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In the wake of football returning amid COVID-19 lockdown in La Liga, the Premier League and Championship, Andrew Atkinson talks to Ian Billing about his childhood memories of England and Preston North End late football star Sir Tom Finney CBE, whose ankle-high leather boots from and international fixture against Lisbon in 1950 went up for auction this month.

MY connection with Sir Tom Finney goes back to the mid-50s, when he used to arrive for home games with his children, Brian and Barbara, at the home of Joe and Mary Grimshaw in Deepdale, Preston, said Ian, looking back on boyhood memories.

They were neighbours and I knew them as Uncle Joe and Aunty Mary. I played with Brian and Barbara, until Tom came back after games in the former first division (now Premier League) to collect them.

Sir Tom Finney’s ankle-high leather boots from England v Lisbon in 1950.

Aged three at the time, we always went for a kickabout in the back street, before Sir Tom drove home.

Preston born Ian, an avid fan of North End for 65 years, who lives in Rada De Moraira, Valencia, recalled: Soon after, I began going to games with my granddad – and became hooked.

My first season ticket was for my fifth birthday! Afterwards I used to go to Joe and Mary’s, to see Brian and Barbara – and meet up with Sir Tom again, for another kickabout.

Ian added: I have his 1954 book, Football Round The World, signed by him, to me. I got it signed again, 50 years later, at a Former Players Association Dinner.

Ian Billing – PNE fan 65 years outside Deepdale.

Going back before I was born, my mum was a friend and neighbour of his wife Elsie, when she lived in Barlow Street, Preston. Sir Tom was such an icon. A gentleman and a true sportsman.

I have just read his autobiography again and he mentioned Joe Grimshaw and his son, Derek. I’m pleased to say my son and now my grandson, too, are North Enders. It’s been my life for 65 years!

Sir Tom Finney, capped 76 times, who played for Preston during 1946-60 making 433 appearances and scoring 187 goals, died in 2014, aged 91.


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