Delayed 'Three Degrees' statue to be unveiled in March

Image source, Sandwell Council
Image caption,
A clay model of the statue was first unveiled in 2013

A statue to honour three West Bromwich Albion footballers "who opened the gates for black players" is set to be unveiled in March, organisers said.

The Celebration Statue commemorates Brendon Batson, Cyrille Regis and Laurie Cunningham - dubbed 'The Three Degrees' - who played in the 1970s.

Organisers said it can now be finished after receiving £38,000 from the Professional Footballers' Association.

The tribute is set to stand in West Bromwich town centre.

Jim Cadman, from the Celebration Statue initiative, said he was "delighted" the statue could be finished after a six-year campaign. The statue suffered a series of setbacks when a 2014 finish date and a new one for April this year failed to materialise.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Laurie Cunningham was the first British footballer to play for Real Madrid

He added: "The three players opened the gates to allow black players into football at a time when they were locked out.

"They fought against prejudice and bile on the terraces."

When Regis, Cunningham and Batson played together in 1978, it was the first time a top club had regularly fielded three black players. Manager Ron Atkinson dubbed them 'The Three Degrees'.

Image caption,
Brendon Batson, pictured here in the 1970s, is known for his tireless campaigning against racism in football.
Image source, PA
Image caption,
Cyrille Regis during West Bromwich Albion pre-season photocall at the Hawthorns, July 29th 1978

Regis, 59, died in January from a heart attack. The striker scored 112 goals in 297 appearances for the Baggies.

The 10ft (3m) figures of the players in bronze by sculptor Graham Ibbeson will be unveiled in New Square.

Organisers said the unveiling will coincide with the 41st anniversary of the 'Three Degrees' playing together for West Bromwich Albion for the first time in March 1978.

PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "The PFA has been determined to get this important tribute to The Three Degrees over the line and mark their great contribution to football."

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