The best plumber ever to have played football for England – RIP to Sir Tom Finney

Posted: 15th February 2014


England and Preston North End great Sir Tom Finney, died yesterday aged 91.

The popular 1950’s football annual, The Big Book of Football Champions, showed Tom in one of its’ trademark hand coloured photographs (see above).

After playing in the match, Tom would have returned to run his plumbing business, something he did through his esteemed career for both Preston North End and England, as well as after he retired. Hence the phrase above that was coined about Tom; ‘the best plumber to have played for England’.

Just a few weeks ago, I was reading the autobiography of Tom’s fellow England team mate, another great of English football, Sir Stanley Matthews.

In the book, Stan talked about Tom in glowing, even reverential terms and in some ways what better tribute could Tom wish for?

Finney played 76 times for his country scoring 30 goals and 433 times in league games for Preston, his home town club, scoring 187 goals but making many more for his team mates.

Tom experienced the interesting phenomenon of achieving notoriety prior to his league debut as during World War Two, he starred in the special matches organised to keep the game going and to entertain the fans.

Post War, he began to make his name.

Preston North End won the Second Division in 1950/51 and at the front of their team photograph taken from the 1951/52 edition of the Sunday Chronicle Football Annual, we see Tom;


He was also featured heavily in all the boy’s football annuals and magazines of the time including this nice colour plate photograph in The Boys’ Book of Soccer for 1951;


An early edition of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly (for June 1952 #10) showed Tom striding forward on its’ front cover;


He played in most positions in the WM formation forward line but mainly on the wing and at centre forward.

Finney had amazing ball control, was two footed and displayed his tremendous skill at an electric pace.

We see Tom again on the inside front cover of the 1953/54 edition of The Big Book of Football Champions;


On the back cover of the December 1953 edition of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly, Tom was shown practicing in his England kit with the stands at Deepdale in the background;


Tom was voted Footballer of the Year in both 1954 as seen here inside Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly for August of that year;


There was a feature on Tom in the 1957 Boys’ Book of Soccer including this photograph;


Tom received the Footballer of the Year award again in 1957 as shown here in the 1st issue of Billy Wright’s Book of Soccer (1958);


The Big Book of Football Champions for 1956/57 also included a feature on Tom and his achievement;


During his long England career, Tom played in the 1954 World Cup as seen here in an action photograph from the game against Belgium as shown in the August 1954 edition of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly;


As the years passed, Finney continued to be featured in football publications including an article in the 1959 edition of the Boys’ Book of Soccer called ‘On The Wing’ next to which was placed this photograph of Tom playing for England at Wembley;


After announcing his retirement, Tom was featured on the front cover of the June 1960 edition of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly;


The Boys’ Book of Soccer for 1961 featured Tom, now retired, in its’ Spotlight feature;


Tom was held in such high esteem that before his last match against Luton Town, the players and officials all sang Auld Lang Syne in Tom’s honour, a moving and respectful gesture appropriate for such a great player (taken from the Big Book of Football Champions 1959/60);


Tom’s impact was not just huge on the pitch for club and country but off it as well.

The home crowd for Preston’s first home game after his retirement, against Newcastle United was around 17,000, just over 12,000 lower than for that last match against Luton Town.

Tributes have been all over the media although a testament to the man, many tributes have been given to Tom when he was still with us.

Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankley, another former Preston star himself, when asked about how a top star of the day compared to Finney replied: “Aye, he’s as good as Tommy – but then Tommy’s nearly 60 now.”

It was a different era when Tom played and before the maximum wage was abolished, meaning that even the very top footballers had to worry about money, especially in the close season.

A family man, here is a nice photograph of Finney with his son, Brian on the front cover of the September 1954 edition of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly;


Later in the decade father and son can be seen playing in a photograph included in Billy Wright’s Book of Soccer #1 – 1958);


A famous picture, which has come to be known as ‘The Splash’ was used to create a statue of Finney now on display within a fountain at Preston’s Deepdale ground where Tom has a stand named after him.

In it, Tom takes on a lake on the surface of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge pitch, in addition to the Blues’ full back. 

A marvellous image of a great player.

RIP Sir Tom.



Here is Tom Finney’s wikipedia page;

Category: Football - Editorial

Tags: Sunday Chronicle Football Annual, The Big Book of Football Champions, The Boys Book of Soccer

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