It was with huge sadness that I learnt of the great Tom Finney’s death last week.
When I was a Member of Lancashire County Council I had the privilege of meeting Tom on three separate occasions, and very fortunately ended up at one particular dinner in his company.
He obviously noticed my dulcet ‘scouse’ tones and started to wax lyrical about one of his former teammates Bill Shankly, telling me what a great player he was and how he knew he would go on to be a fantastic manager at Liverpool.
On learning that I was actually an Evertonian, he quickly began to regale tales of a young Howard Kendall, who had appeared in an FA Cup final for Preston North End at the tender age of just 17. Tom told me that Howard was the best footballer never to be capped by England, and again he was eager to praise Kendall for his achievements as a manager at Everton.
When I asked the affectionately know ‘Preston Plumber’ about his own England career, he won over 70 caps scoring 30 goals for his country, he quickly moved the conversation on to some of the players he played alongside at international level. He was keen to avoid talking about himself, far more comfortable talking in praise of others. To say he was a humble man is an understatement.
And as much as he clearly loved playing for his country, he loved his club more, once saying “North End was a love affair for me. All I ever wanted to do was play for Preston.”
Of course we have players in the modern game who proclaim their love for the club who are currently paying their wages (‘Once a Blue always a Blue, hey Wayne), but we all know that they are, quite literally, playing the game.
It could be argued that there wasn’t as much money in football back then of course. But consider this. In 1952 Finney was offered the opportunity of joining an Italian club for a signing on fee of £10,000. That was a big figure back then, a record fee in fact. That he remained a one club man until the end of his career tells you all you need to know about one of our greatest footballers, a genuine legend and a true gentleman. RIP Tom.
To see the DQ Icon feature on Tom Finney please CLICK HERE