12,000 people in one day joined an internet campaign to turn the former National Football Museum at Deepdale into a Sir Tom Finney Museum.
Nick Lenehan, who was brought up in Deepdale, set up a Facebook page dedicated to the cause on Monday afternoon after standing at the ‘Splash’ statue over the weekend.
The care worker said: “I was down at the Splash on Sunday and was wondering what would happen to all the scarves and shirts that have been left there.
“I thought the empty space in the former Football Museum building would be a good place to put them, and somewhere people can visit to continue paying their respects.
“I originally wanted to get to 10,000 ‘likes’ on the Facebook page, but I was not expecting to get so many in the first few hours. It’s gone crazy and I’m completely overwhelmed.”
The former Cardinal Newman College pupil once met Sir Tom and Lady Elsie when he was walking along Garstang Road.
He said: “I spotted him and Lady Elsie and I decided to go over and say hello. He was a really nice guy and a massive inspiration for a lot of people.”
The 37-year-old added: “Now I want to get the campaign out on Twitter too, and if I can reach 50,000 ‘likes’, then I’m going to approach Trevor Hemmings, the football club and the National Football Museum to see what they can do.
“If so many people want a Sir Tom Finney Museum at Deepdale, then I can’t understand why they wouldn’t listen. It would damage their reputation.”
Ben Rhodes, general manager of Preston North End, said he had not previously been made aware of the campaign, and was unable to comment further.
The National Football Museum, which is believed to have a 60-year-lease on the property underneath Deepdale, declined to comment on whether it would investigate the possibility, stating that it already celebrates Sir Tom’s achievements.
A National Football Museum spokesperson said: “The National Football Museum’s remit is to explain how and why football has become ‘the people’s game’, and a key part of England’s heritage and way of life.
“Sir Tom Finney is part of this history and we acknowledge and celebrate his life and achievements. Some of Sir Tom’s objects are currently on display in the museum, while others can be seen in Preston at The Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre at Uclan and the Harris Museum.
“Since 2010 the former site in Preston has been used as the museum’s collection store and an extensive archive and research centre.”
In 2009, Sir Tom said he would take back all his personal memorabilia from the National Football Museum if the move to Manchester’s Urbis centre went ahead.
He had loaned the museum his FA Cup Final shirt and Footballer of the Year trophy as well as his CBE and knighthood medals.
He wrote a letter to the then Mayor of Preston, Coun Keith Sedgewick, voicing his disapproval.
The letter said: “Preston North End are a founding member of the Football League and Deepdale has every right to be home to the artefacts and memorabilia that record the history of the most popular sport in the world.
“There seems no logical reason why thousands and thousands of football treasures should be transferred at enormous cost to a sterile building in Manchester when this money could be used support the National Football Museum.
“I have already informed the people concerned that my personal memorabilia currently on display in the museum will not be allowed to leave Preston.”
It is not known how many of his possessions were returned.
Also in 2009, the museum held a six-month Sir Tom Finney Exhibition, celebrating the life and achievements of Preston’s most famous son.
Among artefacts displayed were an array of memorabilia of his life, donated following an Evening Post appeal.
Among them was a hand made cross stitch image of Sir Tom collecting his 1954 player of the year award.
The work was done by Jacqueline Rimmer as a present for her father, Jimmy Tootell, a lifelong fan and she took 40 weeks to weave 50,000 stitches.
A blowlamp was also donated by John Ruffley who worked for Tom Finney Ltd in the 1960s. Someone stole his blowlamp and Tom paid for a new one. The exhibition also featured a silver box he was presented with when he was made a Freeman of the city in 1979 and the Red Book which was presented to Sir Tom when he appeared on This is Your Life in 1988.