When he takes his Burnley side to the Etihad for Sunday’s sixth round FA Cup tie, Vincent Kompany will be confronted by a familiar image. An image, moreover, that acknowledges him as one of the main driving figures of the revolution that has engulfed Manchester City in the last decade. Because there, in a prominent position on the stadium forecourt is a statue of Kompany that is replete with meaning for every follower of the club.
“There was never any question in my mind that it had to be that pose,” says Andy Scott, the renowned Scottish sculptor who created the statue. “It represented an almost messianic moment. I put it in my initial proposals when I was commissioned to make the piece. And luckily Vincent agreed.”
The statue features the player in a stance that has huge significance for City. It has him with his arms outstretched, head bowed, a representation of his celebration when he scored a screamer of a goal against Leicester City in May 2019, a strike which was critical in landing his fourth league title with the club.
But it also marked a moment charged with farewell. When he scored he was 34, aware that his eleven year association with the Etihad was coming to an end. It was almost his last contribution to the club before he headed to his homeland to become a player manager at Anderlecht. Now he is back at City for the first time as manager of Burnley, and will be obliged when he walks into the ground to pass himself, frozen forever in a moment of reflection.
“It is very unusual for a football sculpture,” says Scott, speaking to Telegraph Sport from his studio in Los Angeles. “Most of them tend to be of players in action. For me there was something poignant in that pose which added to its power.”
Scott is no stranger to creating public works of art. His piece the Kelpies, two thirty feet high, 300 ton steel horse’s heads on the banks of a canal in Falkirk, is Britain’s most visited piece of sculpture after the Angel of the North.
Although he has in the past used more conventional materials for football works (he has one outside Ibrox of John Greig that is made from bronze) the Kompany piece is of a similar style to the Kelpies: forged from galvanized steel. Which seems very appropriate for its subject.
“Steel definitely fits him,” says Scott. “And it fits that part of east Manchester, with its industrial heritage.”
The sculpture was unveiled at the Etihad in August 2021, the first of a triptych Scott has made for the club that includes images of David Silva and Sergio Aguero. It is a fine piece of work, positioned perfectly to blend in with the glass frontage of the Etihad. But surprisingly it was made without the artist ever meeting his subject.
“I got the commission just as covid started,” explains Scott, who was selected from a shortlist of three sculptors. “I spoke with him over Zoom, but unfortunately sitting with him was impossible, not least because I’m based in the States and there was no way I could fly over. So I worked off photos and videos; the club sent me hundreds of pictures.”
He constructed the piece in his then studio in Philadelphia.
“I didn’t move to LA until last May,” he says, “I went there hoping for sunshine. But we have had the worst winter anyone can remember. Right now it’s raining so hard I could have stayed in Glasgow.”
The work was created using the same welded steel mosaic technique that defines the Kelpies. But Scott reckons it is its position that really enhances its design.
“It looked very different in the studio,” he suggests. “It was the club’s idea to position it right in front of a great big glass facade. And it is a great location.
We put it in overnight, and when the covers came off at the ceremony it was one of those moments where you are pinching yourself. I remember standing there thinking: holy moly that looks cool.”
Yet still, even then, he did not get to meet Kompany in person. Pandemic protocols remained in place at that time, preventing the players from mingling with the public.
“I heard from him that he loved it though,” says Scott. More to the point, so did the City supporters.
“The nicest thing was standing there incognito listening to the fans’ reactions. It was one of the best days after installing it, seeing people walk past looking at it, talking about it. They accepted it so well. They seemed to understand immediately what it was about.”
Scott was later to deliver his Silva and Aguero pieces, which now stand in splendid confluence with Kompany. But whatever their excellence, he has hardly been inundated since with other clubs seeking to commission him.
“Football is a funny business, and I think maybe they are so distinctive, people might think: ‘ah those are City’s we want our own’,” he says. “That said, I’d be delighted if the phone were to ring from another club.”
Indeed, maybe Burnley might be in touch, now that Kompany’s management is propelling them back to the Premier League.
“The conversations I had with him he’s City through and through, an honorary Manc,” says Scott. “I’m sure he’ll be conflicted on Sunday. But one thing is for sure, he’ll want to win.”
After all, as the statue insists, this is a football figure forged of steel.