Jonny Davies: Orient honoured to play our part in remembering the legend that is Sir Tom Finney
The Ozone: Behind the scenes at Leyton Orient
Monday 17 February 2014
It was third versus fourth at Deepdale on Saturday and a huge game for both sides, but sometimes on-field rivalries are put to one side, and as the visitors we were suddenly drawn into Preston North End's tribute to Sir Tom Finney.
We were keen to play our part in remembering a legend. With time short on Saturday morning I grabbed my Orient scarf to take, and laying it on the Sir Tom statue outside the ground on behalf of the club was an experience I won't forget. It was the least we could do but the gesture was greeted with applause from the gathering North End fans, many of whom were in tears.
On the train to the game our chief executive, Matt Porter, arranged for a wreath to be made up for our captain, Nathan Clarke, to present to the Finney family. Nathan was all too aware of the occasion and just what a legend Finney was, as his brother Tom plays for Preston, and he was honoured to carry out the wreath at the start of the game.
Our fans deserve credit for immaculately observing the minute's silence and applauding the songs that came from the home supporters, while the most special moment came in the seventh minute when the entire ground stood to applaud.
"People use the word legend too loosely," our gaffer Russell Slade said afterwards, "but Sir Tom Finney was an absolute legend. Not just for his football, which was unique, but because he was so loyal."
I don't think all of our players were fully aware of who Sir Tom Finney was, but they were left in no doubt as to what an important figure he was. Our goalscorer was our French defender Mathieu Baudry and he told me afterwards: "I had heard of him but did not know the story. Today was a great ovation for him and I can see he meant a lot to the people here and English football."
On the pitch we managed to grind out a 1-1 draw, which halted our run of three straight defeats. The match also marked the return of Eldin Jakupovic in goal for us after he rejoined us from Hull City in the week. After he had been been recalled previously by Hull, to the dismay of our supporters, one fan called Craig Delew took to Twitter and tweeted our chief Matt to say that if the club was able to bring Eldin back, he would clean every seat in the East Stand.
Matt, tongue-in-cheek, replied to Craig after the loan had been completed saying he should arrive for work the next morning. I got a phone call from reception on Friday morning saying: "There's a man called Craig here who says he's here to clean the East Stand."
Craig was a great sport and, armed with a mop and bucket, got to work. As a thank you he will be our guest tonight against Stevenage and I'll take him to meet Eldin.
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