‘Gentleman Tom was without equal’

Tom Finney
Tom Finney
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Ian Rigby remembers Sir Tom Finney as a gentleman of football.

Rigby is secretary of the Preston North End Former Players’ Association, an organisation of which Sir Tom was president.

While he never got to see Sir Tom play a competitive game, the pair spent much time together in their work with the former players group.

Rigby said: “I think the first game I ever went to at Deepdale was Sir Tom’s testimonial game after he had retired. But speak to those fortunate enough to have watched him play, and they described him as the best.

“He was the Lionel Messi of his era, and his name is known throughout the world.

“Sir Tom became the first player to score 30 goals for England, and remember that he was not an out-and-out striker.

“He scored on his Preston debut and his England debut, and could play anywhere along the forward line. Sir Tom played in all five forward positions for Preston, and scored in his first game in each position.

“He was known world-wide. If you go on holiday and have a Preston North End shirt on, someone somewhere in the world will point to the badge and say ‘Tom Finney’.

“His passing is sad for Preston North End, for the city of Preston, for English football and world football.”

Recalling Sir Tom’s work with the Former Players’ Association, Rigby said: “We set up the organisation in 1998 and asked Sir Tom if he would like to be the president of it.

“He accepted straight away and has stayed with us ever since, although his health meant he had to take more of a back-seat role in later years.

“We had the Sir Tom Finney Golf Day for our members and Tom would attend that.

“A few years ago, a handful of us went for a night out at the dogs. We had a table and just chatted all night. Sir Tom had seven winners that night!

“A memory of him which I will always have is that he never refused to sign an autograph.”