AS the football world mourns his passing, chairman Haydon Munslow has paid tribute to Kendal Town club president Sir Tom Finney who died aged 91.
Sir Tom appeared at three World Cup finals and is widely regarded to be one of the greatest-ever players to represent England, winning 76 caps and scoring 30 goals.
An iconic footballer of the post-war years, he was a one-club man who made 473 appearances for Preston North End between 1946 and 1960, scoring 210 goals.
After his illustrious playing career and subsequent retirement he was invited to become Kendal Town’s president, an offer he duly accepted.
“We were all deeply saddened by the news,” said Munslow.
“Like everybody has always said he was an absolute gentleman and even as the years went by someone who had a great grasp of the game.
“He would be one of the best football players in any era and those who played with him or watched him all have the highest regard for his skills and sportsmanship.
“He had a long association with us here at Kendal Town. After his retirement he came to a number of social events and was asked to fulfil the role of president which he did.
“He visited us on a number of occasions over the years and when that was no longer possible he always showed a great interest.”
After serving in the British Army during World War Two, Sir Tom went on to star for the Three Lions and occupies joint-sixth position on the all-time England goalscoring list.
He won the Second Division title in 1950-1, a League Championship runners-up medal in 1953 and 1958 as well as an FA Cup runners-up medal in 1954.
Despite missing out on the game’s major prizes, Sir Tom became the first man to be voted 'Footballer of the Year' twice before finishing his playing career in 1960.
He was awarded the OBE in 1961 and the CBE in 1992 before being included in the Queen's New Years Honours list in 1998 and knighted at Buckingham Palace.
Kendal Town captain Warren Beattie took advantage of Saturday’s postponement and joined 13,440 fans to say their farewells during Preston’s clash with Leyton Orient.
“I went to the game and paid my respects to Sir Tom, went to his statue and the tribute to him was unbelievable,” he said.
“People from all over the country were there and it just goes to show how much of a legend he was, not only to Preston but England as well.
“He is going to be a great loss to everyone associated with football.”
Earlier in his career, Beattie played for Preston North End and captained the Lilywhites’ reserve team, holding fond memories of the man dubbed ‘the Preston Plumber’ – a reference to his second profession.
“He used to come to the training ground a lot and always had time for the young lads,” he added. “Preston North End was his life, he couldn’t stay away.
“When I signed my professional contract he was in the office and he just said ‘Warren, don’t have any regrets’. Even just a few words from someone like him meant a lot.
“I also met him a couple of times at Kendal and it goes to show what sort of guy he was by helping a club like Kendal Town.”
While there is the suggestion that Sir Tom once had an unsuccessful trial with Netherfield AFC, he was certainly a regular visitor to the club in the late 1930s.
He often travelled to watch his elder brother Joe turn out for the town’s team while on at least one occasion he showcased his skills on the Parkside Road pitch.
On October 28 1965, Sir Tom brought an all-star XI to play Netherfield AFC in a bid to raise funds for Kendal Sea Cadets.
Several household names took to the field that night including England legends Nat Lofthouse and Jackie Milburn, a match by refereed by Kendal’s Walter Johnson – a Football League official for 15 years.
“It was an honour to referee the match in my home town and to my knowledge that was the only time he played on Parkside Road,” said Johnson.
“He was held in such high esteem and was a very unassuming man. He was a genius and with it a perfect gentleman.
“I recall the match was played under very poor floodlights and all these top international forwards were playing towards the banking where the clubhouse now is.
“At half-time there was a knock on my door and it was a police officer who asked if the teams could play the same way in the second-half.
“He was concerned the crowds who wanted to see these players could not be contained at the other end of the ground.”
Sir Tom has left a lasting impression on many football fans, including several Kendalians who routinely walked the modern day ‘Sir Tom Finney Way’ to watch their hero.
“Every other Saturday in the 1950s, 40 or so of us departed Kendal for Deepdale with the prospect of watching Sir Tom,” said one unnamed Kendal resident.
“He was one of the best, if not the best, footballers produced by this country – he had everything and was a joy to watch.
“Above all he was a true sportsman, never retaliating despite some horrendous tackling and was never yellow or red carded.
“Occasionally when injured this was played down because of the effect on the attendance.
"When the announcement came of a change at number seven there was always a loud groan of disappointment.”
A football legend, there is little doubt Sir Tom will be deeply missed.