Boston statue gets strong support

Billy Boston
Billy Boston

SOME of the powerhouses of Wigan sport have thrown their weight behind a campaign to erect a statue of Billy Boston.

They believe that the gesture, exclusively revealed in the Wigan Observer this week, would be a “fitting symbol” to a man who has given so much to the town over the last six decades.

He served Wigan rugby league with distinction between 1953 and 1968 and there hasn’t been a player since who hasn’t known of his legacy.

That still rings true today with current Warriors captain Sean O’Loughlin revealing that the whole squad is in awe of what Billy did for the club.

O’Loughlin said: “We all know what he achieved for Wigan and how ahead of his time he was as a player.

“He epitomises the whole history of the club. He’s iconic to everyone, from people’s grandfathers who watched him play right down to young kids.

“I think my lad would know who Billy Boston is just from hearing people talk about him. In the rugby world, he bridges the generation gap.

“None of the current squad will have seen him play but as a bloke we’ve all seen him around the club, he comes to most games.

“He’s a genuinely nice fella, he does a lot for the club coming to games and as an ambassador at events, he always has time to speak to people.

“I’ve seen lots of footage of him scoring tries and just stepping over people, he was fantastic.

“For a statue to go up in town, I don’t think anyone could say anything against it being Billy Boston.”

O’Loughlin’s sentiments are echoed throughout the club.

Warriors’ head coach Shaun Wane described Billy as someone who has “put Wigan on the map” and despite his Welsh heritage as being very much a Wiganer.

“Everyone seems to know Billy, wherever we go he gets the loudest cheer,” said the Wigan boss.

“I’m very proud he’s played for Wigan and I’m very proud to coach the club he played for.

“He is a great ambassador for the club, he’s a proper Wiganer now and proud of it.

“I know how much he and his wife Joan love the town and the club and how much it means to them.

“When we’ve had victories in the past he’s always been genuinely pleased for us which is fantastic.

“It’s only right he has a statue, he is the most famous person to play for Wigan and it’s a superb tribute to Billy, it’ll be a real lasting memory in the town and he justifies it.”

Behind-the-scenes work has already been under way on the statue for several months to create a bronze figure of Billy which will be installed on a plinth in Wigan town centre next year.

But the team behind the £100,000 project is now ready to go public - with a call on adoring Wigan fans to help pay for it.

Steve Winterburn, whose worldwide projects have taken him to places such as India, Peru, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Australia and Ethiopia, is the man tasked with creating the statue.

Steve is also working on another statue featuring Billy, which is due to be installed outside Wembley Stadium, and will also include four other legends – Eric Ashton, Gus Risman, Alex Murphy and Martin Offiah.

Not many at the DW Stadium can fully remember Billy’s playing days but the Warriors owner and chairman Ian Lenegan is someone who grew up during them.

“He was my favourite player ever that has played for Wigan,” he said.

“It is exactly right that we should have a statue to celebrate his life.

“The nice thing is that is Billy is still around and that young wingers such as Josh Charnley can see him and the contribution he makes to Wigan rugby league club as well as being aware of his heritage.

“When I was a 10-year-old back in the 50s, I was watching Billy when he was absolutely in his prime and he is the first and best rugby league player I ever think of. He’s very special indeed as far as Wigan is concerned.”

Billy’s legacy is so strong that it doesn’t just stretch across rugby league, but the whole of the town.

As a person he is recognised everywhere he goes and is thought of just as highly today as he was in the 1950s and 60s.

Despite being a rugby man, Billy has also become a big Wigan Athletic supporter and is good friends with Dave Whelan.

The Latics chairman has been close with the 79-year-old for many years and marked Billy’s life himself by naming a stand after him at the DW Stadium.

“There’s only one Billy B,” said Mr Whelan affectionately.

“He truly deserves to have this statue, he was an outstanding star for Wigan and for rugby league generally.

“He is a great character, he’s always been very, very honest and when he came to Wigan he seemed to love it.

“Everyone regards him as a true Wiganer, he comes to as many football matches as we can – we always ask him to come to every match.

“I used to walk behind him when he went to Central Park, I lived in Poolstock and used to follow him up to the ground.

“I used to worship Billy B, he was exactly the same then as he is now. He’s never been anything else except a gentleman.”