London: England football great Tom Finney has died at the age of 91, his former club Preston North End said on Friday.
“Preston North End have been informed of the extremely sad news of the passing of Sir Tom Finney,” a statement on the English third tier club’s website said.
“Sir Tom was the greatest player to ever play for Preston North End and one of 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, a winger who could play in several positions across the forward line, was famously loyal to his hometown side in Lancashire, north-west England.
Finney made his debut for North End in 1946 and remained with the club until his retirement in 1960, scoring 210 goals in 473 appearances for the Lillywhites. His England record was equally impressive, Finney scoring 30 goals in 76 matches for his country.
One of the most popular British sportsmen of his era, Finney was nicknamed the “Preston Plumber” after his father insisted he complete an apprenticeship at the family business he later ran alongside his football career.
Finney maintained his links with Preston throughout his life, serving as the president of a club whose Deepdale home is now located on Sir Tom Finney Way, with an image of their favourite son adorning the seats of what is now the Sir Tom Finney stand.
Stanley Matthews, arguably Finney’s only rival as the greatest England player of their generation, 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.”
And Manchester United and England hero Bobby Charlton, a World Cup winner in 1966, said: “Sir Tom Finney was one of the greatest footballers there has ever been — he was the type of player that people would travel a long way to see.”
England’s governing Football Association (FA) added via Twitter: “The FA is saddened to hear of the passing of Sir Tom Finney, one of England’s all-time greatest players who won 76 caps.”
The late Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool manager who played with Finney at Preston, once said of his former teammate: “Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age … even if he had been wearing an overcoat. ”