sculptures of Sir Stanley Matthews CBE at the Britannia Stadium. Like Stan’s statue, they were intended to sit on a plinth at the home of Stoke City but, for whatever reasons, the other statues never materialised and neither did the plinth.
Having failed to reach an agreement with Stoke City, Mr Mullan has held talks with Banksy’s other club – Leicester City – about the possibility of it moving to the Foxes’ King Power Stadium.
Local newspaper the Leicester Mercury is backing this option, along with former Leicester City players, while The Sentinel is campaigning to keep Banksy’s statue in the Potteries.
As Mr Mullan rightly points out, it does seem ludicrous that the statue of one of the world’s best-ever goalkeepers isn’t taking pride of place at a football stadium.
Well, there’s one just off the D-Road, Don, and the team there plays in red and white.
That’s where the Gordon Banks statue was intended for and that’s where it should end up, in my humble opinion.
Over the last 15 years, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Gordon Banks, who has attended many of the major awards ceremonies The Sentinel stages each year.
No matter who else is in the room, irrespective of whichever sporting VIPs are there to present the prizes – the biggest cheer of the night is always reserved for this giant of our national game.
If you sit and chat to Banksy, he is a lovely, warm and friendly bloke – always happy to reminisce, give his opinion on current teams and players, have his picture taken with awe-struck guests or sign autographs (I’ve got one in my office).
The people of the Potteries, not simply Stoke City fans, hold him in the highest regard which, I suppose, isn’t surprising when you think he has lived here for so long. How disappointing, then, that a venture which aimed to honour the brilliance of this Stoke City and England legend should result in an unseemly tug of war between the Potteries and Leicester.
For goodness’ sake, I reckon the cost of sorting this mess out is about the equivalent of your average Premier League player’s weekly wage.
The people I feel most sorry for here are sculptor Andy and Banksy himself – both of whom agree the statue ought to remain in Stoke-on-Trent.
That in itself is surely a pretty powerful argument.
Andy, the man who sculpted Sir Stan’s statue and the wonderful Staffordshire Saxon in the foyer at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, has made his feelings clear.
He points out that Stoke City fans, of which he is one, helped to craft the statue and that Banksy himself is now very much an ‘adopted-Stokie’.
Andy proposes a simple solution and one which would surely be acceptable to all parties – that of a second cast of the sculpture being made and this one being placed outside the home of Leicester City.
He’s even said he’ll work on the project for nothing.
But perhaps the last word should go to Banksy himself. He said: “When the statue was being made. I was told by the guy who was paying for it and people at Stoke City that it would be placed outside the ground. I don’t really know what’s happened since then. That is where I’d like it to be, as this is where I’m living.”
Who are we, then, to argue with the bloke who made THAT save? Now, how do I sign The Sentinel’s petition?
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Friday in The Sentinel