New Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard isn’t the only new sight at the club’s Twickenham Stoop ground this summer, with a 6ft 3in model bear having appeared at the club’s headquarters in a bid to create a new era of aggressive defence.
The new feature was revealed by South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who lifted the lid on the first big left-field move of Gustard’s reign – the man was after all responsible for Saracens’ ‘Wolfpack’ defensive system, which at one point saw him take a real wolf to training.
And now the 42-year-old has provided Quins with their very own spirit animal.
That got us thinking. What are some of the best or wackiest statues built outside sports grounds or in memory of famous former players down the years?
Last week we brought you the five best tributes to some legendary athletes. Here, because it’s always more exciting and hilarious, are the five worst.
Michael Jackson was a treasured and talented musician, one of the best artists ever. On the other hand he also had questionable mental issues and interests later in life. But what if any affiliation did he ever have to the game of football?
Well, he attended a game once. Taking in the delights of Fulham v Wigan Athletic in 1999 at Craven Cottage.
Jackson was a friend of then Cottagers owner Mohamed Al Fayed. Following Jackson’s death in 2009, Al Fayed commissioned a statue with the plan of siting it inside his luxury department store Harrods in Knightsbridge. After Harrods’ sale the new owners didn’t want it and Al Fayed instead arranged for the statue to be placed outside Craven Cottage, naturally.
Not only was the placing of it outside a football ground questionable, it was also tacky, with it made out of plaster and resin. It was unveiled outside the ground on April 3, 2011, leading most fans to believe it was an April Fools joke.
In light of the scathing criticism that followed, Al Fayed said: “If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.”
It was removed by new owner Shad Khan in 2013.
Not only is the statue outside the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium utterly atrocious, but it will forever be tinged by scandal following the embarrassing end of Jerry Richardson’s ownership.
Richardson left the team in utter disgrace. The 82-year-old’s sale of the franchise in May this year was prompted by a Sports Illustrated report last December that revealed at least four former team employees had received significant financial settlements related to his inappropriate workplace behavior and comments, including suggestive remarks and acts.
The NFL also fined him $2.75 million on his way out after an investigation corroborated the report.
As for the gaudy statue, new Panthers owner David Tepper apparently and reluctantly agreed to keep it in place when he bought the team.
“Um… I’m contractually obligated to keep that statue as it is,” he said before team officials abruptly ended his first news conference.
There’s no doubt Scotsman Andy Murray has done enough in his career to earn a statue built in his honour – particularly at Britain’s home of tennis Wimbledon, where he became the first home winner of the men’s tournament in 2013 since Fred Perry in 1936. He repeated the feat in 2016.
Players who reign supreme in tennis are typically showered with trophies and medals, but there’s a very different tradition in place at China’s Shanghai Rolex Masters tournament where champions are bequeathed with something a tad different: a terracotta statue of themselves.
Tennis superstar Murray learned about this prize the hard way when he won the competition in 2010 and was presented with a figure that made Murray look more like an extra from the Last Samurai than a tennis warrior.
They at least got the Scot’s dour and dramatic scowl correct, but the padding made it look like he’d won a taekwondo bout rather than a tennis match.
Harry Caray may not be a household name in terms of actual sporting athletic heroes, but he was a legendary figure in terms of covering sports, especially Chicago Cubs baseball.
A Chicago icon, Caray today stands 12-feet tall in white bronze atop a granite base outside Wrigley Field. But the man renowned for wearing oversize thick-rimmed eyeglasses and infamously coining the term ‘Holy Cow!’ might well be left uttering his famous phrase had he been alive to see its unveiling.
This statue could terrify small children. Caray appears as if lunging forward with a giant microphone in his hand, yet the most disturbing feature is his legs, which appear to disappear and merge into a sea of creepy faces beneath.
Caray was inducted into its National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in 1988, while a year later the Baseball Hall of Fame presented Caray with the Ford C. Frick Award for “major contributions to baseball.” That same year, he was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, and has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Michael Essien was a warrior poet of a footballer. A powerful, heroic leader for Chelsea during the Jose Mourinho golden days. So why would you build a statue celebrating a player who was a totem of strength by depicting him in a pose where he appears to be clumsily falling over?
The statue only came to light earlier this year, in Essien’s country of birth, Ghana, although it’s thought to be a few years old. Not only is it hideous, but without the Chelsea kit there’s little chance you would be able to actually guess who the artist was trying to replicate.
The artist is currently unknown, and the creative mind behind it might want to stay anonymous after the reaction for fear of reprisal.
We’re pretty sure the man himself might have been able to come up with something more ascetically pleasing.
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