Wigan back Billy Boston statue appeal

Billy Boston is rightly regarded as one of rugby league’s all-time greats.

The former winger, a native of Cardiff, is considered an adopted son of Wigan, and now the town is set to mark his career with a statue.

Now the team behind the £100,000 plans for the statue need help from members of the public in finding the funds to pay for it.

The bronze figure of the Welsh legend will be installed on a plinth in Wigan’s town centre next year. The statue will be the work of Hull-based artist Steve Winterburn.

Winterburn is also working on another project featuring Boston, which is the legends of rugby league statue which is set to be put in place outside Wembley Stadium.

There, Boston will feature alongside Eric Ashton, Gus Risman, Alex Murphy and Martin Offiah, some true giants of our game.

Boston’s playing days in the 1950s and 60s may feel like a long time ago, but the memories are stil fresh for many fans.

The man himself is full of pride that the town wants to recognise his achievements in this way. He has spent three-quarters of his life in the Lancashire rugby league hotbed, and has never felt like leaving.

“I feel so proud that people want to recognise my career like this. It’s a great honour,” he said.

“It’s a great honour. Wigan has had some great players over the years so to be recognised like this means so much.

“Wigan is home to me, the people have always been so welcoming and kind to me and my family.

“They’ve been fantastic and I’ve never ever thought about going back to Cardiff. They’ve treated my family so well, Wigan is such a special place with special people.”

The statue appeal is already being backed by some big names in Wigan, including current skipper Sean O’Loughlin, club chairman Ian Lenagan, coach Shaun Wane, and chairman of Wigan Athletic FC Dave Whelan.

Local politicians are also backing the plans, including former Labour MP Sir Ian McCartney, current Labour MEP Terry Wynn and Wigan council’s deputy leader David Molyneux.

Shaun Wane believes Boston “put Wigan on the map,” and filled inhabitants of the town with pride when he played.

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

“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.

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

Only older fans will remember Billy pulling on the famous cherry and white jersey, but one of those is current Wigan chairman Ian Lenagan.

“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 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.”

More details about how to contribute to the statue appeal can be found at www.buildbilly.org.

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