Sir Tom gave city something else to be proud of

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Is there a place on these shores where the locals are as proud of their heritage as Preston?

Not anywhere I have been. Many people I know leave their place of their birth without a glance behind them, happy to move on to a newer, better life, but not Prestonians.

How many times have you been on holiday and met someone from Macclesfield, Stockport or even, Blackburn, and have been informed they are from Manchester? The accent always gives them away and allows contrarians like me to question them on why they would tell such a fib, are they ashamed of their roots?

But, I will eat my bargain TK Maxx hat if anyone can show proof that a true Prestonian, born in view of the Minster spire or Deepdale stands, would ever deny their true heritage.

It is fair to say there are a few more, albeit adopted, Prestonians in the world, following the sad news that the finest son the city has ever known has joined his fellow legends in that great sporting arena in the sky.

I met Sir Tom Finney once, so cannot claim to have known the man, never saw him play, so cannot do his talents justice but, what I do know, is there is not a city anywhere where the passing of one of its own has been felt with such sadness and a real passion for the world to know what the person it has just lost was truly about.

Within hours, the iconic Splash statue, outside the stadium where The Preston Plumber plied his second trade, was festooned with tributes by fans who braved the filthy February night to pay their respects.

Although there isn’t any North End fan under the age of 60 who can rightly claim to have seen him glide down the wing, most are realistic to know their club is unlikely to ever boast another like him again.

Whenever a fan, regardless of age, talks about Sir Tom, you can see them swelling with pride, as their club is forever connected to a player that many a pundit and footballing great says is the best Englishman ever to have laced up a pair of boots.

But it wasn’t just his unrivalled ability that made him great, it was his humility and accessibility. Nearly every Prestonian I know either claims to know Sir Tom or at least met him. A man who never left his beloved birthplace, he always made time for its citizens. In the past few days many a journalistic colleague have told their Sir Tom stories and most involve being invited for a cuppa and a biscuit.

You wouldn’t get within a sarong’s length of David Beckham’s gated driveway never mind be invited in for a Typhoo and Rich Tea.

The phrase Proud Preston was coined long before Sir Tom implanted himself in a community’s consciousness but he sure as hell gave the place something else to take pride in.