In Preston Minster, two moving eulogies were given. They were two emotional and inspiring reflections on the life of Sir Tom Finney - first up was Jimmy Armfield.
My friendship with Tom Finney goes back to the 1960’s.
By that time he had retired from playing really, he was working for a newspaper and he used to cover matches.
I knew all about him before that, of course; I had played against him, well at least I chased him around a few times and I had seen him play for England when I was in my young England days.
I considered Tom Finney the man, thoughtful, kind, considerate, one who smiled easily.
On the field, I had seen him destroy first division defences, and I had seen him play on the wing, and make goals and score them for England.
He was world famous, he never won a Championship medal, he didn’t win a cup winners medal, he won something much more important than that, he won the hearts of his team-mates, quite often the opponents, the supporters, and of the nation.
He served the country during the War, and he served it just the same on the football field.
His recent passing, has opened up a treasure trove of what I call football memories.
Of course it was a different era, people talked about them earning £14 a week, there was no television then, no advertising on grounds, no floodlights, no substitutes, no motorways, no names on shirts - we didn’t need them, we knew who we were in those days!
The simple truth is, the people, the fans knew the players, and people like Tom Finney were seen walking the streets of Preston and if you were lucky and you needed a plumber, he would even come round and repair a leak for you!
When he played the ball was heavier, the pitches were poorer, quite often muddy, the treatment of injuries wasn’t as good, training wasn’t quite the same, no sports science. No, it was all about him.
You see sporting talent, unlike art, or music, can only out itself in its own generation.
Tom was a gifted footballer, we all knew that, but to say what he would be like today, I can tell you he was strong, and he was an all-round athlete. People never mentioned that.
He was an all-round athlete. He had dribbling skills, he could head and shoot and tackle, we all knew that, but in my opinion, he’s one of the real sporting icons that have come out of these islands.
He is the classic case of the local boy who made good, really good, but above all he was a man of principle and attitude.
Performance did matter to Tom, on and off the field, and despite his fame, total humility, and I think that’s really what endeared him to all of us.
He cared about his profession. I read this week, about a Preston player playing at Arsenal, and because he disagreed with the referee’s decision, he kicked the ball away.
Tom made him go and fetch it, and he went for the ball and when it came back all the people in the crowd stood up and applauded.
How we could learn from that. You see, Tom Finney was the footballer’s footballer.
Tom was a Lancashire lad, born and bred in Preston.
Tom Finney and Preston, words that seem welded together.
People asked me what sort of reception do you think he would get today, and when we saw the streets lined, I’m not surprised, and frankly neither will many of you be either. That’s exactly what he was.
I think people will talk about Tom for many years to come, I’m just pleased to have been on the planet at the same time as him.
The second eulogy was given by former team-mate at Deepdale Tommy Docherty, who spoke movingly about the legendary Preston North End and England winger.
We are here today, to celebrate the life of Sir Tom Finney. It’s difficult to know what to say about Tom, but he was a quiet, modest man and probably one of the best football players the world has ever seen.
He was amazing. His ability was such that he could play both right and left side. He had two great feet and could make ordinary players look good, and I should know!
He was never sent off, never booked and never complained, no matter how badly he was treated. He would just dust himself down and say ‘well, they are doing their best Tommy’.
His family, Preston North End and his international career with England were his life. We shall never see the likes of him again, as he was simply the best.
I would like to tell a little story, it’s a footballing story that you may have heard before, but it epitomises Tom.
When I arrived at Preston North End from Glasgow Celtic for £3,000, I met him at the dressing room for the first time, and he was so nice, and so helpful.
In fact, I did so well playing behind him for ten years, I was awarded my first cap for Scotland against England at Wembley.
Fortunately I had a decent game, and those were the days when there was a maximum wage.
Tom was on £14 a week in the playing season and £14 in the summer, I was on £10 in the playing season and £8 in the summer.
I had a decent game, so when I went back to Preston on the Monday morning I saw Bill Scott, the manager.
He said ‘many congratulations Tom on your performance’. I told him it went very well for me, whilst the chairman, who was there, added ‘you did really well, but tell me son, why are you in here on a day off, Monday is normally your day off?’.
I told him that old cliché ‘while the irons hot, strike good and hard’ and that from now on, I wanted the same money as Finney, £14 all the year round. He said ‘you’re not as good a player as Tom’, I said, ‘I am in the summer!‘
I doubt very much if we will ever see the likes of him again, in my opinion he was the greatest player I’ve ever seen.
When I see television and I see Barcelona playing, and I see Lionel Messi, I think ‘maybe’ you are just as good as Finney.