Tom Finney

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Sir Tom Finney
Tom Finney.jpg
Personal information
Full nameSir Thomas Finney
Date of birth(1922-04-05)5 April 1922
Place of birth Preston, England
Date of death 14 February 2014(2014-02-14) (aged 91)
Position(s) Outside right and centre forward
Senior career*
1946–1960 Preston North End 433 (187)
1962 Toronto City 1 (1)
1963 Distillery 0 (0)
National team
1948 England B 1 (0)
1946–1958 England 76 (30)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Sir Thomas Finney CBE (5 April 1922 – 14 February 2014) was an English footballer who played from 1946 to 1960 as an outside left for Preston North End and England. He is widely acknowledged to have been one of the sport's greatest-ever players. He was noted for his loyalty to Preston, for whom he made 569 first-class appearances, [1] and for many outstanding performances in international matches.


In later life, Finney was club president of both Preston and of non-league Kendal Town F.C. [2] For his charitable work, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1961 New Year Honours and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1992 New Year Honours and was knighted in the 1998 New Year Honours. [3]

Early life

Tom Finney was born on 5 April 1922 at his parents' home on St Michael's Road, Preston, Lancashire, only a few hundred yards from Deepdale stadium, the home of Preston North End F.C. His parents were Maggie (née Mitchell) and Alf Finney. He had an elder brother called Joe and four sisters called Madge, Peggy, Doris and Edith. Alf was a clerical worker in local government who sometimes found himself unemployed on account of the changing economic climate. [4] When Tom was very young, the family moved to Daisy Lane in the Holme Slack area of Preston. They were struck by tragedy in 1927 when Maggie was suddenly taken ill and died, aged 32. Alf managed to keep the family together with the help of relations and neighbours. [5]

Inspired by his father, who was a keen football fan, Finney played the game from a very early age both at school and in the fields near home. His ambition was always to become a professional footballer but he was somewhat frail and sickly in his youth and stood only 4 ft 9 in (1.45 m) when he left school in 1936 at the age of fourteen. He became an apprentice for a local plumbing company called Pilkington's. [6]

The following year, Finney saw an advert placed by Preston North End in the local newspaper for junior players aged fourteen to eighteen. Finney asked his father to help him get a trial. His father met Preston trainer Will Scott and it was arranged. Finney had an outstanding match in the trial and was immediately offered a contract at the wage of £2 10s a week. He went home to get his father's approval but Alf Finney refused, insisting that he must first complete his apprenticeship before signing professional terms. Preston were nevertheless happy with this and Finney joined them as an amateur, doing his training in the evenings after work and eligible to play for the club's junior teams. [7]

Second World War

Soon after Finney turned professional, the Second World War began. First-class league and cup football was suspended for the duration, though Finney started to achieve some recognition playing in wartime tournaments. In December 1942, he made a guest appearance for Southampton in a 3–1 defeat by Arsenal at The Dell. [8] [9]

Called up to serve in the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942, Finney fought for Montgomery's Eighth Army in Egypt. Later, in Italy, he was in the final offensive at the Battle of the Argenta Gap in April 1945 as a Stuart tank driver with 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. [10]

Preston and England career

Once normal competition was restored, Finney made his debut for Preston 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 was nicknamed "The Preston Plumber". [3] Such was his influence on the team that Preston were, rather unfairly, known to some as "the Plumber and his 10 drips". [11] Twenty-eight days after his first Football League appearance for Preston, and aged 24, Finney made his England debut against Northern Ireland in Belfast, scoring once in England's 7–2 victory. [1] Finney referred to this as his "proudest day as a footballer". [12] He went on to win 76 caps and score 30 goals in an England career that spanned 13 years and included 51 victories. [13]

