Although the overwhelming feeling at Preston North End over the past few days has been sadness, there has been one glimmer of happiness emanating from Deepdale.
The death of the club’s greatest ever player Sir Tom Finney has triggered an enormous outpouring of grief among everybody connected with the club.
And almost forgotten is the fact that on the very same day of Sir Tom’s passing, at the age of 91, North End secured one of their rising young stars – 17-year-old Josh Brownhill – on a two-and-a-half year contract.
The significance of last Friday has not been lost on Brownhill.
As a football-mad youngster growing up, Brownhill was aware of what the name ‘ Finney’ meant to the footballing world.
But it is only since he arrived at Deepdale to begin a football scholarship at the age of 16 that he began to realise the true extent of his greatness.
Although he never met him, Brownhill believes he can use the example of Sir Tom to create his own piece of history wearing North End colours.
Brownhill told the Evening Post: “I knew the name Tom Finney when I was growing up but I didn’t realise how big he was until I came to Preston North End.
“He’s a legend of the club. The goals and appearances he made for both England and Preston shows what a great player he was.
“A lot of clubs have their own legends, but this club has one really big legend.
“Ever since I came to the club, everybody just spoke so highly of him.
“I’ve been down to see all the tributes to him at the ‘Splash’ statue, which is a really great statue.
“I’ve seen all the pictures and messages – it just shows what a legend of the club he was.
“Unfortunately, I never got to meet him but I would have liked to have done especially with everything he has done for the club.”
Despite his sadness over the death of Sir Tom, Brownhill is overjoyed to have been rewarded with a contract.
After scoring on his full debut in a 2-1 win at Giillingham, Brownhill has gone on to score twice more in 18 appearances for North End this season
“I am over the moon,” he said. “Obviously at the beginning of my scholarship, I wanted to fight for a pro contract.
“It’s come so much earlier than I thought it would have done.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought hopefully I might get a game with the first team at the end of the season.
“But for my debut to come as quickly as it did, I couldn’t believe it.
“When I got my chance, I took it. I think I have done well.
“I’ve scored a couple of goals, which is the main thing for me.
“I try to get as many goals as I can. I think I’m playing quite well and I’ve just got to keep performing until the end of the season.
It was hard to adapt at first when I got in the team.
“The tempo is a lot faster, the players are a lot quicker and stronger.
“But once I played the first few games, you get used to it and it just comes naturally.
“I knew I had to keep doing what I was doing on the pitch to get the contract and when it was offered to me, I was absolutely delighted.”
After a period out injured, Brownhill returned to the matchday squad as a substitute for Saturday 1-1 draw with promotion rivals Leyton Orient.
The youngster admits he and his team-mates were desperate to get the win as a fitting tribute for Sir Tom.
“It was a sombre occasion on Saturday,” he said.
“Obviously a lot of the fans came down to show their respects to Tom Finney. We just tried to get the three points for him.
“It was hard to keep focused because all the fans were emotional.
“The players were emotional, having ‘Finney’ on our backs. We just knew that once we got out onto the pitch, we had to focus and put our mind to it.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win but it was a great occasion to play in and all the fans were great.
“We had chances to put the game to bed.
“I thought we deserved more out of the game but it was a point against a good side, who are fighting for promotion like we are.
“I suppose you could say it’s a point gained.”
Brownhill is looking forward to potentially regaining his place in the starting line-up for the away trip to MK Dons tonight.
“I can’t wait for tonight,” he said.
“Hopefully, I will play but it’s up to the gaffer.
“They are a good side. They’ve shown that over the last couple of years, being in and around the play-offs.
“It going to be a tough test for us.”