Sunderland fans bid to have statue of Charlie Hurley created for 80th birthday

Martin O'Neill is leading a group of fans for a Charlie statue.
Martin O'Neill is leading a group of fans for a Charlie statue.
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Sunderland could be getting a new statue honouring its own King Charlie, if the plans of a group of diehard Sunderland fans come true.

City businessman Martin O’Neill and a bunch of friends will be canvassing fellow supporters this weekend on the possibility of creating a statue of the Black Cats’ ‘Player of the Century’ – Charlie Hurley.

Martin believes a statue of the man dubbed ‘the best centre-half in the world’ would be a fitting tribute as he celebrates a landmark birthday in October.

“Charlie Hurley turns 80 this year,” he said.

“Virtually every other city in the country has a statue to one of its heroes – there’s a statue of Phil Lynott outside his favourite bar in Dublin and Newcastle has the Jackie Milburn statue, so why not one of Charlie?”

At the moment, the group includes a handful of people but Martin explained the aim was to gauge how much interest there was before pressing ahead with the plan.

It doesn’t get much better than that as a footballer. Sunderland, to me, was immense.

Charlie Hurley

“There’s me, there’s a couple of lads I go to the games with, and I talked to a few people after the match on Tuesday night,” he said.

“We are planning to hold an informal meeting after the match against Manchester United on Saturday at St Mary’s Church Hall in Bridge Street.

“It’ll be no more than ten minutes, just a chance for people to leave their phone numbers and email addresses if they think this is a goer.

“If there is sufficient interest after the game, we will speak to the various supporters’ groups then we can then approach the club.”

If enough people are interested, fund-raising will begin in earnest.

“I have been told about £75,000 to £80,000 would be enough,” said Martin.

A Love Supreme editor Martyn McFadden said: “Why not have a statue of Charlie Hurley? He was a great player for Sunderland, a great servant of the club.

“I have been lucky enough to meet him and few times and interview him – he is probably the biggest man I have ever interviewed, in terms of both stature and personality.

“He is a lovely guy and it would be a fitting tribute.”

Sunderland Supporters’ Association chairman George Forster said he could not think of any player who deserved a statue more, adding: “We have had some wonderful players but Charlie is my hero number one.”

And the man himself is over the moon at being immortalised in the city where he played for 12 years.

“I would love it,” said Charlie, who played for SAFC between 1957 and 1969, “as long as they make me look good.

“It doesn’t get much better than that as a footballer. Sunderland, to me, was immense.

“It was a big chunk of my life and I loved the place.”