Sir Tom Finney’s family have spoken for the first time about the “wonderful” way Preston said farewell to its best-loved son.
More than 15,000 mourners lined the city’s streets on Thursday to pay homage at the civic funeral of one of football’s all-time greats.
And in a moving message of appreciation, son Brian and daughter Barbara today thanked everyone for being “a great comfort in the saddest of times.”
They admitted they had been “overwhelmed” by the response of the public, not only locally, but across the world.
And they revealed Sir Tom would have been humbled by the incredible turnout for the biggest funeral Preston has ever seen.
The family message, entitled “Sir Tom Finney – A Thank You” read: “We would like to offer our sincere thanks to everyone who has shown us such kindness and support and shared in our sorrow over these past two weeks.
“We have been truly overwhelmed by the warm tributes, touching comments and heartfelt messages of condolence. A great comfort at the saddest of times.
“The people from here in the proud city of Preston to right across our nation and overseas and to all those involved with Preston North End FC and the football community at large.
“Friends and colleagues, always there, ready and willing; and thousands of others, many of whom we did not know personally, who have joined together with us not just in grief but in also celebrating a life so well lived.
“The wonderful turn-out for the civic funeral service epitomised just what Dad meant to everyone and he, like us, would have found it a humbling experience.
“Thank you all. Brian and Barbara and the Finney family.”
Sir Tom’s funeral was given huge media coverage, with at least a dozen camera crews capturing the scene outside Preston Minster and a television company filming inside and beaming it back live to more than 5,000 people watching on the giant screen inside Deepdale. Thousands more heard the hour-long service on radio.
“Sir Tom always did Preston proud and I think Preston really did Sir Tom proud on the day,” said lifelong North End fan Coun John Swindells, deputy leader of the city council. “I thought it went off without a hitch - as well as anyone could have wished.”
Ben Rhodes, general manager of Preston North End, added: “You only get one chance to do something like this and so you’ve got to get it right first time. I think we did that.
“A lot of hard work by a lot of people went into organising the funeral, led by Sir Tom’s family. I think everyone can be proud of the send off we gave him. It was wonderfully observed by the thousands who turned out. The words ‘proud Preston’ have never been more true.”