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Football pays tribute to integrity and skills of Tom Finney after winger dies aged 91

Tom Finney was remembered Saturday as one of English soccer's greats despite never having won a major honor.

Finney, who died aged 91 on Friday, spent his entire club career at Preston, and exhibited immense power and flair for England at three World Cups starting in 1950. He was ever given a yellow or red card, and resisted riches abroad.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who saw Finney score at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, described the winger's life-long devotion to Preston as setting "an example to young players today."

Fans, most not old enough to remember seeing Finney on a field, descended on Preston's Deepdale stadium on a cold Saturday morning to pay tribute to the club's greatest player. Scarves and flowers were left next to a statue depicting a famous image of Finney splashing through a puddle during a game against Chelsea.

Finney scored 30 times in 76 appearances for England, tied with Alan Shearer and Nat Lofthouse for sixth on the career goals list.

"He was a gentleman on the field yet he was tough," former England teammate Jimmy Armfield told the BBC. "A fabulous man and a fabulous player."

Born next to Deepdale and known as the "Preston Plumber" after completing an apprenticeship in the family business, Finney scored 210 goals in 473 appearances for the northwest English club from 1946-60. After making his league debut at the age of 24 following World War II, Finney became the first to win English player of the year twice, in 1954 and '57.

"He was the best player I've ever seen, alongside Lionel Messi," former Preston teammate and ex-Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty said. "Just like Finney, Messi is always getting fouled, but doesn't complain and just gets up and gets on with the game."

For all the personal accolades, team honors eluded Finney. Preston finished second twice in the old first division and lost to West Bromwich Albion in the 1954 FA Cup final. The only winners' medal he collected was when Preston won the second division in 1951. He was injured for much of the 1948-49 season, when the club was relegated.

"If he was injured ... there would be 20,000 at the game instead of 42,000," Docherty told Talk Sport radio.

Thousands lined up Saturday to watch Preston play Leyton Orient in the third tier and join the tributes. Finney's name was on the backs on players' jerseys on Saturday, while there was a minute of applause before other matches in England too.

"We have lost a footballing legend," Preston captain Kevin Davies tweeted. "A true gent and a loyal servant."