sport

Thousands to bid Finney farewell

Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out on Thursday for the civic funeral of Sir Tom Finney CBE in Preston.

The former England winger, who won 76 caps and scored 30 international goals, played for Preston all his career, making 569 first-class appearances. He died two weeks ago aged 91.

The funeral cortege will go from the club's Deepdale Stadium - Finney was born on a street next to the stadium in 1922 - with a mounted police escort from the Lancashire Constabulary to a service at Preston Minster.

The Preston and District Veterans' Association will also join the cortege to mark his service as a tank driver in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War.

The funeral service will be shown live from 1pm on a big screen inside Preston's ground and several thousand people have already applied for free tickets to attend.

Preston City Council are planning for tens of thousands of people to watch the cortege and funeral, with a number of schools giving children time off to attend the event.

The Football Association is sending Sir Trevor Brooking, the former England international who is now the FA's director of football development, to represent the organisation.

Brooking said: "When I look back on Sir Tom's career he was undoubtedly one of our most gifted and popular English footballers of all time.

"Certainly as a young boy in the 1950s, his illustrious exploits alongside the likes of Billy Wright and Stanley Matthews inspired many of us out into our gardens to practice our football skills."

Finney was nicknamed the 'Preston Plumber' - his father insisted he train as plumber and he continued working in the family business throughout his career: useful extra income in the days of the maximum wage for players.

He was regarded as one of the true greats of English football - and his record of caps and goals came despite having lost six years to the war.

His old England team-mate Sir Stanley Matthews, who died in 2000, said of Finney: "To dictate the pace and course of a game, a player has to be blessed with awesome qualities. Those who have accomplished it on a regular basis can be counted on the fingers of one hand - Pele, Maradona, Best, Di Stefano, and Tom Finney."

England's record goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton has described Finney's contribution to football as "immeasurable".