Former Preston North End footballer, Eric Jones, labelled Sir Tom Finney as the ‘greatest footballer ever’, rating him higher than Barcelona forward and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
The 85-year-old was understudy to Preston’s most iconic sporting figure for five years and affectionately refers to the footballing legend as ‘Sir Tom.’
Jones broke through the ranks at North End in 1953 aged 22, whilst Finney was at the peak of his powers and feels that Sir Tom’s loyalty is what distinguishes him as the ‘world’s best ever player.’
Jones said: “There are no great players in the game, the Tom Finney greats, the loyalty that players had for the clubs they played for, that sets him apart.
“He was the top man in the club, he gave the players advice, and was, and still is an icon for Preston.”
Finney had a career spanning 14-years with the Lilywhites making 569 appearances and scoring a club record 210 goals in the process.
As well as being capped by England 76 times, he finished runner up in the First Division twice in 1952-53 and 1957-58 and was runner-up in the FA Cup in 1954, with his only club honour being the 1950-51 Second Division title.
Finney was the lynchpin of Preston’s team for over a decade and Jones described his importance to North End in that period, saying: “Sir Tom was the turbo-charger of the team. People were scared by him, his presence scared defenders to death.
“I was told by the opposition, ‘We’d do our planning, plan how to stop him. Get it all down on a blackboard and then all of a sudden, we were two goals down, he laid two on and we didn’t know how or why?’
“Absolute personal brilliance. Sir Tom was the Messi of my day but better.”
Jones still attends every one of Preston’s home games and feels the club need to add that one star player to lift them out of the Championship and back into England’s top flight after a 56-year wait.
Although he has made just a handful of appearances for the Lilywhites, Jones feels the club might have unearthed a gem in the form of January signing Daryl Horgan.
The winger moved from League of Ireland Premier Division side Dundalk and was given Finney’s iconic number seven shirt.
“Horgan, I like him, he’s a very busy lad and you can see the energy and pride in his play,” Jones said.
“He’s wearing Tom Finney’s shirt and I have big hopes for him. There will never be another Sir Tom but this guy frightens defenders in the same way.”