Simon Grayson will forever treasure the few hours he managed to spend in the company of Preston North End’s greatest ever player, Sir Tom Finney.
The Deepdale boss revealed in the aftermath of the football legend’s passing on Friday that he had been fortunate enough to meet him.
Shortly after taking charge in February of last year, Grayson requested the opportunity of an audience with the great man.
The PNE boss admits that he could have stayed chatting with Finney for two days – never mind a couple of hours.
“I just asked if I could go and meet him,” Grayson said.
“As the manager of our football club, I just felt it was my duty to go and see this great player of Preston.
“But it was more because I’m a football person and I wanted to go and see this legend of our game.
“We talk about the term legend loosely really – but Sir Tom really was a legend.
“When I met him, we talked about the game, Preston – how he combined playing with plumbing – everything you could think of.
“I could have been there with him for two days!
“I ended up getting kicked out after a couple of hours!
“He was certainly in high spirits when I went to see him and loved telling his stories – he certainly had many to tell.”
Grayson has been amazed, but not surprised, by the depth of feeling shown towards Sir Tom, not just by North End, but by clubs across the county and beyond.
During North End’s 0-0 away draw against MK Dons on Tuesday night, the home fans rose in the seventh minute alongside the away supporters to salute the great man.
And tributes like these have been mirrored at football matches – from the professional game to amateur and even junior matches – across the country.
“There have been fantastic tributes across the country in every game,” Grayson said.
“Supporters of every club in the country have shown their respects.
“When you can manage to do that as a footballer not just by your own fans but by everybody in the country, you must have been some bloke and some footballer.
“He will be sorely missed.”
North End defender Tom Clarke admits it has been an emotional period for all the players this week.
They were gutted not to mark Sir Tom’s passing with a victory in front of their own fans over Leyton Orient at Deepdale.
However, they are determined to make up for that by securing promotion this season, which would be a fitting tribute to the great man.
“We went to the statue on Monday and looked at the shirts and scarves,” he said.
“Obviously he was unbelievable, he was a legend of Preston. As players we want to do his family proud and get promoted like everyone. It has definitely inspired us.
“We have heard so many stories and heard people talking about him on television, he was a magical player. We want to do that last thing for him and get back into the Championship.
“The applause in the seventh minute on Tuesday was something we knew was going to happen.
“In the seventh minute you could hear everyone clapping and that is great credit to MK Dons fans and it was a lovely thing.”