England great Sir Tom Finney dies

Preston North End FC legend Tom Finney, one of England's greatest players and the first man to be named footballer of the year twice, has died at the age of 91.

Sir Tom Finney, pictured in 1953
Sir Tom Finney, pictured in 1953 ©Getty Images

Tom Finney, one of England's greatest players who was famously known as the 'Preston Plumber, has died at the age of 91.

"Preston North End have been informed of the extremely sad news of the passing of Sir Tom Finney," said his former club in a short statement on Friday. "Sir Tom was the greatest player to ever play for Preston North End and one of the all-time greats for England. The thoughts of everyone at the club, and those connected with it, are with his family at this time."

Finney won 76 England caps, scoring 30 goals, and was voted Footballer of the Year in 1954 and 1957 – the first man to receive the accolade twice. He also scored 210 goals in 473 appearances for his boyhood club before retiring in 1960 and returning to his trade as a plumber before becoming a newspaper columnist.

Finney, who could play on the right and left wing or at centre-forward, had joined his hometown club Preston North End FC as an amateur in 1937, turning professional three years later. He helped Preston claim the second division title in 1951 and won first division runners-up medals in 1953 and 1958. He also played in the FA Cup final loss to West Bromwich Albion FC in 1954.

Finney made his England bow at 24 against Northern Ireland in Belfast in 1946, less than a month after his Preston debut, and scored in a 7-2 win under new manager Walter Winterbottom. He played at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 FIFA World Cups and later that year made his last international appearance against the USSR at Wembley Stadium.

England's all-time leading goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton once said of him: "Sir Tom Finney was one of the greatest footballers there has ever been; he was the type of player that people would travel a long way to see. He's a great man and has contributed so much to football, especially in the Preston area. They love him there."

That reverence was exemplified before his last outing for Preston against Luton Town FC in 1960. Before kick-off players from both teams and officials joined hands around the centre circle to salute him as a brass band played Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem sung at occasions as a farewell.

Finney was awarded the OBE in 1961 and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace in 1998. He became Preston's president in the 1975/76 season and has a stand named after him at the club's Deepdale home.