LONDON – Former England and Preston forward Sir Tom Finney died at the age of 91 on Friday.
Preston confirmed the “extremely sad news” Friday night, adding “Sir Tom was the greatest player to ever play for Preston North End and one of the all-time greats for England.”
Finney played for Preston from 1946 until he retired 14 years later, scoring 210 goals in 473 appearances. He won footballer of the year in 1954 and 1957 — the first player to receive the honor twice.He also scored 30 times in 76 appearances for England, putting him joint sixth on the all-time scoring list with Alan Shearer and Nat Lofthouse.
Finney was knighted in 1998.
Football League Chairman Greg Clarke said Finney was “quite possibly the finest player to have ever played in the Football League and was a true gentleman.”
“He was also the epitome of the one club man with few people ever having contributed as much to a single team, their city or our competition,” Clarke said. “He will be greatly missed by the English game.”
A player of such integrity from a bygone era of the maximum wage in English soccer who was never booked or sent off, and resisted riches abroad to display loyalty, almost unprecedented in the modern game.
Finney made his name outside England by exhibiting his immense power and flair for England at three World Cups from 1950.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who saw Finney score at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, described the winger’s life-long devotion to Preston as setting “an example to young players today.”
And soccer fans, most not old enough to remember seeing Finney on a soccer field, descended on Preston’s Deepdale stadium on a cold Saturday morning to pay tribute to their greatest player. Scarves and flowers were left next to a statue depicting a famous image of Finney splashing through a puddle during a game against Chelsea.
Born next to Deepdale and known as the “Preston Plumber” after completing an apprenticeship with in the family business, Finney made his league debut at the age of 24 due to World War II.
For all the personal accolades, team honors eluded Finney, having opted never to defect to a major power in search of glory. Instead he had to settle for Preston finishing runners-up twice in the topflight and the losing F.A. Cup finalist in 1954.
The only winners’ medal he collected was from the second-tier, with Preston relegated after he missed much of the 1948-49 season through injury.
“If he was injured … there would be 20,000 at the game instead of 42,000,”
Docherty told Talk Sport radio.Finney was having a similar impact in death, with thousands queuing at Deepdale on Saturday to see Preston play Leyton Orient in the third tier, and join the tributes to their hero.
“We have lost a footballing legend,” Preston captain Kevin Davies tweeted. “A true gent and a loyal servant.”