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View from...a legend

Posted on 23 September 2009  - 12:00

Mel Hopkins, legend of the 50s and 60s, recalls taking on Preston hero Sir Tom Finney, one of the greats of English football.

View from...a legend

Talk Preston, and you talk Sir Tom Finney.

One of the greats of English football, Finney had to wait until the age of 24 before making his official league debut because of the Second World War but went on to make 473 appearances for Preston between 1946-1960, scoring 210 goals.

A one-club man, ‘The Preston Plumber' helped North End to the FA Cup Final in 1954 when he was named ‘Footballer of the Year', an accolade he won again as Preston finished third in the old First Division in 1957. They then finished runners-up to Wolves in 1958.

Capped 76 times by England, scoring 30 international goals, injuries finally got the better of Finney and he retired at the end of the 1959-60 season.

He was knighted in 1998 and has a statue dedicated to him at Deepdale called ‘The Splash', inspired by a famous photograph of Finney taking on Chelsea defenders in the mud at Stamford Bridge in 1956.

Spurs great Mel Hopkins regularly played against Finney during his 240 appearances for us between 1952-64 and is in no doubt as to where he stood in his heyday.

"Tom Finney, in my opinion, was better than Stanley Matthews," said Mel. "I say that because Tom could play left wing, right wing or centre forward but with Stan, you knew he was going to stay on the line and they would try to find him. If you could intercept that, you would be okay.

"Tom would go and get the ball and he could head the ball as well, so he was a much more difficult opponent than Stanley Matthews.

"He played left and right wing for Preston and mostly left wing for England. He was too good to drop and Stanley Matthews played mainly on the right.

Tom Finney

"When I was playing for Tottenham, Tom was right wing for Preston. You would have to be on form just to contain him. He would go and get the ball and once he had it he had great ball control, he could score goals and I remember on one occasion he played centre-forward for Preston against us and they beat us 6-2 at White Hart Lane.

"I rated him very highly. He was a fantastic footballer. He would be in the England team today, no doubts.

"He was a wonderful footballer and also a smashing fellow, one of the nicest chaps you could wish to meet, very modest, and he was Preston through and through.

"He is one of the best footballers of all generations, but especially mine. If anyone asked who were the great players of that era, his name would certainly be mentioned.

"Preston had a wonderful side then. They had Tom and Tommy Thompson, another wonderful footballer. They were one of the top teams in the 1950s. Preston, Burnley, Wolves and West Brom were the great sides of that era and Tom Finney is one of the all-time greats."

ALL-NEW MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE - MEET A LEGEND!

Take advantage of the Club's newly-introduced match experience package and meet a Spurs legend!

If you've not managed to visit the Lane this season then now's your chance.

We are offering a limited number of exclusive matchday deals for forthcoming Premier League home matches against Stoke City, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic, Wolves and Manchester City.

The offer includes a seat in the West Stand Upper, a two-course pre-match meal and access to a bar in the comfort of a match lounge. You'll also get the chance to meet a Spurs great such as Pat Jennings and even ask them a question or two as part of a Q&A session.

Prices start at £150 (+ VAT per person), but remember you'll be getting much more than 90 minutes.

For more information or to make a reservation call 0208 365 5010 or email hospitality@tottenhamhotspur.com