Aidan Smith: Stone me, Fergie’s statue is a lookalike
WE HAD some fun in the office on Friday, in the countdown to the unveiling of the Sir Alex Ferguson statue, wondering what kind of pose he’d be striking.
Would it be his non-marking of Billy McNeill in the 1969 Old Firm Scottish Cup final? Or the head-butt he administered to Pat Stanton – a future managerial assistant, no less – while playing for Falkirk against Hibs a few seasons later? Of course not. The statue is outside Old Trafford and so celebrates his great reign as the big bossman of Manchester Utd, not his less-than-glorious career at centre-forward.
In the end, the sculptor played safe with a touchline study in bronze, arms crossed. Is it a good likeness? My first reaction was, not at all – Fergie will go mental. I tried, in vain, to think of the name of the journeyman-actor the effigy resembled, ITV pot-boilers a speciality. The only thing that told you it was Sir Alex was the zippy pullover he likes to wear under his coat from November through to March. But the more I looked at it, the more it looked like him.
The statue improves even more when glimpsed side-on. The expression on the big Govan fizzog is inscrutable but it’s definitely his. You can’t tell whether he’s serenely gazing across the Theatre of Dreams or starting to get a bit narked with himself for spending £28.1 million on Juan Sebastian Veron. This is surely what all art should do, tell a different story each time you visit it. A good job, then. Although, regarding football statuary, it’s about bloody time.
There have been some shockers. Statues generally ain’t what they used to be and this may be because the toga – which displayed the centurion’s heroic calves – has gone out of fashion and troosers are difficult to get right. The toned footballer in shorts should therefore be relished by sculptors but, at Leeds United, Billy Bremner looks like he’s fleeing a burning building with his hair on fire – that is if you accept the statue looks anything like him. At Derby County, in long breeks, Brian Clough and Peter Taylor are too Gilbert & George-creepy. There’s something wrong with their eyes, just as there’s something wrong with Tony Adams’ nose down at Arsenal.
In a Madrid square a while back there was a ten-foot Cristano Ronaldo. It didn’t stay, having been erected for some promotional razzmatazz, and a good thing, too. He’s a great player but it’s too soon for his statue. And I can’t believe he was happy with it. The neck was all right – long and straight and bombastic – but why had the artist given Ronaldo the chunky legs of a Real Madrid superstar from another era, the supreme bauchle himself, Ferenc Puskas? Meanwhile, in Naples, conversely and perversely, Diego Maradona’s legs are too thin.
The best football statues – and this is an exceedingly small club – are of static subjects. When the sculptor tries to capture movement it rarely works (viz the Bremner). At Sunderland, Bob Stokoe is supposed to be setting off on his mad dash across the Wembley pitch, trilby and all. Frozen, though, he just looks mad. Back at Old Trafford, they’ve had two goes at Denis Law. “One of them sort of looks like me,” the Lawman told me last year, “from the back at least.” At Southampton, a second go at Ted Bates was ordered after an outcry from the fans who’d part-funded the work. They hadn’t asked for Ted Rogers, the unctuous game-show host, with over-sized arms.
But Bates Mk 1 wasn’t the most stupid football statue. The headbutting Zinadine Zidane wins that prize, and it isn’t even recreating a proper butt (that’s head-on-head, what at my keelie school was called a “panelling”).
I didn’t want to see Fergie’s panelling skills commemorated and this statue will do fine, although I can’t help wondering how he’d have reacted if the artist had been a bit more bold. I don’t mean Pizzagate, with Sir Alex wiping Ashley Cole’s Margherita topping from his suit, or a depiction of the hairdryer technique.
How about the great man carefully unwrapping a piece of his trusty Bazooka Joe bubblegum or, better still, tapping his watch and narrowing his eyes at the fourth official. It’s a look that can turn you to stone.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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