As Deepdale fell silent to mark the passing of Sir Tom Finney, Preston North End boss Simon Grayson declared that winning promotion would be a fitting tribute to Preston’s most famous son.
Sir Tom passed away peacefully on Friday evening at the age of 91, and tributes have poured in since from all over the world.
The Splash statue outside the stadium has been turned into a temporary memorial site, with supporters leaving shirts, scarves and flowers in honour of the winger who played 472 times for PNE and won 76 England caps.
Before Saturday’s 1-1 with Leyton Orient, wreaths were presented to Sir Tom’s son Brian and grandson Paul by North End skipper John Welsh and Orient’s Nathan Clarke.
The Lilywhites players all wore the name Finney on the back of their shirts, the club having been granted permission by the Football League and match referee Dean Whitestone to do so.
Ahead of kick-off a minute’s silence was observed, and fans later staged a minute’s applause in the seventh minute to pay their respects to the former No.7.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “Sir Tom’s passing is sad news for everyone in football, but most notably for people from Preston North End.
“I think that everyone can be extremely proud of how this club has conducted itself, with people behind the scenes doing so much work to make certain things happen.
“The players from both sides were brilliant, and our supporters turned out in their numbers which was very special.
“Sir Tom was a legend of a footballer as well as being a true gentleman.
“I had the privilege and honour of meeting him last year after joining the club.
“When people like Sir Tom are connected with your club, it is an honour to go and see him.
“There can’t be too many people who can put in the same bracket as Tom Finney.
“I sat and listened to his stories for two or three hours and could have been there all day. It is a sad loss and our sympathy goes out to his family.
“After what he achieved for this club and gave it the reputation it has, promotion would be a fantastic way for us to go and show what he meant to everyone.
“To see the numbers which came through the turnstiles was brilliant. Hopefully we can produce performances from now until the end of the season and get the club back into the Championship.
“I’m sure that Tom would have a wry smile on his face if we did that.
“The tributes for him have been nationwide and worldwide. That is the mark of the man, everyone is so respectful of him.”
Grayson admitted to having to strike a balance between the sadness of the occasion on Saturday and the significance of the game at the top end of League One.
The PNE boss said: “We had to honour Sir Tom and be focused on what we needed to do because it was a big match.
“Trying to combine things on a day like Saturday can be difficult, but the lads kept their focus.”
On the pitch, it needed a second-half equaliser from top scorer Joe Garner to earn Preston a point after Mathieu Baudry had put Orient in front just before half-time.
Garner fired home his 17th goal of the season from the penalty spot after Craig Davies had been fouled in the box by Baudry.
The award of the penalty had the visitors fuming, with Orient boss Russell Slade claiming that Davies had dived. Said Grayson: “I wouldn’t have said that it was dive, I’ve seen them given and seen them not given. It wasn’t a dive though.
“The lads had his hands on Craig’s shoulders and we have had decisions go against us this season.
“This time we have got a decision in our favour.
“The referee was average for both teams and we have got a decision which went our way.”
Grayson revealed that striker Davies was hampered slightly during the game with a tight hamstring.
He was substituted in the 75th minute and is an early doubt for tomorrow night’s visit to MK Dons.
“Craig struggled a little bit with his hamstring,” said Grayson.
“He wasn’t at full tilt in parts of his game and we nearly took him off at the half-time.
“Craig wanted to stay on and he got us the penalty, but as the game went on, we wanted to protect him so we made the substitution.
“I just felt that in all areas of the pitch in the first half we needed to be a bit brighter and more energetic in order to cause Orient a few more problems. We were better after the interval.”
24-PAGE TRIBUTE TO SIR TOM IN MONDAY’S EVENING POST