It is nine months since Leicester’s version of the Statue of Liberty regained her perch on Upperton Road… and City have not lost a home game since…
Here is my Mercury column from December:
“Those of you who approach the Walkers Stadium from the Narborough Road side of the ground will recognise a familiar face on the way to the match this Saturday. She’s had a bit of a facelift, and has moved from her old lofty perch to a 15 foot Nelson’s Column-style plinth on a roundabout, but there is no mistaking her… Liberty is back.
In the 1920’s the directors of Leicester Company ‘Lennards Shoes’ visited New York and were so taken by the Statue of Liberty that they commissioned sculptor Joseph Herbert Morcom to produce a replica for the top of their factory on Eastern Boulevard, which they renamed ‘Liberty Shoes’.
And there she remained for many years, torch in hand, staring along Upperton Road. She was an integral part of our matchday experience. When you saw Liberty, you knew that Filbert Street was just around the corner. You couldn’t see it but you could feel it. We always bought our programme from the sellers stationed on the bridge over the Soar right under Liberty’s unblinking gaze.
When we won the Second Division title under Jock Wallace in 1980 an intrepid fan, who clearly wasn’t affected by vertigo, made their way onto the roof, climbed the twelve foot statue, and tied a blue and white City scarf round her neck. She wore it for a long time, presumably because they couldn’t find a fellow of similar steely nerves to go and remove it.
In 2002 the Liberty Building, although listed, was abandoned and had fallen into disrepair. Every window was broken and much of the building was covered in graffiti, including some undignified ‘makeup’ on the statue’s face. It was demolished to make way for student accommodation.
Just around the corner the wrecking ball was closing in on Filbert Street too, and this part of Leicester would be changed forever.
The Walkers Stadium rose next to the river but even Micky Adams’ 2002-03 promotion season was overshadowed by administration that came very close to being liquidation. Since Liberty was toppled we have seen some of the club’s darkest days and we have fallen lower down the league than we have ever been before.
Two years ago the statue was spotted by a Leicester Mercury reader in a builder’s skip. If it had been me I’d have been unable to resist shouting the script from one of Hollywood’s best ever film punch lines. At the end of Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston discovers a war-damaged Statue of Liberty half-buried in the beach and realizes that he has been on Earth all along, and that humanity has destroyed its own civilisation. “You maniacs! You blew it up!”
The discovery soon led to action being taken by the council. Liberty was too heavy to sit on the roof of the new Liberty Building, so the decision was taken to place her a goal kick away from her original location on what we must learn to call Swan Gyratory roundabout…
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Welcome home Madam. I don’t really believe in all this voodoo, but after the last few years I’ll take my good omens where I can find them. Liberty is back and we are top of the league. Coincidence?”