The former Preston North End and England star tells why ‘the Wizard of Dribble’ had such a big influence.
Sir Tom Finney was one of the greatest wingers England has ever produced, but the legend says his idol was the great Sir Stanley Matthews.
Famous for his loyalty to one club, Sir Tom turned out for Preston North End 433 times over the course of 14 seasons, which makes for impressive reading by anyone’s standards. But when it comes to Sir Stanley Matthews, it’s easy to see why Sir Tom thinks he was the greatest player of them all.
‘The Wizard of Dribble’ notched up 697 League appearances over 33 years and considering his career was interrupted by World War II, his record is astounding.
Sir Tom grew up watching Sir Stan work wonders with a ball at his feet and he went on to play alongside the great man for his country. Sir Stan played 54 times for England, but his only hat-trick came during their 1937 game against Czechoslovakia at White Hart Lane.
“He was brilliant on the ball and a very intelligent footballer,” says Sir Tom. “I looked up to him and he’s still a great example today. He was never booked and you could always learn from him about how to act in the right way on and off the pitch.
“I loved to watch Stan attacking full-backs, turning them inside out. He could beat defenders on either side of the pitch, could use either foot and was a magical player for Stoke City, Blackpool and England.
“It wasn’t intimidating playing with him because he was such a level-headed, friendly person. Playing with him made me realise how outstanding every element of his game really was.”
While Sir Tom starred in a number of positions for England – 40 of his 76 appearances came on the right wing, 33 on the left and three as centre-forward – Sir Stan was more of a traditional, outside-right winger.
Sir Tom was seven years younger than his hero, yet the Preston North End star retired first, Sir Stan continuing until he was 50.
“Stan kept himself very fit,” says Sir Tom. “He started in 1932 and didn’t retire until a few years after I hung up my boots!”