Football world bids Finney farewell

Tom Finney's civic funeral took place in Preston Minster

Tom Finney's civic funeral took place in Preston Minster

First published in National Sport News © by

The great and the good of British football past and present came out in force in Preston on Thursday to honour the passing of Sir Tom Finney CBE.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Preston to see the funeral cortege as it travelled from Deepdale stadium to Preston Minster.

The minster itself was packed with many figures from football and the city to pay tribute to the former England winger, who died aged 91 two weeks ago.

Finney won 76 caps and scored 30 international goals, and played for Preston all his career, making 569 first-class appearances.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the former England international who represented the Football Association at the funeral service, told Press Association Sport: "He was one of the most genuine individuals you would ever be likely to meet. Everyone admired and respected him.

"To come to this event today, over 50 years since he played, and see all these people both here in the minster and on the streets, I can't think of many who would get the same reaction.

"As a player, he was the match-winner, the crowd-pleaser, the one who could make the difference - I was a youngster in primary school when he was playing, I would watch him on a black and white telly and then go out into the garden with my brother to try to emulate him."

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey was also among those at the service, and he said: "The great and the good of football have come out to say farewell to Sir Tom Finney - a man who was a genuine legend of our game.

"You only have to mention Preston and Preston North End... the conversation soon turns to Tom Finney and that sums up everything the man did for the club, the city and the game of football."

David Moyes, the Manchester United boss who started his coaching career at Preston, attended the service, as did England's record goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton.

The funeral cortege travelled from Preston's Deepdale home - Finney was born on a street next to the stadium in 1922 - with a mounted police escort from the Lancashire Constabulary to the minster.

The Preston and District Veterans' Association also joined the cortege to mark his service as a tank driver in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War.

The funeral service was shown live on a big screen inside Preston's ground to a crowd of several thousand people.

Preston City Council had planned for tens of thousands to line the streets, with a number of schools giving children time off to attend the event.

Finney was nicknamed the 'Preston Plumber' - his father insisted he train as plumber and he continued working in the family business throughout his career: useful extra income in the days of the maximum wage for players.

He was regarded as one of the true greats of English football - and his record of caps and goals came despite having lost six years to the war.

FIFA's British vice-president Jim Boyce represented the world governing body at the funeral.

He said: "Tom Finney was one of my boyhood heroes, and played in a day where footballers were earning a fraction of the money they earn today, and became a fantastic ambassador for Preston - the city and the club.

"It has been fantastic to see so many people turn out to show their affection to one of the game's true greats."

Preston chairman Peter Ridsdale said Finney had "touched the hearts" of the community.

He said: "What I think is wonderful is that so many people - not only from the game but also from the city - have turned out to say farewell.

"This is a player that truly touched the hearts not just of football, but the whole community.

"The whole of Preston has almost come to a standstill in the two weeks since his death, and that is testament to what a great man he was."

Former Everton manager Howard Kendall, who began his playing career at Preston, was also among the 600 invited mourners for the service.

The Vicar of Preston, Father Timothy Lipscomb, led the service which was also broadcast to those outside the Minster.

He said: "We remember his loyalty, his humility, his respect for local traditions and his self-effacing nature."

Jimmy Armfield, England's former World Cup captain who played against Finney when he was at Blackpool, delivered an address in which he paid tribute to his attitude.

"Tom didn't dive, he didn't feign injury, that wasn't part of his repertoire. He was the footballers' footballer.

"He was a real all-round athlete and in my opinion one of the real sporting icons that has ever come out of these isles.

"He was world famous but he never won a championship medal or an FA Cup winner's medal - though he won something much more important: the hearts of his team-mates, the supporters, opposing players even and of the whole country."

Tommy Docherty, the former Scotland and Manchester United manager who was a team-mate of Finney's at Preston, gave the eulogy.

He said: "In my opinion he was the greatest player I have ever seen. When I see Lionel Messi on the television playing for Barcelona I think maybe you could be as good as Tom.

"He was quiet and modest but he was amazing, he had two great feet and made ordinary players on his team look good - and I should know."

The service included the hymn Jerusalem, a performance of Amazing Grace by Louisa Stirland, the BBC young chorister of the year, and finished with the singing of Abide With Me, the FA Cup final hymn.

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