FUND-raising for the statue of Wigan rugby league legend Billy Boston is in the “home straight” thanks to a huge donation from Dave Whelan.
The Wigan Athletic life president made the tremendous gesture this week on behalf of the club and its fans, marking the first anniversary of the launch of the appeal by handing over a cheque for £33,000.
The amount is a third of the overall target of £100,000 and almost doubles what was already in the pot to £67,000.
Those behind the Billy Boston Statue Trust charity now say this puts them well on course to having it built, with the location already revealed as Believe Square in Wigan town centre.
Supporters have spent that last 12 months holding various fund-raisers, raising thousands to put into the pot.
And the additional funding from the recently retired Latics chairman provides the biggest boost yet.
Billy Boston is a legendary figure for Wigan rugby league club and I have done this on behalf of all the supporters of Wigan Athletic because we appreciate what he has done for the town of WiganDave Whelan
Billy met with Mr Whelan, who himself will be the subject of a statue at the DW Stadium, to thank him personally for the donation, describing it as “wonderful”.
Paying tribute to the impact the 80-year-old has had in Wigan, Mr Whelan said: “Billy B is Wigan folklore.
“He represents Wigan and has done for a long time. He is one of the best players who has ever played for Wigan Rugby League Club and fully deserves the honour of a statue.
“I thought that the fund for it was going a bit slower than it should have been at the start, so I have made a donation in the name of Wigan Athletic on behalf of everyone at the club. We are not simply football, we support rugby as well.
“I have always loved rugby as much as football and used to go and see Billy play. In fact when he first signed back in the 1950s we only lived a few hundred yards apart in Poolstock and I used to walk up Chapel Lane to Central Park with him to matches.
“So I have known him for a long time and respect him for what he did for Wigan and what a man he is now. He is such a gentleman. He comes to all the Wigan Athletic home games and he is a great ambassador for the town.”
The Trust fund for Billy’s statue has seen support from right across the borough and the whole rugby league world.
The Welshman, who lives in Hawkley Hall with wife Joan, has been humbled by the support for the project.
“When I came from Cardiff I was made really welcome in Wigan, I class this as my home, it’s brilliant,”
“This gentleman here (Mr Whelan) has done wonders for Wigan.
“When you mention Wigan, you mention the soccer and the rugby; two great teams, it’s fantastic.
“And it is all down to this gentleman.”