LONDON: Sir Tom Finney, one of England’s greatest footballers, has died at 91.
Finney – known as ‘the Preston Plumber’ – scored 30 goals in 76 internationals, placing joint sixth on the all-time England goalscoring list with Nat Lofthouse and Alan Shearer.
He made 473 appearances for Preston between 1946 and 1960, scoring 210 goals. He won the Second Division title in 1950-1, League Championship runners-up medals in 1953 and 1958 and an FA Cup runners-up medal in 1954. He was the first man to be voted ‘Footballer of the Year’ twice.
Finney started as an outside right but played on the left for England in the 1940s and 1950s so Sir Stanley Matthews could play on the right. Yet Finney was centre-forward for most of his one-club career with Preston.
After his playing career finished in 1960, he returned to his former trade as a plumber, before becoming a newspaper columnist.
He was awarded the OBE in 1961, and was knighted at Buckingham Palace in 1998.
His death means only Roy Bentley still survives of the England team beaten by the United States at the World Cup in Brazil in 1950.
In a club statement Preston North End said: “We have been informed of the extremely sad news of the passing of Sir Tom Finney.
“Sir Tom was the greatest player to ever play for Preston North End and one of the all-time greats for England. The thoughts of everyone at the club, and those connected with it, are with his family at this time.”
Finney was born in Preston in 1922 – a street away from Deepdale – and his football career began late because of the Second World War, in which he served as a tank driver. His footballing skills did however become widely known during his army service.
He made his North End debut at the age of 24 in 1946, and less than a month later he made his England debut – he scored in both games.
He played for England for 12 years, becoming the country’s record goalscorer with his 30th and final international goal. Sir Bobby Charlton beat his record in 1963.
He maintained his long association with Preston, becoming the club’s president. His image is printed on seats in the Sir Tom Finney Stand at Deepdale and his statue is outside the ground.
Gary Lineker, second on the all-time England goalscoring list, tweeted: “One of the greatest players this country has ever seen, and a true gentleman.”
The late Liverpool manager Bill Shankly – also a Preston player – once said: “Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age… even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”
Sir Stanley Matthews once said: “To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities. Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand -Pele, Maradona, Best, Di Stefano, and Tom Finney.”