Tributes paid to Finney, `Messi of his day`

AFP| Updated: Feb 15, 2014, 22:18 PM IST

London: Football Association chairman Greg Dyke led tributes to late England great Tom Finney on Saturday, saying that the former Preston North End winger would be "forever remembered".

Finney died at the age of 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 and later became club president. He also represented his country on 76 occasions, scoring 30 goals.

"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 in close proximity to Preston`s Deepdale ground, Finney notably eschewed a lucrative offer from Italian side Palermo in order to dedicate himself to his home-town club.

His former Preston team-mate, Tommy Docherty, said that 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 seen 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.

Current Preston captain Kevin Davies wrote on Twitter: "Tonight (Friday) we have lost a footballing Legend. A true gent and a loyal servant to his beloved PNE. RIP Sir Tom Finney."

Reigning English champions Manchester United tweeted: "We`re saddened to hear of the passing of England and Preston North End legend Sir Tom Finney."

Preston announced the news of Finney`s death on Friday and club owner Trevor Hemmings paid a personal tribute to him on Saturday.

"I not only enjoyed many hours of watching Sir Tom playing football, but also many hours in his company raising money and keeping the club alive financially after his playing days had ended," he said.

"As a player, as a person, as an ambassador for football in general and Preston North End in particular, the world will never see the like of Sir Tom again."

Television pictures on Saturday showed fans leaving flowers and scarves beside a statue of Finney that stands outside Deepdale, which also has a stand that bears his name.

Preston announced that they will observe a minute`s silence before their League One (third division) fixture at home to Leyton Orient later on Saturday.

Their players will also wear black armbands and shirts adorned with Finney`s name.