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Leyton Orient favourite Laurie Cunningham honoured with statue in Coronation Gardens

PUBLISHED: 10:30 07 December 2017

Laurie Cunningham poses for a picture while a Leyton Orient player prior to the 1974-75 season (pic: PA Images).

Laurie Cunningham poses for a picture while a Leyton Orient player prior to the 1974-75 season (pic: PA Images).

PA Archive/PA Images

Fundraising campaign, started by Waltham Forest Council and backed by Leyton Orient and Kick It Out, saw Laurie Cunningham statue unveiled last week

The Laurie Cunningham statue in Coronation Gardens (pic: Leyton Orient Football Club). The Laurie Cunningham statue in Coronation Gardens (pic: Leyton Orient Football Club).

Leyton Orient, Waltham Forest Council and Kick It Out all played their part in helping honour the legacy of Laurie Cunningham last Thursday (November 30).

Back in March 2016, a fundraising campaign was started to build a statue in Leyton to celebrate the story of the O’s favourite.

Cunningham shone in E10 and was one of the first black players to play for England during the 1970s when racism was prevalent in the game.

Success at Brisbane Road led to a high-profile transfer to West Bromwich Albion where his performances earned him a Three Lions call-up in 1979 before a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid occurred – making him the first British player to join Los Blancos.

At Madrid, Cunningham won the double before spells with Manchester United, Sporting Gijon, Marseille, Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano and Charleroi followed.

Then in 1988, 14 years after his Orient debut, he was involved in the Wimbledon squad which won the 1988 FA Cup with a shock victory over Liverpool.

Unfortunately, Cunningham was killed in a car accident in Madrid in 1989 at the age of just 33.

Nevertheless, his feats in the 1970s and 80s paved the way for other black athletes across the country to enjoy sporting success.

The idea for the statue was initiated by the former leader of Waltham Forest Council, Councillor Chris Robbins and the renowned sculptor Graham Ibbeson was commissioned to design the statue.

The statue is modelled on a famous photograph of Cunningham, taken when he was in action for Real Madrid.

At approximately 2.2m tall, it has been constructed entirely from bronze and is now proudly located in the Coronation Gardens, a stone’s throw from Brisbane Road.

Hundreds turned out to witness the statue unveiling with Cunningham’s son Sergio paying tribute to his late father.

Orient chairman Nigel Travis expressed his delight at seeing the O’s great recognised when speaking to the official club website, he said: “I have seen many great players during my 58 years of supporting Leyton Orient, but Laurie had something special from the first time he pulled on an Orient shirt.

“For him to go on and represent West Bromwich Albion and then Real Madrid is something we have never had with anyone else.

“It is absolutely perfect that we are having this statue put up to remember arguably the most famous player in our history.”

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