Sir Thomas Finney, CBE (born 5 April 1922, Preston, Lancashire) is a former English footballer, famous for his loyalty to his league club, Preston North End, and for his performances in the English national side. Sir Tom was also the President of Kendal Town FC. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1961 Queen's New Year Honours and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1992 Queen's New Year Honours and was knighted in the 1998 Queen's New Year Honours
Sir Tom Finney was born at home in Preston on a street next to the Preston North Ends 'Deepdale' stadium, to parents Alfred Finney, and Margaret Mitchell. He was frail and some times unwell in his youth and stood only 4 ft 9 in (1.45 m) at the age of fourteen. When he was offered the opportunity to sign for Preston North End (PNE), but his father insisted that he complete his apprenticeship in the family's plumbing business before signing as a professional. This led to one of his nicknames, the 'Preston Plumber'. Sir Tom's mother Margaret died in 1927, at the age of 32, when Tom was only four years old. He was married to Elsie Noblett from 1945 until her death from Alzheimer's disease in 2004. They had two children; a son Brian (born 1947) and a daughter Barbara (born 1950).
Second World War
Soon after he signed, however, World War II began and normal football was suspended, though Sir Tom started to achieve some recognition during war-time tournaments. In December 1942, he made a guest appearance for Southampton in a 3–1 defeat by Arsenal at The Dell.
Called up to the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942, he fought in Montgomery's Eighth Army in Egypt and later in Italy in the final offensive to capture Argenta in April 1945 as a Stuart tank driver in the 9th Lancers. Local leave in North Africa allowed him to play in army teams against local opposition and on one occasion he played against the future actor Omar Sharif.
Post-war career and England Debut
Once normal competition was restored, he made his debut for the club in August 1946 and soon established himself as an agile forward. Post-war demand for plumbers ensured that he had a second income to supplement the £14 he received as a footballer and he became famous as the "Preston Plumber". Such was his influence on the team that Preston were, rather unfairly, known to some as "the Plumber and his 10 drips".
He played against Italy in 1948, he is the only player for either side that played that game who is still alive.
Tom Finney was Footballer of the Year in 1953–54, the year of his only appearance in the FA Cup Final (losing 2–3 to West Bromwich Albion), and again in 1956–57, becoming the first player to win this award more than once. Sir Tom has recently revealed in his autobiography that he wasn't fully match fit for the FA Cup final of 1954, and therefore didn't give his best performance.
He formed an attacking partnership with Tommy Thompson in the 1950's. In the 1956-57 they scored 56 goals altogether; next season their combined tally was 60 goals.
He retired from Preston North End in 1960, only when forced out with a persistent groin injury. He had played his entire career for his local club, appearing 433 times and scoring 187 goals. The balance of Preston's team hardly matched Finney's brilliance, the young Bill Shankly notwithstanding, and he never won the championship (in 1953 and 1958 Preston North End came close to completing the feat, but each time they had to settle for runners-up) or any other trophy. His loyalty is remarkable, though even he considered a 1952 offer from Italian club Palermo that included a £10,000 personal signing-on fee and high pay and perquisites, but Preston asked for the then record fee of £50,000. He did, however, come out of retirement in 1963 to play for Northern Irish outfit Distillery against Benfica in the European Cup.
He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1988 when he was surprised by Michael Aspel and a coach full of his former England team players in Central London.
England all-time top scorer
In June 1958, he scored his 29th international goal, against the Soviet Union to become joint England all-time top-scorer, sharing the record with Vivian Woodward and Nat Lofthouse. In October the same year, he netted his 30th goal, against Northern Ireland, to become the sole holder of the record. Two weeks later, Lofthouse equalled his tally. Both were surpassed by Bobby Charlton in October 1963.
Dave Whelan described Finney as the perfect gentleman. Whelan explained that in his first game back for Blackburn Rovers after recovering from a broken leg, he had to mark Finney in a 1962 pre-season friendly against Preston. Finney said, "You've had some back luck son, and I'm not going to take you on, I want you to get through today's game and get back into the first team."
On 31 July 2004, Sir Tom unveiled the water feature sculpture "The Splash", by sculptor Peter Hodgkinson, which stands outside The National Football Museum. The sculpture was inspired by the 1956 Sports Photograph of the Year which features Tom Finney beating two defenders at a waterlogged Stamford Bridge.
Until his passing in 2014 aged 91, Sir Tom was one of England's oldest living former international footballers. At that time he was one of only three surviving players from England's 1950 World Cup squad. The others were Bert Williams (B.1920 - D.2014) and Roy Bentley (1924 - Living).
Continued links with Preston North End
Until his passing, Sir Tom maintained links with Preston North End as the club's president. 2006 marked 60 years since his first league debut for PNE.
To mark this occasion the National Football Museum, an organisation which he had championed and had close links with, invited football fans to sign a specially commissioned flag which was presented to Sir Tom at the beginning of the 2006–07 season to mark his 60 years with PNE.
Passed Away Age 91
Sir Tom Finney died on 14th February 2014. The Football Association called him "one of England's all-time greatest players", while fellow England player Bobby Charlton said Finney's contributions to football were "immeasurable". Former team-mate and Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, had called him "the greatest player to ever play the game" while Stanley Matthews once compared him to Diego Maradona, Pelé, George Best and Alfredo Di Stéfano.
At the time of his death aged 91, Sir Tom was one of England's oldest living former international footballers.
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