Jimmy Armfield has revealed a gift he received from the late Sir Tom Finney left him “choked”.
Blackpool great Armfield was in great demand over the weekend to pay tribute to his close friend Finney, who died on Friday aged 91.
Adversaries in Lancashire derbies, Armfield and Finney were both loyal one-club men whose statues stand proudly outside Bloomfield Road and Deepdale respectively.
And Jimmy, who last saw Finney in November, revealed the wing king had expressed a wish to see the statue of Armfield.
And the 78-year-old admitted he was very emotional on being sent a photograph of Finney beside the Armfield statue. Armfield was truly honoured that Finney should regard him so highly, saying: “He, in my opinion, is one of the really great footballers that this country has produced.
“Even going back to his early days, the Italians tried to snatch him away from England – but he wouldn’t leave Preston.”
Armfield admits such loyalty would be unthinkable today. “Tom couldn’t have stayed at Preston had he been playing today. He would have gone to a club like Real Madrid and been on the Gareth Bale money.”
For all his own kind words, Armfield is in no doubt what the ultimate tribute to Finney would be.
“The best tribute to Tom would be for Preston to be promoted. That would be the perfect fillip.”
The international careers of these two greats didn’t quite overlap, though Armfield recalls an encounter with Finney in the England dressing room, which showed there was no Blackpool/Preston animosity between them.
Armfield had been injured in the match against Wales at Cardiff, where Finney was working in a media role.
Armfield recalled: “I was hobbling and Walter Winterbottom (then England manager) asked me, ‘How are you going to get home?’ At that moment, Tom came in and asked if I’d like him to drop me off.
“It hit me then – he didn’t have to do that but he’d been a player and I’d played against him ... no more than that.”
Seasiders chairman Karl Oyston added his own tribute: “Sir Tom was a great ambassador for the sport and his beloved Preston. He was everything that is good about the sport, in a time when football was solely about the game and the community.
“He was from the last remaining echoes of the game from when it was truly beautiful. It is a sad day and our sincere condolences go out to Preston. On sad occasions like this rivalries between clubs are put into perspective.”