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Jack the Lad

If you’re heading up to Deepdale this Saturday, try to spare five minutes to take in an impressive sculpture.

It’s not often you get works of art recommended in football articles, but this one is well worth a look . . . and it’s right outside the ground, so you don’t have to go very far to find it!

'The Splash' shows Preston’s favourite son Sir Tom Finney sliding for the ball on a waterlogged pitch – a moment first captured in an iconic football photograph from the 1950s.

Apart from our own statue of Swans legend Ivor Allchurch and the bust of the great Robbie James outside the Liberty Stadium, the Sir Tom Finney tribute is probably my favourite of the many footballing statues dotted around the country.

'The Splash' is cleverly incorporated into a fountain so as to recreate the famous photograph which won the 1956 Sports Photograph of the Year.

The picture was taken during a match between Finney’s beloved Preston and Chelsea on a sodden Stamford Bridge pitch.

Finney is captured aquaplaning along the puddled pitch, engulfed by a shower of spray – perfectly replicated in stone and water in the shadow of Deepdale’s stands.

If you’re not familiar with Finney’s name, he was one of the most famous footballers of the 1950s, playing 76 times for England and scoring 30 goals.

The statue is a fitting tribute to a genuine giant of the game, whose loyalty and dedication to Preston inspires admiration whoever you support.

Supplementing his meagre playing wage by running a plumbing business, the wideman stayed with his hometown club from the age of 14 through to his retirement.

Italian club Palermo are said to have offered him a £10,000 signing-on fee, wages of £130 a month plus a bonus of up to £100 a game, a Mediterranean villa, a sports car and unlimited travel to and from Italy for his family.

But Finney stayed at Preston, earning £14 a week, which was cut to £12 during the off-season, plus a bonus of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw.

Such was his importance to the Lancashire club, they decided not to sell him, even when a £30,000 fee - a huge sum at the time - was offered in compensation. No wonder they built such an impressive statue in his honour!

Not all sporting statues have been so kind to football’s most famous faces.

A recent statue of Cristiano Ronaldo reminds me of canine cartoon character Scooby-Doo every time I see it. I suppose it serves him right for helping to knock Wales out of the European Championships back in 2016.

Gareth Bale, another superstar who played in that fateful semi-final, fared little better when his likeness, or unlikeness, was unveiled by the same sculptor ahead of the 2017 Champions League Final in Cardiff.

And what about the recent “tribute” to Liverpool and Egypt star Mo Salah, which was unveiled in Sharm-al-Sheikh last November?

Perhaps the artists should have taken a trip to Preston to see how a footballing great should be honoured.

It’s well worth a look if you’re up there on Saturday and hopefully the Swans will make it an extra special day to remember with a third away day triumph on the trot.

C’mon you Swans!

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