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Tommy Thompson 1928-2015

16 September 2015

Former Preston North End and England striker Tommy Thompson passed away in hospital on Tuesday morning aged 86.

The Club was saddened to be notified of the passing of one of its former greats just before the game against Bristol City on Tuesday night. The best wishes and condolences of the Club go to his wife Mary and their family and friends at this sad time.

Tommy ‘Topper’ Thompson was a goalscoring legend as Club historian Ian Rigby explained in his detailed reflection of the striker’s career on the Former Players Association website, as published below:

Early Days
As a young professional footballer, Tommy, from County Durham, played alongside the likes of the famous Jackie Milburn, Len Shackleton and the Chilean Robledo brothers at Newcastle United. He made 20 first team appearances in the black and white stripes, scoring six goals along the way. In his early 20’s he was allowed to leave St James’ Park and was transferred to Aston Villa. It turns out that PNE could have bought him then for £15,000, but the timing was not right as the Club had just signed little Charlie Wayman from Southampton. 
Ironically, Wayman was at Newcastle himself when Tommy joined their ranks. Imagine that though, Wayman, Finney and Thompson in the same North End team. That trio would have guaranteed a glut of goals. Whilst at Villa Park, Tommy developed his natural instinct as a goalscorer, scoring 76 goals in 165 appearances. He had caught the England selectors’ eye and earned himself a full England cap, playing alongside Preston’s very own Tom Finney.  

North End Career
However, in May 1955 it was discovered that Aston Villa were prepared to sell Tommy ‘at the right price’. North End’s first bid of £20,000 was quickly rejected by the Villa Board, but an increased offer of £27,000 secured his signature. Tommy says that the thought of playing with Tom Finney, week in, week out, and the added fact that he was nearer home, persuaded him to sign on the dotted line. 

On his PNE debut, away at Goodison Park, Everton, Tommy took just two minutes to score his first of many goals for Preston North End. He proved an instant hit with the North End fans as he scored in his first four games for the Club. He finished the 1955/56 season as the Lilywhites leading goalscorer with a respectable 24 goals. It seemed that ‘Topper’ even brought the best out of Tom Finney as even he doubled his own goal tally to 18 from the previous season. 

The two Tommy’s had gelled together in rapid time, and were a real threat to the opposition for a number of seasons. Telepathic springs to mind. ‘Topper’ was top scorer again the following season, as he and Finney recorded 57 goals between them as PNE finished third in the league.

Record Goalscorer
Tommy was chosen to play for an England/Scotland select XI, to face an Ireland/Wales select team. Also in the team was PNE colleagues Tommy Docherty and Willie Cunningham. It was a 3-3 draw with Tommy scoring the opening goal. The 1957/58 season was a season that North End were in serious contention for the championship, but four defeats in the opening six games proved too big a hurdle to overcome. 

Mind you, the deserved champions, Wolves, did do the double over runners-up, Preston. Having said that, North End scored 100 league goals that season, with Thompson and Finney scoring a remarkable 60 goals between them. What a partnership. 

Tommy scored 34, which is still a PNE Club record in the top flight. Another call up for England came his way, but unfortunately Tommy never scored for the senior side. He was North End’s leading scorer in his first four seasons and but for knee injuries who knows what he could have achieved. 

He claimed North End hat-tricks against Sunderland, Birmingham and Chelsea. Another PNE record he holds is that he scored in 11 consecutive league games.

Topper Moves To Stoke
When he was transferred to Stoke City he was destined to play alongside yet another football legend, Stanley Matthews. How many other footballers can boast about playing alongside two soccer knights of the realm, Sir Tom Finney and Sir Stanley Matthews, at club and international level? Not too many I suspect.

Did You Know?
Did you know that Tommy once played for The Football League and scored four goals?

Did you know that Tommy played for England ‘B’ and scored?

Did you know that Tommy played for an FA XI and scored three goals?

Did you know that Tommy played 444 league games in his career and scored 222 goals?

Did you know that Tommy captained Preston North End when the Club toured South Africa?

Tommy Thompson one of the best. 

Words by Ian Rigby

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