Sir Tom Finney
Sir Tom Finney was one of the greatest players of the post-war period, described by Bill Shankly as “the greatest player I ever saw, bar none”.
He played for his home town team, Preston North End, for his entire career. Signed as a teenager, Finney had yet to make an appearance when the Second World War brought football to a halt. He was 24 by the time he could make his debut for club and, shortly after, country. From leaving the army in 1946 until his retirement from the game in 1960, Finney made over 400 appearances for Preston.
The versatile attacker could play in any forward position, left or right, on the wing or at centre-forward, and won his 76 England caps on either side of the pitch.
"The greatest player I ever saw, bar none." Bill Shankly
Twice voted Footballer of The Year in the 1950s, the debate on who was the best footballer between Blackpool's Stanley Matthews or Finney, divided the nation. Some preferred Matthews' dribbling skills and others Finney’s all round ability. He was not a big man and had to take some hard tackles in a time when defenders did not take prisoners. However his speed, movement and ability, on the ground and in the air, left defenders bamboozled. A prolific goal scorer, Finney was also great at creating goals for other players: the ideal team man.
Despite Tom's undoubted greatness, major honours were to elude him throughout his career. During the Finney era Preston were often viewed harshly as a one-man team. Having been relegated in 1949, they won the Second Division in 1951, and were to finish First Division runners up the following year. In 1954, with Finney later revealed to not be fully fit, Preston lost 3-2 to West Brom in the FA Cup Final. Despite his most prolific goalscoring years still being ahead of him (a partnership with Tommy Thompson seeing Sir Tom hit 23 goals in 56/57, and 26 in 57/58), the narrow defeat at Wembley was to be the closest Tom came to any silverware. Despite playing 43 league and cup games in 1959/60, persistent injury forced Tom's retirement at the end of the season, aged 39. Without him the following season, Preston finished bottom of the league, and haven't returned to the top flight since.
Finney played at three World Cups with England (1950, 1954 & 1958), and his 30 goal haul was briefly a record; in Tom's final international game he saw Nat Lofthouse equal his record, and even handed over his regular penalty-taking duties to a young Bobby Charlton; the man who was to due to eclipse both players' tallies.
Both on and off the field he was known as a gentleman. Never booked, sent off or reportedly even 'spoken to' by a referee, after his career ended he dedicated his life to helping the people of his beloved city of Preston, working for local charities and hospitals.
He was awarded an OBE, a CBE and a Knighthood for his charitable work. With the nickname “The Preston Plumber” he ran his own successful plumbing business from the 1940s until the 1990s.
Sir Tom was an inaugural inductee of the National Football Museum Hall of Fame in 2002, and a great friend and supporter of the museum. An exhibition dedicated to him, featuring tributes from Bobby Charlton and Ryan Giggs amongst others, was the post popular temporary exhibition held while the museum was at Preston. Its title, 'Local Hero', summed up the esteem Sir Tom was held in by the people of his town.
Clubs: Preston North End
Caps: 76 (30 goals)