Burnley FC’s Graham Alexander joins football greats at Tom Finney funeral
The mood at Deepdale was one of reflection as the football family gathered yesterday (Thursday) at the home of Preston North End to begin paying their respects to Sir Tom Finney.
Mourners began arriving at the stadium from early morning before boarding seven coaches to take them to Preston Minster where the civic funeral was taking place.
Former players, managers, club representatives, friends of Sir Tom, were there to bid their final farewells.
The Splash statue stood as a silent monument to the former PNE and England great who passed away at the age of 91.
Over the last fortnight it had been decked out in scarves, football shirts, flowers and messages of support from supporters world-wide.
The memorabilia came from Manchester to Malta, from Blackpool to Bolton - football was united in their grief.
Sir Tom Finney Way which runs past Deepdale was quiet early yesterday morning, save for a few early comers who walked round the Splash looking at the tributes.
But as the morning went by, the stadium became a buzz of activity.
Fans began to arrive to line the funeral route, to watch Sir Tom make his final journey past the ground where he thrilled supporters and tormented opponents between 1946 and 1960.
One of the first mourners to arrive was Tommy Docherty, a team-mate of Sir Tom’s at North End for almost a decade.
Former colleagues Eric Jones and Leo Gornall followed, and it was a steady procession of the great and the good from the football world from then on.
George Ross, chairman of the PNE Former Players Association - an organisation of which Sir Tom was president - and Ian Bryson, skipper of PNE’s 1995/96 title-winning season, and one of the official pall bearers, were early arrivals.
Alex Bruce, a lethal marksman in Preston’s attack in the 1970s, walked in with Mark Lawrenson - Deepdale the starting point of his career.
Former PNE favourites Graham Alexander (a former Burnley FC player) and Gareth Ainsworth - both now cutting their teeth in management at Fleetwood and Wycombe - were next.
Ex-Preston managers Alan Irvine and Craig Brown were there, so too Sir Bobby Charlton.
Bryan Gray, chairman of North End when the Sir Tom Finney Stand was built to herald the first part of the re-building of Deepdale, came to pay his respects.
So too Sir Trevor Brooking from the FA and the PFA’s chairman Gordon Taylor.
The scenes inside Deepdale resembled a match day, with stewards manning the entrances.
But there were no goalposts standing, no one on the lush turf.
This was where the supporters were able to watch the funeral on the stadium’s big screen which hung from the roof of the Bill Shankly Kop.
Before pictures started to be relayed, a simple black and white picture of Sir Tom filled the screen.