When I was at primary school, I used to collect cigarette cards of footballers. In retrospect it seems a reprehensible practice as it encouraged my father to smoke. However, we didn't know then what we know now. I wish I had kept them as they would be of considerable interest to me today, but they were lost in my parents' moves.
The most treasured item was Sam Bartram, my favourite player. But I also admired two of the giants of the day, Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews. I had always thought that I had seen Tom Finney play at The Valley, but on checking the records this can't be the case. Two of the home matches against Preston were 'early closing day' games on Thursday afternoons when I would have been in school. There was one on a Saturday, but for some reason, Finney did not play.
Finney was playing in the days of the maximum wage and supplemented his income by building up a plumbing business. However, he always lived relatively modestly in his home town and played all his career for North End. He was offered a lucrative deal abroad, but the club refused to release his contract. Later in his life he cared for his wife who was suffering from dementia which, as I know, can be very challenging.
Everything we know about Finney suggests that he was a true legend, a real gentleman who loved his football and his club and regarded playing for his country as a real honour. We shall not see his like again.
There was a great tribute at Deepdale today with each Preston player wearing a shirt bearing Finney's name. It was also good to see an impeccably observed minute's silence rather than what has become the more customary round of applause.