Supporters have wept and players have wore shirts bearing the name ‘Finney’ with Preston North End bidding an emotional farewell to club great Tom Finney.
The former England star died aged 91 on Friday after a life-long attachment to Preston that made him a byword for sporting loyalty in Britain.
A dashing wide player, he scored 210 goals in 473 appearances for the team from northwest England, later becoming club president, and Preston paid tribute to him prior to their League One fixture with Leyton Orient.
Preston’s players sported Finney’s name instead of their own on the backs of their shirts and the captains from both teams presented wreaths to members of his family before kick-off at Preston’s Deepdale ground.
During a solemnly observed minute’s silence, fans held scarves aloft and passed a banner bearing Finney’s face around the ground, which already has a stand that carries his name.
Commentating on the game for BBC radio, Finney’s former England colleague Jimmy Armfield said: “I’m sure some of the more elderly supporters sitting here inside Deepdale can remember Sir Tom playing.
“This is quite a nostalgic moment for them all. He was a man of these people.”
Finney represented his country on 76 occasions, scoring 30 goals, and Football Association chairman Greg Dyke led tributes to him on Saturday, saying he’d be “forever remembered”.
“On behalf of the FA, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Sir Tom Finney,” Dyke said in a statement.
“He was one of English football’s all-time greats and will be much missed across the game.
“Sir Tom was a true one-club man at Preston North End and a fantastic player for England. He will rightly be forever remembered at Deepdale and Wembley.”
Born on a street adjacent to Deepdale, Finney notably eschewed a lucrative offer from Italian side Palermo in 1952 in order to dedicate himself to his home-town club.
His former Preston team-mate, Tommy Docherty, said Finney’s dribbling skills and off-pitch modesty made him comparable to modern-day Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
“He was something else, the Lionel Messi of his day,” Docherty told British radio station talkSPORT.
“He was a great person and a lovely man. I never heard him criticise anyone.”
The former Manchester United manager added: “If he was injured, and that was rare, there would be 20,000 at the game instead of 42,000.”
Sepp Blatter, president of world football’s governing body FIFA, also paid tribute to Finney, having watched him in action at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland.
“Very sad news that Sir Tom Finney is no longer with us,” Blatter wrote on Twitter. “Had privilege of watching @pnefc (Preston) man play at 1954 WC.”
Finney also played at the World Cup in 1950 and 1958, during a career that spanned 14 years.
He never won any of the game’s major honours, but was held in similar esteem to his lauded international team-mate and fellow winger Stanley Matthews, who died in 2000 at the age of 85.