After several years of planning the Friends Of Big Pat (FOBP) Committee have announced that the installation of a Statue will take place on Kildare Street Newry on Wednesday 8th November this year. The statue is a likeness of Newry man and legendary professional soccer Goalkeeper Pat Jennings.

The former Northern Ireland International and former star of Tottenham, Arsenal and Watford is delighted to be honoured in such a way. He stated, “I’m very proud to say I’m a Newry man. Newry has always been my first home where I grew up and went to school and I still retain a home. I played my first football in Newry and have friends and family living in the city, indeed, my wife Eleanor is also from Newry”.

Pat Jennings has had a distinguished football career playing 119 times for Northern Ireland finishing his international career at the 1986 World Cup at the age of 41 in his final game against Brazil. During his club career he won numerous honours including Football Writers Player of the Year, the Player’s Player of the Year and winning five major trophies with Tottenham and Arsenal Football Clubs. He even scored a goal while playing in goal for Tottenham against Manchester United back in the Charity Shield in 1967.

Pat has been regarded as a world class goalkeeper by his fans and peers alike. He has deservedly received many accolades in football and also for his charity work. In this New Year’s Honours List he was awarded the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) having already received an MBE (Member of the British Empire) back in 1976 for his service to football and a further OBE (Order of the British Empire ) in 1986 on his retirement from football.

The origin of a statue of Pat’s likeness in his hometown came from a fellow Newry born man, broadcaster Kevin Mc Allister. He stated, “ It’s something that I have thought about for a long time. I always thought that Pat was a great inspiration to others! Leaving Newry at such a young age back in the 60’s to grab his chance in life, working hard being determined to achieve his dream at a difficult time as we entered the troubles conflict in Northern Ireland. Pat inspired young people like myself to reach for our goals (excuse the pun). During his career and beyond he has been a great ambassador for Newry and Northern Ireland. Three years ago I approached Newry Councillor Michael Savage to ask about the possibility of having a statue. Very quickly we agreed, to do this we needed a group of people who were willing to do the groundwork formally proposing the statue with Michael taking it to a full council meeting.

“We’ve been very lucky to have such a wonderful experienced group at FOBP. Adrian Toner has led the group with Pat’s very good friend Larry Powell being a steady influence on proceedings. The commitment has been at times full on but credit to every member to also include Wayne Denner on social media, Solicitor Gary Rocks and Accountant Adrian Markey making up the team with myself” he concluded.

In regard to fundraising the group have raised upwards of £100,000 by holding Golf days, Auctions and a Gala Fundraising Dinner in the city. “Local business people have supported this project and indeed ordinary local people. It’s a testament to the respect and high regard that Pat Jennings is held in,” explained Larry Powell FOBP.

Undoubtedly the City of Newry will come out in numbers at Midday on Wednesday 8th November to honour Newry’s legend being immortalised in a beautifully crafted statue designed by Andy Edwards, the man who created the famous Beatles statue in Liverpool.

Some of Pat’s former football colleagues are expected to be present at the unveiling however FOBP Committee member Wayne Denner stated, “I fully expect that the people of Newry, Mourne and South Armagh will come out onto Kildare Street Newry to witness Pat and his family unveil this wonderful likeness to one of their own. However, this great occasion is for everyone particularly to all the Northern Ireland fans who very much respect his legendary status. It’s going to be a great occasion.”

Kevin Mc Allister PRO FOBP concluded “We’re still working toward this wonderful unveiling and we will release another statement closer to the occasion with more detail in and around times etc, watch this space.”