SIR Tom Finney was a true great from a very, very different era. A plumber, a footballer, a Knight of the Realm. And he was a man quite simply adored, respected and admired by all.
A one-club man and one of the finest footballers to ever wear the England shirt, Sir Tom’s death united just about everyone in the game.
It doesn’t matter which club you support, fans joined as one in their tributes to a man they had only ever seen in black and white pictures.
And that is no mean feat.
Football fans of Lancashire are a partisan bunch whether it be Burnley, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton, Preston or North End’s arch-rivals Blackpool. Those age old rivalries date back to the various mill industries from those towns, industries that formed the Red Rose county’s heritage.
So for them all to shed a tear or two as one shows just how special Sir Tom was.
The game was different; life was different when he was a star. That star could be found fixing toilets around Preston as well as taking North End and England to new levels. That’s why the fans loved him.
“He was just like us, only better,” said one old Burnley supporter when the news broke late on Friday night.
Even half-a-century and more after retirement, Sir Tom’s legacy lived on.
A regular visitor to non-league football across Lancashire, Sir Tom was president of Kendal Town, a role he took nothing but pleasure out of.
He would visit as often as he could and in the clubhouse – a smart bar that has now been renamed in his honour – he would sit and talk to the semi-pros of the Evo-Stik League.
Those players, from both sides, would gather around and hang on every word he spoke. This was a player they and their parents had never seen play – but they all knew how good he was.
He offered them moments to cherish.
I won’t be around in 50 years – but I would be astonished to find any of today’s millionaire superstars taking that time out when they are drawing their pensions.
Sir Tom was a legend who deserved that tag. He helped make the game beautiful.