Jack Charlton statue planned for park where he was spotted by Leeds United talent scouts
A fundraising campaign for a permanent memorial to Leeds United legend Jack Charlton in the park where he played football as a boy has almost reached its target.
An appeal was launched in July to raise cash to commission a statue of Charlton in Hirst Park in his home town of Ashington, Northumberland.
Ashington Town Council has pledged to put £10,000 towards the appeal, which now stands at around £33,000.
Charlton, who was spotted by Leeds scouts while playing football in Hirst Park, later described the football pitches there as his and brother Bobby's first training grounds and "our very own Wembley."
Liam Lavery, deputy leader of Ashington Town Council, said an estimated £40,000 will be needed for the project.
Mr Lavery, who helped launch the appeal soon after Jack's death on July 10 , said: "Jack is an absolute legend in Ashington. Not just for being a great footballer, but also for being a lovely, decent man."
"Having a statue of Jack in Ashington will be a permanent reminder of what he achieved throughout his lifetime and is the least we can do to remember Jack’s successful life."
"I'm delighted that Ashington Town Council has agreed to put £10,000 towards the statue and it's a big step closer to making it happen."
Charlton, a World Cup winner with England and a former Republic of Ireland boss, had been diagnosed with lymphoma before his death aged 85.
He was born and brought up in Ashington and regularly visited the town and spent time chatting with locals.
Mr Lavery said: "I have spoken to Jack's widow Pat and she is so happy that we are doing this.
"It is definitely going to be in Hirst Park in Ashington, where Jack used to play football when he was growing up."
Mr Lavery said fundraising will continue and an Ashington Town Council working group will write a briefing to put out to potential sculptors for commission in the new year.
Jack Charlton spoke about Hirst Park in 2016 after it was named as one of 12 parks and cemeteries across the country to receive a share of £32 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.
He said: “The park was a precious place where me and Bobby learned our craft, training and playing for fun, before going on to join Leeds and Manchester United and then playing in the World Cup-winning England side in 1966.
“Hirst Park made it all possible for us and we would play all day if we could ... and we often did.”
Last month, Leeds United renamed the East Stand at Elland Road in memory of Charlton, the club’s record appearance maker.
Charlton made 773 appearances for the Whites during a one-club career.
He earned 35 caps for England and was part of the 1966 World Cup-winning squad under Sir Alf Ramsey, playing every match.
Click here to contribute to the GoFundMe appeal, which is intended for donations of up to £100.
Individuals, businesses or other organisations interested in making larger donations of £100 or more are asked to email [email protected]