Football is more than just a game, a sport, an entertaining diversion (and is all three par excellence).
Football is a source of identity, a community, a unique culture and – as a direct result – an unrivalled (with the possible exception of war) repository of popular myth, legend and, of course, heroes.
The vast majority of these, it must be said, are local affairs.
Small clubs, small games, small moments. But famous to those who were there and, renewed through retelling, to countless others who were not (even born, quite often).
Put another way, what tales are told in the pubs and clubs of Blyth every November come the FA Cup First Round Proper...
Of great deeds on dank winter afternoons more than 30 years ago, titans whose names will never be forgotten within town boundaries but who are unknown to all bar Statto and savants further afield.
Each set of supporters draws from its own pool of similar sacred memory, celebrates its own cast of immortals, harks back to glories passed, giants slain, silverware won, lost, last minute winners poked beneath despairing dives...
Now and then, from this mass of disparate shared experience there emerges a few – individuals, instants – that acquire resonance across the club divide, spanning the sport, on every continent where the game of Association Football is played.
That Sir Tom Finney gained a place among this select is no longer a subject of meaningful debate.
Alongside the avalanche of local sentiment prompted by his passing this past week have come tributes, commiserations, expressions of interest from all corners of the globe.
Newspapers of every size in Italy, Spain, France, South America, Asia, the USA and beyond, reported, in some cases at surprising length, on Finney’s departure.
Even more heartening, having tracked social media in the name of @leponline, from ordinary football fans of many nationalities, eager to speak, in some cases to learn more about this iconic figure.
“Tom Finney, Preston,” wrote one curious Italian blogger pointed toward our online coverage, “the English Julen Guerrero (a gifted Spanish international who spent his entire career at Athletic Bilbao).
“A striker who would have had far greater recognition if not for his loyalty to his home town.”
Tom Finney: from Preston to the world and for the ages.