It’s not exaggerating to say that Preston has lost its favourite son. Sir Tom Finney was quite simply the best footballer to ever play for Preston North End Football Club. For the city of Preston, he transcended the idea of just being a footballer. He represents a reason to be proud of the city, he represents everything a footballer, and indeed a person, should be.
Many people have called Sir Tom the best player they ever played with. He is arguably the best player to have ever played without winning the League or the FA Cup. That Finney remained in Preston despite this is just one of the things that made him special. He was never booked or sent off in his entire career and was a selfless team player. He scored 187 goals in 433 league games, and 30 times in 76 England caps. He twice won footballer of the year. When people talk to me about seeing him play in person, it makes me incredibly envious.
His importance to Preston North End during his playing career was huge. During his time at Deepdale, when crowds were regularly above 30,000, PNE finished runners up in the league twice, and lost an FA Cup final. The season after he retired, we were relegated from the top flight, causing Bill Shankly to joke that Finney should claim income tax relief for his 10 dependents. Preston haven’t returned to the top flight since.
One character trait that stands out when people talk about Finney is his modesty. It is well-known that he worked as a plumber for his family business on Saturday mornings. After that he’d head to the games talking to supporters before the match itself, then refusing to rise as opposition player tried to hack him off the ball for 90 minutes. When people talk about Finney, there are as many examples of how wonderful a person he was, as there are about how fantastic a player he was. It is said that he was never comfortable being addressed as ‘sir’.
His legacy lives throughout the city. The most obvious examples are the stand named after him at Deepdale, along with the statue of the world famous ‘splash’ photograph. Deepdale itself is located on Sir Tom Finney Way. At UCLan, the students exercise in the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre, spreading his legacy to those outside the city.
There was an outpouring of tributes on Twitter when news broke last night. Everyone from WWE Superstars right through to fans of Blackpool FC wanted to pay their respects. As we wake up now on the following day, my personal feed is still full of tributes.
It pains me greatly that I can’t speak with more authority on Sir Tom Finney. He represents the city so strongly that we can be certain he will be irreplaceable. When I hear Liverpool and Manchester United fans in the city brag about their relative successes, there is never any jealousy because we have Sir Tom Finney.
Here’s what people have said about a truly great man, over the years and yesterday evening. Add your tribute at the foot of the page.
Sir Stanley Matthews: “To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities. Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Pele, Maradona, Best, Di Stefano, and Tom Finney.”
Sir Bobby Charlton: “Watching him, you knew full well that the full-backs had had it. He was just too good for them. Occasionally I had the pleasure to play with him and it was the greatest pleasure anyone could ever give me.”
Bill Shankly: “”Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age … even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”[
Gary Lineker: “Sir Tom Finney has left us. One of the greatest players this country has ever seen, and a true gentleman”
WWE Superstar Wade Barrett: Very sad news about Sir Tom Finney. One of England’s greatest ever players and a hero to the people of Preston. A true gent.
Football League Chairman Greg Dyke: “He was quite possibly the finest player to have ever played in the Football League and was a true gentleman. He was also the epitome of the one-club man with few people ever having contributed as much to a single team, their city or our competition.”
Official Blackpool Twitter: “A legendary opponent and friend of Jimmy Armfield, BFC pass on condolences to the family of Sir Tom Finney.”
“#BFC will wear black armbands against @Official_ITFC this afternoon, as a mark of respect following the sad passing of Sir Tom Finney”
Official PNE Twitter: “‘The Splash’ statue will now be used as a temporary memorial to Sir Tom Finney and the water will be turned off.”