‘He was an incredible man – a one-off...’

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“He was an incredible man, a one-off”, said Roy Payne, who worked as the Evening Post’s chief photographer for 40 years.

He said: “I remember one time in 1958 I’d been down taking pictures of North End training for a cup match on the Saturday.

Tom Finney against Blackburn Rovers - by Roy Payne

Tom Finney against Blackburn Rovers - by Roy Payne

“There were loads of photographers there, because at that time, North End were a massive club.

“It was a horrible day, pouring down, and after training, we were all stood talking outside the players’ entrance.

“Then one guy from the now-defunct Chronicle in Manchester turned up really late, about 12.30pm because his car had broken down. All the players had left, except for Tom, but we didn’t know that then.

“This guy was saying he had to get a picture, because they’d left a space for it on the page, then we saw Tom walking out.

“He’d had a shower and got all of his muddy training gear off, but when he was asked, he put it all back on and posed for loads of shots for the photographer.

“Any other player would not have done that, but that was Tom. It summed him up.”

Mr Payne was fortunate to play a match against Tom after his retirement. He was part of a ‘showbiz 11’ playing against a team made up of Preston and Blackburn stars.

He said: “I feel very fortunate, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”

Mr Payne would go onto to see Sir Tom many times, particularly in Booths opposite the Royal Preston Hospital.

He said: “I go in there all the time for my morning paper and I’d often bump into Tom. He’d often be approached by people wanting to talk to him, as if he was their friend, and he’d never be rude.

“He told me one day he’d been in there over two hours, and that wasn’t a one-off, it happened all the time.

“He was the most incredible man. He never did anything for money.

“And when people say ‘he can’t have been as good as everyone’s saying’, well, he was. He was a one-off.”