West­ley: He was heart­beat of the town

HE STOOD FOR CLASS, DE­CENCY, HON­ESTY

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

APre­ston North End fan called a ra­dio phone-in on Fri­day night to re­mem­ber the days when Pre­ston would be forced to hide Sir Tom Fin­ney’s po­ten­tial ab­sence from their team be­cause of the huge detri­men­tal ef­fect it would have on their crowd if fans knew he would not be play­ing.

The pun­dits went as far as to com­pare his im­pact back then to that of Lionel Messi to­day.

In other trib­utes, fans talked of Sir Tom as a gen­tle­man, a sports­man and the finest of play­ers; people loved him as much as a man as a talent.

One fan talked of the times that his brother would walk from Black- burn to Pre­ston just to watch Sir Tom’s wizardry. An­other told a tale of Sir Tom leav­ing his din­ner ta­ble to spend time in a restau­rant with a young PNE clad fan. Sir Tom was the ul­ti­mate leg­endary fig­ure.

I spent just 13 months in the hot­seat at Deep­dale. One of the first things that I did was to buy and read Sir Tom’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy and to hang his pic­ture on my of­fice wall.

His ‘splash’ statue stands out­side the ground and his face looks down on you from the main stand. To come even close to un­der­stand­ing Pre­ston North End, you sim­ply had to try to un­der­stand Sir Tom and what he meant to people.

He stood for pace, at­tack, class. He stood for de­cency, hon­esty, hard work. Those were val­ues that I could clearly see stand­ing at the heart of the PNE faith­ful. He had brought them up on a feast of all of those at­tributes.

I was for­tu­nate enough to be in charge at Pre­ston on the oc­ca­sion of Sir Tom’s 90th birth­day. Un­for­tu­nately the great man wasn’t well enough to at­tend the game played in his hon­our but his fam­ily did so and the mood in the sta­dium that day was quite in­cred­i­ble.

We scored a late equaliser to draw against MK Dons and the en­tire crowd seemed to me to give that goal to Sir Tom as a present.

You could feel that Sir Tom had given so many great mo­ments to Deep­dale and its faith­ful, and the huge home fol­low­ing just wanted to give him a mo­ment back.

It was an in­cred­i­bly spe­cial thing to feel the love of so many people for one man that day.

Sir Tom’s pass­ing is the loss of a truly ex­cep­tional per­son and a truly ex­cep­tional talent.

RIP Sir Tom.

PIC­TURE: Me­dia Im­age Ltd

AS THE wind and the rain crashed around Lon­don Road on Fri­day night, I thought I was back in my youth! The pitch was a mud bath and the best chances came from long, high balls crashed in be­hind the two back lines as Peter­bor­ough and Wal­sall did bat­tle.

The ball got stuck, tack­les got made, goal­mouth scram­bles took place. Hon­estly, I haven’t seen scenes like it since the days of Brian Moore and The Big Match!

We have made so much ‘progress’ with in­vest­ment in pitches, sta­dia and tech­nol­ogy. We have de­vel­oped our coach­ing, our philoso­phies to foot­ball and our brands.

The game is dif­fer­ent and there is no go­ing back.

But for one night only we did go back. And I r eally en­joyed the 0-0 draw. MUDDY MARVELS: Ori­ent and Peter­bor­ough bat­tle in the rain

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