It all started here: our sports statues; Experts say tradition started on Victorian Tyneside.
BRITAIN'S tradition of honouring our sporting heroes with statues, started on Tyneside, experts believe.
Monuments to Robert Chambers, Harry Clasper and James Renforth in the 19th Century are the earliest refound by academics at Sheffield University.
The rowers, who died within three years of each other, were the celebrities of their day.
Research by the Sporting Statues Project has shown they were the first to be afforded the honour of a memorial.
Dr Chris Stride, a statistician at the university, said: "We're certain they are the first sporting statues in the UK, they precede all the others by a really long way.
"The funerals of these Tyneside rowers attracted 100,000 people."
A tribute to Chambers stands in Christ Church churchyard in Walker, Newcastle. It was unveiled in 1869.
The funeral monument to Clasper went up in St Mary's churchyard in Whickham, Gateshead, in 1871.
James Renforth, who died during a race, is remembered by a statue now outside the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
The memorial was originally sited at Gateshead Cemetery East in 1872.
All three were the work of George Burn, and Dr Stride said the statues offered a glimpse into early fan culture.
A statue of Jackie Milburn was moved last week to a new position outside St James' Park.
And one of Sir Bobby Robson is to be unveiled alongside it before Sunday's clash with Manchester City.
THE FIRST David Clasper at the statue to his famous forefather rower Harry Clapser, and top, the Sir Bobby Robson statue in Ipswich ; bottom right, fan David Tan at the statue to Wor Jackie