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Opinion: A tribute Sir Tom Finney - what a privilege to have met such a great man

18:02 16 February 2014

File photo dated 23/02/1999 of Former Preston North End and England footballer Sir Tom Finney with the original Football League Championship Trophy. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 14, 2014. Former England forward Tom Finney has died at the age of 91, his former club Preston have announced. See PA story SOCCER Finney. Photo credit should read: David Kendall/PA Wire

File photo dated 23/02/1999 of Former Preston North End and England footballer Sir Tom Finney with the original Football League Championship Trophy. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 14, 2014. Former England forward Tom Finney has died at the age of 91, his former club Preston have announced. See PA story SOCCER Finney. Photo credit should read: David Kendall/PA Wire

PA Wire

There was Tom Finney the footballer - and Tom Finney the man. If you knew, witnessed or experienced one you were extremely lucky - both extremely privileged.

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File photo dated 25/08/1956 of Preston North End's Tom Finney splashes through a puddle.. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 14, 2014. John Horton/PA WireFile photo dated 25/08/1956 of Preston North End's Tom Finney splashes through a puddle.. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday February 14, 2014. John Horton/PA Wire

Sadly I never got to see Sir Tom play, however his career statistics, footage on Youtube and the many, many platitudes written about him are enough to make it clear he was one of THE greats of the sport. But I was lucky enough to get to know him during days as a reporter in Preston.

Being a football-loving journalist in the northern town during the first couple of years of the opening of the National Football Museum afforded me the privilege of attending regular events alongside some of the legends of the sport. Few were as friendly or as affable as Sir Tom.

As has become clear in the last few days, I am not alone in feeling lucky to have experienced Sir Tom’s warmth. In a similar way to when Sir Bobby Robson passed, he is one of those people everyone who met him has a story to pass on.

And there are two memories of him in particular that stick in my mind as testament to the type of person he was.

Driving around the town on various jobs he could often be seen out and about for a stroll. He remained a sprightly and energetic chap despite the advancing years. He loved that the town loved him, but in a humble, not arrogant way.

On one ocassion I gave him a honk of the horn and he quickly waved back. I’m not sure he knew who I was - he just always seemed happy to make others happy.

That selflessness became clear when he devoted so much time to caring for his late wife Elsie, who suffered Alzheimer’s.

Sadly, the other ocassion I had most cause to chat to Sir Tom was when former team-mates passed away. And, without fail he always took time to pay tribute, praise them and, I often thought, possibly make them sound a bit better than they were. It’s apt, therefore, so many are praising him now - though the difference is he was as good as everyone says.

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