Tom Finney

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.

Sir Tom Finney
Personal information
Full name Sir 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)
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
Playing position Outside right and centre forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1946–1960 Preston North End 433 (187)
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

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]

Finney was married to Elsie (née Noblett) from 1945 until her death in 2004. In her later years, she suffered from Alzheimer's disease, which led Finney as her full-time carer to be a strong supporter of the Alzheimer's Society.[11] They had two children: a son Brian (born 1947) and a daughter Barbara (born 1950).

Post-war career and England debut

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".[12] 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".[13] He went on to win 76 caps and score 30 goals in an England career that spanned 13 years and included 51 victories.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[13]


Finney retired from competitive football in 1960 because of a persistent groin injury.[15] 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.[17] 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".[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. 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".[17]

The Splash

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.[20] The sculpture was inspired by the 1956 Sports Photograph of the Year which shows Finney beating two Chelsea defenders at a waterlogged Stamford Bridge,[21] which was taken on 25 August 1956 by photographer John Horton.[22] The museum has moved to Manchester but the statue remains at Deepdale.

Preston North End

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.[23]


Finney died on 14 February 2014; the cause of death was not announced.[24] 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.[24] At the time of his death aged 91, Finney was one of England's oldest living former international footballers.[25]

Quotes about Finney

  • Bill Shankly: "Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age ... even if he had been wearing an overcoat".[26]
  • Shankly again, after he was asked to compare a leading player of the 1970s to Finney: "Aye, he's as good as Tommy – but then Tommy's nearly 60 now".[27]
  • "Tom Finney should claim income tax relief ... for his 10 dependents". (Satirical observation on the weakness of the Preston team in his absence).[13]

Career statistics


Club performance League Cup Continental Total
ClubSeasonDivision AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals
England League 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 Ireland League Irish Cup European Cup Total
Distillery 1963–64 Irish League 00001010
Career total 433187402310474210


International goals

Scores and results list England's goal tally first. Score after each Finney goal is shown in bold with asterisk.
128 September 1946Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland Ireland60'4*–07–21947 British Home Championship
230 September 1946Dalymount Park, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland82'1*–01–0Friendly
327 November 1946Leeds Road, Huddersfield, England Netherlands44'6*–18–2Friendly
43 May 1947Highbury, London, England France50'1*–03–0Friendly
525 May 1947Estádio Nacional, Lisbon, Portugal Portugal21'4*–010–0Friendly
621 September 1947Heysel Stadium, Brussels, Belgium Belgium22'3*–05–2Friendly
721 September 1947Heysel Stadium, Brussels, Belgium Belgium60'4*–25–2Friendly
818 October 1947Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales Wales6'1*–03–01948 British Home Championship
910 April 1948Hampden Park, Glasgow, Scotland Scotland44'1*–02–01948 British Home Championship
1016 May 1948Stadio Comunale, Turin, Italy Italy70'3*–04–0Friendly
1116 May 1948Stadio Comunale, Turin, Italy Italy72'4*–04–0Friendly
1210 November 1948Villa Park, Birmingham, England Wales39'1*–01–01949 British Home Championship
1313 May 1949Råsunda Stadium, Stockholm, Sweden Sweden67'1*–31–3Friendly
1418 May 1949Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway Norway38'2*–04–1Friendly
1514 May 1950National Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal Portugal4' (pen.)1*–05–3Friendly
1614 May 1950National Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal Portugal28'3*–05–3Friendly
1714 May 1950National Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal Portugal55'4*–15–3Friendly
1814 May 1950National Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal Portugal72' (pen.)5*–35–3Friendly
1914 April 1951Wembley Stadium, London, England Scotland63'2*–32–31951 British Home Championship
2019 May 1951Goodison Park, Liverpool, England Portugal75'3*–25–2Friendly
2112 November 1951Wembley Stadium, London, England Wales79'1*–05–21953 British Home Championship
2221 November 1953Yankee Stadium, New York, USA United States6–3Friendly
2321 November 1953Yankee Stadium, New York, USA United States6–3Friendly
2426 June 1954St. Jakob Stadium, Basle, Switzerland Uruguay67'2*–32–41954 FIFA World Cup
252 November 1955Wembley Stadium, London, England Northern Ireland88'3*–03–01956 British Home Championship
2630 November 1955Wembley Stadium, London, England Spain59'3*–04–1Friendly
2714 November 1956Wembley Stadium, London, England Wales75'3*–13–11957 British Home Championship
2819 October 1957Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales Wales64'3*–04–01958 British Home Championship
298 June 1958Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden Soviet Union85' (pen.)2*–22–21958 FIFA World Cup
Group 4
304 October 1958Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland Northern Ireland61'2*–23–31959 British Home Championship


