The Worst Best? Sculptor hits back at critics of football statue

The creator of the George Best statue has come to the defence of his craftsmanship, after a number of people on social media mocked the monument.

By Adam Kula
Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 5:25 pm
Sculptor Tony Currie beside his statue of George Best

Tony Currie, the west Belfast boxer-turned-sculptor behind the artwork, said that so long Best’s family is happy, he considers it a job well done.

Mr Currie, aged 56, said of his critics that some people always “just want to have a go”.

The statue has been several years in the making, and was finally unveiled in front of a crowd at the new Olympia leisure centre in south Belfast, close to the west stand of Windsor Park, at 10.30am on Wednesday.

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Made of bronze (with stainless steel foundations underground), it is life-sized and has deliberately not been placed on a pedestal in order to reflect the man-of-the-people reputation Best enjoyed.

While those who the News Letter spoke to at the unveiling were generally positive, social media has seen a number of detractors voice their views.

At the unveiling, onlooker Ray Allen had said: “It seems to be quite a good likeness... better than the Ronaldo one.” This is a reference to the catastrophic bust of Cristiano Ronaldo unveiled in 2017 at Madeira airport (and later replaced after much derision).

But some social media users disagreed. A Neil Turner, writing on the News Letter’s own Facebook page, said: “Nothing could be worse than the Ronaldo statue but that George Best one is close.”

BBC broadcaster Joel Taggart wrote on Twitter: “Please tell me the George Best statue is better in the ‘flesh’ than it is in the photographs.”

And Twitter user @MarkOHare83 wrote: “ I’m not one for negativity – I believe the idea to have a statue at Windsor Park is a great tribute to GB. But it definitely deserved to look better than this.”

Some people compared the statue to actor Dolph Lundgren, fellow NI legend Pat Jennings, and Mr Tumnus from ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’.

Mr Currie was having none of it.

He told the News Letter that he had encountered someone getting a photo taken of them putting their arm around the statue. But this person then went on to tell Mr Currie the monument was “too small”.

“I said: ‘Well you wouldn’t be able to get a photo with your arm round him if he was on a pedestal’,” Mr Currie responded.

“People like to hear themselves talk I think. It was good enough for Barbara [Best’s sister], and superfan Robert Kennedy [who was also at the launch]. So that’s good enough for me.

“The Ronaldo one was just terrible. I don’t think ours is in that category. Ours is kind of ok in that respect. There was one woman this morning who said’ he is not as good looking as I remember’ – but she’s an uber-fan, you know.

“I know there’s folk out there who just want to have a go. But let them talk, you know. Everybody’s got an opinion.

“People can knock it. But the family is happy, the fans are happy. That’s all that matters.”

He said to commission such a statue would cost roughly £60,000. But the fundraising (which came entirely from fan contributions) amounted to only several thousand, meaning his own costs were not covered for the project.

In fact, leaving his time aside, he put in about £6,000 himself towards the materials.