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Tom Finney, Star on Three England World Cup Teams, Dies at 91

Tom Finney
A file photograph shows Preston North End and England outside right Tom Finney taken in 1957. Finney, who scored 30 goals in 76 soccer matches for England, including appearances at three World Cups, has died. He was 91. Source: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Feb. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Tom Finney, who scored 30 goals in 76 soccer matches for England, including appearances at three World Cups, has died. He was 91.

His death was reported on the website of Preston North End, his hometown club where he played his entire 14-year career.

“Sir Tom was the greatest player to ever play for Preston North End and one of the all-time greats for England,” the club said.

Finney scored 187 times in 433 league matches for Preston and was one of the world’s most respected players of his era, along with fellow Englishmen Stanley Matthews and Billy Wright. He was the first to win English soccer’s Player of the Year award twice, in 1954 and 1957.

Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, a teammate of Finney’s at Preston, once said Finney would have been a great player in any age, “even if he had been wearing an overcoat.”

Finney was equally comfortable with either foot and could attack on the left and right flanks or in the center. He had played only six league games for Preston before making his debut with England’s national team, scoring against Ireland. Finney made four goals in a 5-3 win over Portugal in 1950.

Thomas Finney was born on April 5, 1922, in Preston near the soccer club’s Deepdale stadium. He trained as a plumber before signing for the team. Soon after, the regular league was suspended because of World War II. Finney, who was called up to the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942, played in army teams while stationed in Africa.

Extra Income

Finney, who eventually made his debut in April 1946, continued to work as a plumber, even during the peak of his international career. It helped supplement his income, which was restricted to 14 pounds ($23) a week by soccer’s maximum wage regulations.

In 1952, he rejected a move to Italian club Palermo preferring to stay at home.

Finney retired in 1960, without a major trophy to his name. Preston, relegated from the top league the following season, had finished as runner-up in 1953 and 1958, while it lost in the 1954 FA Cup final to West Bromwich Albion. The club is yet to return to the top division.

In 1996, a section at Deepdale was named after Finney and his image was painted across the seats. In 2002, just before his 80th birthday, a bronze statue of him was erected outside the stadium. The sculpture, known as “the splash,” depicts Finney running through a pool of water in a league match against Chelsea in 1956. He also was named honorary club president after his retirement.

He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1961, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1992 and received a knighthood in 1998.

His wife Elsie died in 2004.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at jcone@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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