In 1952, Preston's chairman Nat Buck rejected an offer for Finney worth £10,000 over two years from Italian club Palermo, and Finney remained a one-club player. [14] He was voted Footballer of the Year in 1953–54, the season of his only appearance in the FA Cup Final where Preston lost 3–2 to West Bromwich Albion. He was Footballer of the Year again in 1956–57, becoming the first player to win this award more than once. Finney revealed in his autobiography that he was not fully match fit for the 1954 FA Cup Final, and therefore did not give his best performance. [15]

Finney formed an attacking partnership with Tommy Thompson in the 1950s. In the 1956–57 season they scored 57 goals altogether; in 1957–58 their combined tally was 60 goals. 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. Finney's final appearance for England came in October 1958, in a 5–0 win over the Soviet Union at Wembley. [12]


Finney retired from competitive football in 1960 because of a persistent groin injury. [14] He had played his entire career for his local club, making 433 League appearances and scoring 187 goals. At the end of the 1960–61 season, the first one after Finney's retirement, Preston were relegated from the top flight of English football. [16] Finney was still involved with them and made occasional non-competitive appearances. One of these was in a 1962 pre-season friendly against Blackburn Rovers, in which he was marked by Dave Whelan who described Finney as the perfect gentleman, explaining that it was his (Whelan's) first game back for Blackburn after recovering from a broken leg sustained two years earlier in the 1960 FA Cup Final. Finney said to him: "You've had some bad 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". [17] In 1962, he played in the Eastern Canada Professional Soccer League with Toronto City where he appeared in one match and recorded a goal. [18]

Finney came briefly out of retirement in 1963 to play for Northern Irish club Distillery against Benfica in the European Cup. [19]

Finney 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. [20] In 2007, Finney was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Myerscough College in Preston. Celebrating Finney's 90th birthday in 2012, Tommy Docherty said "To me, Messi is Finney reborn". [16]

Finney maintained his links with Preston North End as the club's president and 2006 marked 60 years since his League debut for the club. To celebrate this diamond anniversary, the National Football Museum, an organisation which he championed and with which he had close links, invited football fans to sign a specially commissioned flag which was presented to Finney at the beginning of the 2006–07 season to mark his 60 years with Preston. [21]


Finney was married to Elsie (née Noblett) from 1945 until her death in 2004. They had two children: a son Brian (born 1947) and a daughter Barbara (born 1950). In her later years, Lady Finney suffered from Alzheimer's disease, which led Finney as her full-time carer to be a strong supporter of the Alzheimer's Society. [22] A care home, Lady Elsie Finney House, in Preston is named after her.

Finney died on 14 February 2014; the cause of death was not announced. [23] 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 teammate 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. [23] At the time of his death aged 91, Finney was one of England's oldest living former international footballers. [24]

The Splash

The Splash sculpture outside the old National Football Museum in Preston Finney.jpg
The Splash sculpture outside the old National Football Museum in Preston

On 31 July 2004, Finney unveiled the water feature sculpture The Splash, by sculptor Peter Hodgkinson, outside Deepdale stadium which at that time housed The National Football Museum. [25] The sculpture was inspired by the 1956 Sports Photograph of the Year which shows Finney beating two Chelsea defenders at a waterlogged Stamford Bridge, [26] which was taken on 25 August 1956 by photographer John Horton. [27] The museum has moved to Manchester but the statue remains at Deepdale.

Quotes about Finney

The Sir Tom Finney, a pub in Penwortham, near Preston The Sir Tom Finney - - 141131.jpg
The Sir Tom Finney, a pub in Penwortham, near Preston

Career statistics


Club performanceLeagueCupContinentalTotal
EnglandLeague FA Cup European Cup Total
Preston North End 1946–47 First Division 32732359
1947–48 3313413714
1948–49 24722269
1949–50 Second Division 3710113811
1950–51 3413203613
1951–52 First Division 3313003313
1952–53 3417323719
1953–54 2311833114
1954–55 30732339
1955–56 3217113318
1956–57 3423654028
1957–58 3426103526
1958–59 16600166
1959–60 3717644321
Northern IrelandLeague Irish Cup European Cup Total
Distillery 1963–64 Irish League 00001010
Career total433187402310474210

