FAREWELL TO MASTER TOM
Deepdale pays tribute to its greatest hero
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
HONOURS EVEN: Orient goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic is beaten by Joe Garner’s penalty. Inset: Garner celebrates STAR MAN SCOTT WISEM