Happy 80th birthday Billy!

RUGBY league’s most famous son was as modest as ever today as birthday praise from current day stars was heaped on his legacy.

Josh Charnley and Joe Burgess were among the surprise guests to deliver a rugby ball-themed cake from the Wigan Evening Post to Billy Boston’s Hawkley Hall home.

Billy Boston with his 80th birthday cake presented by Joe Burgess and Josh Charnley

Billy Boston with his 80th birthday cake presented by Joe Burgess and Josh Charnley

The landmark celebrations come in the middle of a campaign to raise £100,000 to erect a statue of Billy in Wigan town centre, with donations already flooding in to make this possible.

His name is still as famous across town today as it was in his playing days all those years ago.

Humble as ever though, Billy spoke of how appreciative he is for all his birthday wishes as well as his pride in the a statue project.

“Oh, there have been better players than me,” he smiled.

“It’s an honour anyway though. I’ve been here since I was 19, I love the place.

“I’m very proud that this is happening, I love Wigan and the people who have been so great to me.

“As for the cake: it’s fantastic. Thank you very much indeed.” Two folk right behind the statue campaign are Josh and Joe.

The Wigan wingers are used to leaving other people star-struck these days but it was they who looked on in awe of Billy as they handed over the birthday cake, made by Jen Fletcher of Clover Cakes in Almond Brook, Standish.

“Billy is a legend at Wigan and we all look up to him coming up through the ranks,” said Josh.

“Me and Budgie are in the squad now and we’re trying, hopefully, to get to where Billy did.

“He’s done a lot of good things for Wigan and we’re just trying to be the same.

“He deserves everything he’s getting; he’s given a lot to the town so a statue is a great idea and it’ll be great to see.”

Former St Edmund Arroswmith high school student Joe, 19, added: “As soon as you hear Billy Boston’s name, it makes you turn.

“To be a winger, everyone says ‘aim to be like Billy Boston.’ I hope I get a statue like him when I’m older!

“Everyone knows who he is, that’s why he’s a Wigan legend and that’s why he’s getting a statue.”

It’s now over 60 years since Billy first stepped out in the famous cherry and white but he can still recall his move to Wigan from Tiger Bay in Wales.

However, he was keen to point out a few differences between then and now...

“I remember making my debut as a 19-year-old, I’d never been outside of Cardiff,” he said.

“It’s a different game these days, I could have had a cig on the wing when I played I had that much time!

“They’re a lot fitter these days, it’s very different. I played for my country and got £14 but it cost me £14 to get there. I was in the army and when I came to Wigan and they hardly trained, they trained twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday in the evening after work and then go straight in the pub. We used to get off the bus near Woolworths and walk over to Central Park, I never had a car like these fellas.”

Fans can now give donations to the Billy Boston Statue Trust based at the Warriors shop in the Grand Arcade, to Wigan Warriors at Central Park on Montrose Avenue and also to the Wigan Evening Post and Wigan Observer at Martland Mill.

Payments can be made direct to the bank, via the account “The Billy Boston Statue Trust”, number 33910660, sort code 20-96-37 and cheques can be made payable to The Billy Boston Statue Trust.