Bill Shankly once said "Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age ... even if he had been wearing an overcoat."
He was a wonderful footballer, and those who were lucky enough to see him play will never forget his performances on the pitch. It is a truly sad day that one of the game's legends has passed away. Not a single bad word could be said about Tom, away from football he was a kind, considerate and dedicated gentleman.
That was reflected on the pitch as well, as Finney never picked up a single booking in his career. Despite being one of the best ever footballer's, Finney was an incredibly humble man.
Tonight we have lost a footballing Legend. A true gent and a loyal servant to his beloved PNE. RIP Sir Tom Finney pic.twitter.com/xT65RovtL8— Kevin Davies (@Kevin__Davies) February 14, 2014
Capable of playing in any of the forward positions, the one club man scored 210 in his career, including 30 for England. Sir Tom didn't just make a living as a footballer though, he was also talented in another area, and gained the nickname 'The Preston Plumber'. He would often return to his plumbing job straight after some games.
His career was delayed for some time due to the outbreak of World War II. This was another occasion when he represented his country, as he fought in Egypt and Italy.
The talented Prestonian made his debut for his hometown club in August 1946 and just 28 days later made his debut for England. Finney didn't quite garner the success with club or country that someone with his ability ought to have done. Twice a runner-up with Preston North End in the First Division in 1953 and 1958, and also a runner-up in the 1954 FA Cup.
On an individual note he won the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year award in 1954 and 1957. His loyalty to North End was admirable despite many admirers across the globe. In 1952 Palermo offered him incredible terms including a £10,000 signing on fee and a huge wage (when the maximum weekly wage in England was £14), but he stayed at North End until the end of his career in 1960.
"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 – Pelé, Maradona, Best, Di Stefano, and Tom Finney," Stanley Matthews.
The famous splash photo captured in a game at Stamford Bridge in 1956, is now the inspiration for The Splash water feature situated outside Deepdale, home of Preston North End.
He also has a stand named after him, and will forever look down on the Preston North End team. He will always be a part of the club, and even those who were born many years after Finney's playing days know the true meaning and effect Finney had on the club and the game as a whole.
There is a story that is told about Dave Whelan the current Wigan Atheltic chairman. When he returned from a lengthy injury in a pre-season game against Finney's Preston side, Tom apparently went easy on him and told him, "You've had some bad luck son, and I'm not going to take you on, I want you to get through today's game and get back into the first team."
Go anywhere in the world and say Preston North End, and one of the most common responses will be Tom Finney. A wonderful talented player and known throughout the world. Given that there was minimal coverage of the English game in his time, only the greats withstand time, through word of mouth, and great stories.
In May 2005, when North End were just 90 minutes away from the Premier League in the Championship play-off final against West Ham United, Finney led out the players onto the pitch. It was a proud moment for him, but it was a much prouder moment for the fans to see the legend lead out his team. Preston North End was his club and it always will be.
The scenes at Deepdale for Tom's 90th birthday in April 2012 in a match against MK Dons will live long in the memory. However PNE play Leyton Orient on Saturday and I will be present for what will be a hugely emotional occasion.
The fans will unite to remember not just the club's greatest, but the city's greatest. A hero, an idol, a legend.The word legend can often be used all too often. However it has never been more apt for this man. Words simply cant describe the effect he had on football and on Preston as a city.
The stories will continue to be told and passed onto to the next generations. Sir Tom Finney will always be remembered across the globe, and will always be kept in the heart of the Preston North End faithful. It is a pleasure to support your club Sir Tom.
Rest In Peace Sir Tom Finney
image: © bonnett