Sir Tom Finney was Mr Preston

A one-club man who served his club and his city with total devotion.

The greatest player to ever lace up a pair of boots for England but a man who also served his country fighting in Africa and Italy in World War Two.

West Germany goalkeeper Fritz Herkenrath saves at the feet of England's Tom Finney
West Germany goalkeeper Fritz Herkenrath saves at the feet of England's Tom Finney Credit: Barratts/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Bill Shankly, who played with Sir Tom at Preston, once said: "Tom Finney would have been great in any team, in any match and in any age, even if he had been wearing an overcoat."

Sir Tom led Preston North End with pride but after his retirement helped countless charities and causes.

Tom Finney holds up the Footballer of the Year trophy in 1957, becoming the first player to win the award twice
Tom Finney holds up the Footballer of the Year trophy in 1957, becoming the first player to win the award twice. Credit: PA Photos/PA Wire/Press Association Images

His knighthood in 1998 was a deserved reward for that dedication.

I was lucky enough that day to share part of it with Sir Tom, his wife Elsie and his family. After meeting the Queen, Sir Tom was given a special lunch and tour at the House of Commons by his MP Nigel Evans.

I was the one additional invitee and I listened with total awe as he spent a couple of hours talking football, Preston and his love for his home city.

But the one thing I came away with more than anything was how humble and down to earth he was.

Tom Finney on the attack for Preston
Tom Finney on the attack for Preston. Credit: S&G/S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

No airs and graces, no famous footballer arrogance that we sometimes see from today's top players.

Indeed no different to the first time I interviewed him in 1989 when walking through Preston as a trainee journalist I came across Sir Tom promoting the local 'Heartbeat' charity in a shop.

I nervously approached him and asked for an interview and without hesitation Sir Tom agreed.

My hand shaking holding my radio microphone I nervously tried to think of two or three questions to ask the great man. I'm sure he knew how nervous I was but he put me at ease and certainly never mentioned it.

I will join thousands of other Preston fans today paying tribute to Sir Tom.

A knight, a legend, a gentleman.

Thank you Sir Tom.

Richard Frediani is an ITV News Programme Editor and Preston North End fan.