Deep­dale pays trib­ute to its great­est hero

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

PRE­STON North End yes­ter­day paid trib­ute to their great­est player. Af­ter seven min­utes the Deep­dale crowd rose as one to re­mem­ber their own No7, Tom Fin­ney, who died on Fri­day aged 91. Flo­ral trib­utes poured in and the play­ers all wore Fin­ney’s name on their shirts.

IT wasn’t quite the re­sult or the per­for­mance to hon­our Sir Tom Fin­ney. There were no mes­meric runs down the wing, no jink­ing twists and turns. Truth be told, the mag­nif­i­cent Pre­ston plumber, who died on Fri­day night aged 91, would have torn these two to shreds.

De­scribed by Bill Shankly as the great­est player to pull on a pair of boots, Fin­ney was twice named Foot­baller of the Year and played 76 times for Eng­land, scor­ing 30 goals and play­ing in two World Cups.

But it was Pre­ston with which Fin­ney was in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked and the res­i­dents turned out at Deep­dale yes­ter­day to re­mem­ber the man who helped make them fa­mous.

Born in the Lan­cashire town in 1922, Fin­ney spent his en­tire ca­reer at Deep­dale, scor­ing 187 league goals and mak­ing more than 400 ap­pear­ances.

A plumber in the fam­ily busi­ness, he would walk to home games and, on oc­ca­sions leave a wheel­bar­row out­side, ready to col­lect and take to his next job.

Af­ter re­tire­ment he re­mained in Pre­ston with wife Elsie, a gen­tle­man al­ways will­ing to of­fer ad­vice to young play­ers and man­agers, al­ways there to sign au­to­graphs and chat with fans.

Si­mon Grayson was among the last of them, go­ing to visit Fin­ney just af­ter his 90th birth­day last year.

“He was a leg­end of a foot­baller,” said the Pre­ston boss. “I had the priv­i­lege of spend­ing some time with him.

“I’d never seen him play, but when some­one has the kind of re­spect Tom com­mands here, you owe them the re­spect of go­ing to meet them.

“And it was some­thing I’ll never for­get. I sat and lis­tened to his old sto­ries for two hours and I would have stayed all day if I could.

“It’s a sad day and our sym­pa­thies go out to his fam­ily. But hope­fully he’ll be look­ing down on us for the rest of the sea­son and we can give him some­thing to cheer up there.”

Be­fore kick-off, Pre­ston fans thronged the streets out­side Deep­dale. Fin­ney’s statue, of the fa­mous ‘splash’ when he slid across a wa­ter­logged Stam­ford Bridge, was so draped in flags and flow­ers that barely a scrap of bronze was on show.

Then came the sweet­est touch as ev­ery sin­gle one of Pre­ston’s play­ers emerged onto the pitch with ‘Fin­ney’ on their shirts.

A wreath was pre­sented to Fin­ney’s fam­ily, a minute’s si­lence im­mac­u­lately ob­served. In the sev­enth minute – a trib­ute to Fin­ney’s shirt num­ber – the ground rose as one to ap­plaud the great man. Then, al­most as an af­ter­thought, came the foot­ball. Ori­ent took the lead, Gary Sawyer’s

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

HONOURS EVEN: Ori­ent goal­keeper Eldin Jakupovic is beaten by Joe Garner’s penalty. In­set: Garner cel­e­brates STAR MAN SCOTT WISEM

AN Pre­ston

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