Source:. [30]

International goals

Scores and results list England's goal tally first. Score after each Finney goal is shown in bold with asterisk.
128 September 1946 Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern IrelandSaint Patrick's Saltire.svg  Ireland 60'4*–07–2 1947 British Home Championship
230 September 1946 Dalymount Park, Dublin, Republic of IrelandFlag of Ireland.svg  Republic of Ireland 82'1*–01–0 Friendly
327 November 1946 Leeds Road, Huddersfield, EnglandFlag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 44'6*–18–2Friendly
43 May 1947 Highbury, London, EnglandFlag of France.svg  France 50'1*–03–0Friendly
525 May 1947 Estádio Nacional, Lisbon, PortugalFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 21'4*–010–0Friendly
621 September 1947 Heysel Stadium, Brussels, BelgiumFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 22'3*–05–2Friendly
721 September 1947 Heysel Stadium, Brussels, BelgiumFlag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 60'4*–25–2Friendly
818 October 1947 Ninian Park, Cardiff, WalesFlag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 6'1*–03–0 1948 British Home Championship
910 April 1948 Hampden Park, Glasgow, ScotlandFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 44'1*–02–0 1948 British Home Championship
1016 May 1948 Stadio Comunale, Turin, ItalyFlag of Italy.svg  Italy 70'3*–04–0Friendly
1116 May 1948 Stadio Comunale, Turin, ItalyFlag of Italy.svg  Italy 72'4*–04–0Friendly
1210 November 1948 Villa Park, Birmingham, EnglandFlag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 39'1*–01–0 1949 British Home Championship
1313 May 1949 Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 67'1*–31–3Friendly
1418 May 1949 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway Flag of Norway.svg  Norway 38'2*–04–1Friendly
1514 May 1950 National Stadium, Lisbon, PortugalFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 4' (pen.) 1*–05–3Friendly
1614 May 1950 National Stadium, Lisbon, PortugalFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 28'3*–05–3Friendly
1714 May 1950 National Stadium, Lisbon, PortugalFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 55'4*–15–3Friendly
1814 May 1950 National Stadium, Lisbon, PortugalFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 72' (pen.) 5*–35–3Friendly
1914 April 1951 Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandFlag of Scotland.svg  Scotland 63'2*–32–3 1951 British Home Championship
2019 May 1951 Goodison Park, Liverpool, EnglandFlag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 75'3*–25–2Friendly
2112 November 1951 Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandFlag of Wales (1807-1953).svg  Wales 79'1*–05–2 1953 British Home Championship
2221 November 1953 Yankee Stadium, New York, USA Flag of the United States.svg  United States 6–3Friendly
2321 November 1953 Yankee Stadium, New York, USA Flag of the United States.svg  United States 6–3Friendly
2426 June 1954 St. Jakob Stadium, Basle, SwitzerlandFlag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 67'2*–32–4 1954 FIFA World Cup
252 November 1955 Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandUlster Banner.svg  Northern Ireland 88'3*–03–0 1956 British Home Championship
2630 November 1955 Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandFlag of Spain (1945-1977).svg  Spain 59'3*–04–1Friendly
2714 November 1956 Wembley Stadium, London, EnglandFlag of Wales (1953-1959).svg  Wales 75'3*–13–1 1957 British Home Championship
2819 October 1957 Ninian Park, Cardiff, WalesFlag of Wales (1953-1959).svg  Wales 64'3*–04–0 1958 British Home Championship
298 June 1958 Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union 85' (pen.) 2*–22–2 1958 FIFA World Cup
Group 4
304 October 1958 Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern IrelandUlster Banner.svg  Northern Ireland 61'2*–23–3 1959 British Home Championship


Preston North End


Source: [30]

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  15. Videos Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine . Trusupporter (18 December 2009); retrieved 23 April 2012.
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  29. When Saturday Comes, p. 143.
  30. 1 2 Finney, My autobiography, pp. 415–419


Further reading