The Preston Plumber

Finney StatueI was driving home through the rain on Wednesday when I passed the statue and fountain of Tom Finney outside Preston North End’s Deepdale ground.

My first regret was that I didn’t have my camera with me to get a shot like the one on the left, although it wasn’t exactly what you would call photography weather.

The statue recalls one of those iconic images of, the moment that Finney controlled a pass from Tommy Docherty in atrocious conditions at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge ground in 1956, as you can see from the photo below.

Finney controls the ball at Stamford BridgeTom Finney was already on my mind because I was on my way back from a meeting at the old Sharoe Green Hospital which was one of those centres of caring that started life as a workhouse in 1868. There is a rather evocative photo of it here.

Like many other Victorian edifices, it rather sombre purpose is belied by a grand central staircase that leads to what must have been the workhouse masters quarters, but for me it brought back more recent memories.

It would have been in 1985 or 1986 in my early days working in the NHS when I had a meeting at the old Preston Health Authority at the end of which I was asked if I would like to meet their chairman. Knowing that this was the legendary Tom Finney, I could barely believe my good fortune.

I must admit to a degree of nervousness. I’d met many prominent figures in my short time in the service, but never someone who was such a personal idol. I was ushered into his office which overlooked the lawns in front of the hospital and shook hands with the great man. We chatted for five or ten minutes, although I couldn’t tell you what we spoke about, and my overriding memory of Tom Finney is what a truly nice man he was.

Ironic then that those memories should come back to me in the week that he passed away. The strange thing is, he was an idol for me even though I never saw him play. Along with the likes of Jimmy Armfield, Billy Wright and Stanley Matthews, Finney was an enduring legend from a bygone age whose lustre never faded.

He was a gentleman from an age when football stars earned no more than £12 a week and yet had skills that would be beyond the majority of today’s soccer millionaires. And yet he never seemed bitter about that. When his career ended he went back to his pre-playing days career as a plumber and very successful he was at it too.

I’m just grateful that I had a brief opportunity to meet him and I’ll leave it with a video tribute from Vimeo.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

1 comment… Add yours
  • Minute Silence Pudding 15th February 2014

    The contrast between the lives and attitudes of great footballers like Tom Finney and say Wayne Rooney from the present day is so marked as to be outrageous. It’s marvellous that you got to meet the great man (Finney not Rooney!). If there were such a thing as heaven, he would surely be there now – without question.

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