Artist Dave Wallace worshipped Tom Finney from afar.
He only ever saw England’s greatest footballer play once – still dazzling in a testimonial match five years after he retired.
But Dave’s caricature of the Preston Plumber is to get pride of place in an exhibition in Shrewsbury next month as a loving tribute from “one of his biggest fans.”
Retired teacher Dave said: “He was my favourite player, yet I never watched him play a competitive game. By the time I got to see him with a ball at his feet, it was five years after he had hung up his boots. Even then, in his 40s, he was still ghosting past players who were current internationals.”
Dave’s affection for Finney began through the columns of the Lancashire Evening Post – sent out to his Leyland-born father when the family was based in Germany in the early ‘50s.
“Dad’s idol was Alex James. He never forgave him for leaving Preston to join Arsenal,” recalled Dave. “Tom wore baggy shorts, like his hero Alex. And so when I started playing I wore baggy shorts too, just like my hero. I used to love getting the Post and reading all about Finney. In fact it was through those copies of the Post that I developed my interest in caricatures. The paper had a strong tradition in that field.
“When I found out we were coming back to England I couldn’t wait. But we arrived back in 1960 - the year Tom retired. I was mortified.
“Still, I did get the chance to see him in Peter Broadbent’s testimonial match at Molineux in 1965. Tom had been retired five years, yet he left Ron Flowers for dead. He scored twice and was absolutely magnificent – every bit as good as I had hoped he would be.”
Dave’s family settled in Shropshire and he went on to become head of art and media at Telford College. His exhibition opens in the Music Hall in Shrewsbury in September.
“With Sir Tom dying earlier this year I thought it would be nice to do something for the exhibition as a tribute to the great man,” he said.
“He’s in there with the likes of The Beatles and Billy Wright. Tom was a big draw in his time and, hopefully, he’ll be a big draw during the four weeks the exhibition is running.”