…the Preston Plumber.
Sad news last week that one of England’s true greats, not one of these modern madey-up ones, Sir Tom Finney has died aged 91.
One of those names along with Sir Stanley Matthews, Nat Lofhouse and Billy Wright that evoke a game in those post war years far removed from the spectacle we have today.
A game where even if the Preston North End chairman had allowed it –
If tha’ doesn’t play for us, tha’ doesn’t play for anybody. Nat Buck – Sir Tom would have turned down the advances of Palermo, turned down a £10,000 signing-on fee, a villa, Italian sports car and £120 a week. To play for the club he loved and that loved him.
I was on £12/10 shillings a week and I thought I was very well-off.
A game where Finney played across the front line in each position equally, Outside right, outside left and centre forward. Because he’d worked hard on his weaker right foot. Think about that when you see Daniel Sturridge contort himself because he can only kick with his left. Or Ashley Cole play someone into trouble because likewise he’s useless on his weak foot.
And when you read all the glowing tributes to Sir Tom remind yourself that he did that after serving with Montgomery’s Eighth Army in Egypt then getting out of a tank that helped liberate Italy and when he played it was with hobnail boots, a heavy leather ball on ploughed field pitches, after he’d done a morning’s work, walked to the ground and rationing was still on.
And during all that he was the perfect gentleman on the pitch. No hitting the ground screaming his head off, yes Suarez we’re looking at you and Vieira you too, when he was crunched and it would be crunched not just slightly touched.
My first match back after two and a half years and I’ve got probably the finest right-winger there has ever been. And Tom Finney is the perfect gentleman. He never took me on at all. I took the ball off him three times in the first half and when we were coming off I went to him and said: ‘Tom, you’re not taking me on.’
I’d played against him before and I knew how good he was, a phenomenal footballer. He said: ‘You’ve had some bad luck, son, and I’m not going to take you on, I want you to get through today’s game and get back into the first team.’ Dave Whelan
How many players of today will have a statue outside a ground where a stand is named after them with their image made out of the seats? How many will see the team never be the same after they’ve left. Preston haven’t been back in the top flight since the season after Finney retired in 1960.