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Sir Tom Finney ‘one of England’s finest’

Tom Finney outside Buckingham Palace after receiving his knighthood in 1998

Tom Finney outside Buckingham Palace after receiving his knighthood in 1998

Preston’s most beloved son was among the nation’s greatest ever footballers.

Sir Tom Finney played for Preston North End 433 times and scored 187 goals in a career stalled by the outbreak of the Second World War.

Born on April 5, 1922, as a child Finney lived a stone’s throw away from Preston’s ground at Deepdale and by the time he was 14 the club had discovered his talents and offered him a contract.

But his father made him complete his apprenticeship in the family plumbing business before he signed as a professional.

The Second World War, where Sir Tom served in Italy and Egypt, meant that he did not make his league debut for the club until 1946. A tricky player with an eye-for-goal who could play on the flank or up front, Finney immediately became a favourite with the Preston faithful.

That same year he made his debut for England. He won 76 caps and scored 30 goals for his country – a notable highlight when he scored twice against the then reigning World Champions Italy in Turin in 1948, as England won 4-0.

It is a measure of his brilliance that more than half a century after he last wore the famous Three Lions he remains England’s sixth highest scorer.

But Sir Tom’s outstanding form for club and country for the best part of two decades did not result in any major honours, bar a Second Division championship for Preston.

The personal accolades came though – he was Footballer of the Year in 1953-54 and again in 1956-57 - the first footballer to claim the honour twice.

Preston North End fell just short of silverware coming second to Arsenal in the First Division in 1953 and losing the 1954 FA Cup Final to West Bromwich Albion.

Yet Sir Tom will always be seen as one of English football’s finest.

His conduct on the pitch was exemplary just as it was off it – he was never ever booked, let alone sent off.

Following his retirement as a player in 1960 Preston’s favourite son continued to give back to the community with tireless work for charity, as well as becoming chairman of the local health authority.

He also continued his work as a plumber which he took up and maintained throughout his playing days earning him the nickname the Preston Plumber.

Knighted in 1998 his love of for a club he served as president never wavered.

Sir Tom’s wife Lady Elsie died in 2004 and he leaves a son Brian and daughter Barbara.

 

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