Preston North End's Sir Tom Finney Stand is 25 years old today

Deepdale’s Sir Tom Finney Stand today celebrates its 25th birthday.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 8:00 am

The 8,000-seater structure, which formed the first part of Preston North End’s redevelopment of their home, was officially opened on March 16, 1996.

Darlington were the visitors that afternoon for a Third Division clash which ended in a 1-1 draw, skipper Ian Bryson on target for PNE.

North End, under Gary Peters, were gunning for promotion at the time and it was appropriate that such a successful season – they won the title – could be finished in front of a four-sided stadium.

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Sir Tom Finney and PNE chairman Bryan Gray at the official opening of the new stand at Deepdale 25 years ago

The demolition team had moved in the previous July to bulldoze the old West Stand, a barrel-roofed construction which had stood the test of time over the years.

By the time supporters came in for the start of the 1995/96 season, the West Stand was a building site.

Over the next few months the new stand was pieced together and built.

The design of the stand, indeed for the whole redevelopment of Deepdale, had been the work of Ben Casey, a lifelong North End fan and designer.

The West Stand at Deepdale being demolished to make way for the Sir Tom Finney Stand

PNE had been taken over in the autumn of 1994 by the Baxi partnership and Casey teamed up with them to draw up plans for Deepdale.

The design was based on the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Italy, a stadium shared by Genoa and Sampdoria.

A striking feature of the stand was the metal beam framework across the roof.

At every home match that season, fans saw the stand steadily take shape, a big moment being when the seats started to be put in place.

The Sir Tom Finney Stand starts to take shape

In the block near to the Town End side of the stand, a pattern of Sir Tom Finney’s face was embedded into the seats.

Being built out of sight underneath the stand were hospitality lounges.

The Great Room was the showpiece lounge, designed for big events. There were two smaller lounges and the boardroom.

The cost of the building of the Sir Tom Finney Stand was £4.4m.

While North End had hoped the game which marked the official opening would be a victory, the point they got against Darlington edged them a bit closer to their goal of promotion.

The draw with Darlington formed part of a nine-match unbeaten run, after which came a hiccup of two defeats.

But away wins at Leyton Orient and Hartlepool clinched first promotion and then top spot. The title celebrations were in full flow when PNE won 2-0 against Exeter on the final day, watched by a capacity 18,000.

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