Sir Tom Finney's funeral takes place in Preston

There was applause as the cortege made its way through Preston city centre, as Ed Thomas reports

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Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Preston for the civic funeral of football legend Sir Tom Finney.

The former England and Preston North End winger died on 14 February aged 91.

The crowds applauded his cortege as it passed Deepdale stadium and travelled through the city before the service at Preston Minster.

Mourners included Sir Tom's former England team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton, and fans watched the service on the big screen from the Deepdale stands.

Analysis

For one last time Sir Tom Finney made his way past Deepdale, home of his beloved Preston North End, and as he did thousands lined the streets to remember and admire one of their own.

His cortege was greeted by spontaneous applause before his coffin was carried into Preston Minster by the current players and staff of Preston North End.

Sir Tom, it was said during the service, was the perfect player. The late Stanley Matthews likened him to Pele and Maradona. Football legend Bill Shankly said he was beyond compare.

But, the people of Preston recognise not just a sportsman. Sir Tom fought for his country with the Desert Rats during World War Two. Even as he played he kept up his plumbing business. The most football ever paid him was £20 a week.

Before the service Sir Bobby Charlton said he was in awe of his England team-mate. Outside the Minster, a fan in his 80s said: "Tom was a tradesman just like me, but he was also a gentleman."

Even at the height of his fame he would walk to the matches alongside fans. He was one of them. That was Sir Tom Finney. Loyal to his team, city and country. Will we ever see the like again?

Sir Bobby, who played one match for England with Sir Tom, said: "He was sensational and deserves all the credit that people are giving him.

"[Sir Tom] was well known as one of the great, great footballers and someone you had to see."

'Touched hearts'

The Preston-born legend spent his entire career at his hometown club.

Six pallbearers were selected to represent the club at the request of the Finney family: manager Simon Grayson; club captain John Welsh; goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly; lifelong fan Joe Garner and ex-players Fleetwood boss Graham Alexander and Ian Bryson.

Jimmy Armfield pays tribute to Sir Tom Finney

The Vicar of Preston, Father Timothy Lipscomb, led the service, which was also broadcast to those outside the Minster.

He said: "We remember his loyalty, his humility, his respect for local traditions and his self-effacing nature."

Jimmy Armfield, England's former World Cup captain who played against Finney when he was at Blackpool, told the congregation: "Tom didn't dive, he didn't feign injury, that wasn't part of his repertoire. He was the footballers' footballer.

"He was world-famous but he never won a championship medal or an FA Cup winner's medal - though he won something much more important: the hearts of his team-mates, the supporters, opposing players even, and of the whole country."

Tommy Docherty, former Scotland and Manchester United manager and team-mate of Sir Tom's at Preston, gave the eulogy.

"He was the greatest player I have ever seen," he said.

Tom Finney service Crowds watched the service on big screens at Deepdale stadium

"When I see Lionel Messi on the television playing for Barcelona I think maybe you could be as good as Tom."

The service included the hymn Jerusalem, a performance of Amazing Grace by Louisa Stirland, the BBC Young Chorister of the Year, and finished with the singing of Abide With Me, the FA Cup Final hymn.

Sir Tom Finney in numbers

Sir Tom Finney
  • 76 England caps
  • 30 England goals
  • 433 league appearances
  • 187 league goals
  • Two Footballer of the Year awards

Finney made more than 400 league appearances for Preston North End between 1946 and 1960 and won 76 caps for England.

The cortege was met by mounted police and greeted outside Preston Guildhall by representatives from the Preston and District Veterans Association.

Preston North End chairman Peter Ridsdale said Sir Tom "touched the hearts" of the community.

He said: "What I think is wonderful is that so many people - not only from the game but also from the city - have turned out to say farewell."

Manchester United manager and former Preston North End boss David Moyes called Sir Tom "a great man".

He said: "He was Preston North End - the first person who springs to mind when you think of the club is Tom Finney."

Sir Tom Finney Sir Tom Finney spent his entire football career at Preston North End

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