Preston North End




  1. "England and Preston legend Sir Tom Finney passes away". The Football Association. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  2. "Kendal Town Football Club personnel". Kendal Town FC. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  3. "Sir Tom Finney obituary". National Football Museum. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  4. Agnew, p. 2.
  5. Agnew, p. 3.
  6. Agnew, p. 18.
  7. Agnew, pp. 19-23.
  8. Holley, Duncan; Chalk, Gary (1992). The Alphabet of the Saints. ACL & Polar Publishing. pp. 392 & 394. ISBN 0-9514862-3-3.
  9. Chalk, Gary; Holley, Duncan (1987). Saints – A complete record. Breedon Books. pp. 105–106. ISBN 0-907969-22-4.
  10. "Sir Tom's life in pictures". Preston Today. Archived from the original on 7 February 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  11. Winter, Henry (25 March 2008). "Sir Tom Finney – a survivor of a golden era". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  12. Murray, Scott (13 April 2012). "The Joy of Six: great footballers who won nothing during their careers". Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  13. "Tom Finney profile". Retrieved 7 June 2013.
  14. "Tom Finney profile". The Football Association. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  15. Fletcher, Paul (14 February 2014). "Sir Tom Finney: Why he remained a Preston North End legend". BBC Sport. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  16. Videos Archived 17 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Trusupporter (18 December 2009); retrieved 23 April 2012.
  17. "Lionel Messi compared to Sir Tom Finney". BBC Sport. 5 April 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  18. Hunter, Andy (9 March 2013). "Tearful Whelan craves Wembley chance to repair his broken dream". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  19. Viner, Brian (17 February 1999). "Sir Tom the pride of Preston". The Independent.
  20. "The Sir Tom Finney Interview". 30 June 1999. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  21. "Tom Finney at Stamford Bridge, 1956 – a wider perspective ..." flickr. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  22. Rawlinson, Kevin (14 February 2014). "Tom Finney, former England and Preston footballer, dies aged 91". Guardian News & Media Limited. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  23. "A tribute to Sir Tom Finney – 60 yrs since PNE debut". 31 October 2005. Archived from the original on 10 February 2007. Retrieved 31 January 2006.
  24. "Sir Tom Finney: Former Preston and England winger dies at 91". BBC Sport. 15 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014.
  25. Dart, James; Bandini, Paolo (12 September 2007). "Who is the oldest living England international?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 February 2011.
  26. "Classic Football: Tom Finney". FIFA. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  27. When Saturday Comes, p. 143.
  28. Finney, My autobiography, pp. 415–419


  • Agnew, Paul (2002) [first published 1989]. Tom Finney – Football Legend. Bury: Milo Books. ISBN 0-9530847-9-5.
  • Finney, Tom (2003). Tom Finney – My Autobiography. London: Headline Publishing. ISBN 0-7553-1106-X.
  • When Saturday Comes – The Half Decent Football Book. London: Penguin Books. 2005. ISBN 0-14-051575-5.

Further reading

  • Finney, Tom (1982) Tom Finney's Preston North End Scrapbook ISBN 0-285-62554-3
  • Finney, Tom (1958) Finney on Football ISBN B0000CK63X
  • Finney, Tom (1955) Instructions to Young Footballers ISBN B0000CJABP
  • Finney, Tom (1953) Football Round the world ISBN B0000CIMPY
  • Booth, John. (ed.) (1998) Tom Finney: A Pictorial Tribute ISBN 1-901966-00-3
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