By Mark Duckworth of The National Game
Almost ten years to the day, as Bryan Gray (Preston North End Director) laid the first brick of The National Football Museum, nobody thought that after only a decade, ‘the home of football’ would be closed down and moved to Manchester.
But on the 30 of April 2010 that happened. The Football Museum had had a checkered ten years at Preston, but the last couple of years have been a real success as the museum grew into its own. But its struggle to find sufficient future funding, resulted in the decision to move the museum to Manchester in an attempt to boost visitor numbers.
Preston was chosen as the site for the Museum fighting off stiff competition from Wembley and other host cities. This was a controversial decision, but as you walk up the entrance passing the Sir Tom Finney statue, there is no doubt you are at the home of football. Preston North End may not have the most successful of recent histories, but their impact on the early stages of English and British football is unquestionable. Deepdale has been in use as a stadium since 1878 this making it the longest-used football ground in the world, coupled with Preston being the first league champions, this really was the perfect setting for the home of football’s history.
The Museum is also home to the football Hall of Fame, an event that looks to honor players past and present for their achievements in the game. This took a few years to take off, but as more and more people warmed to it, the Hall of Fame awards ceremony has become a key date in the football calendar with the inductees showing more pride year by year.
The pride that runs through the National Football Museum stems from the exhibitions that you can view and interact with. It celebrates all things English with a 1966 shirt, the World Cup itself and many old English shirts that were worn by greats such, as Sir Tom Finney and Sir Stanley Matthews. The Museum also celebrates World Football, by having a World Cup section that contains exclusive merchandise and memorable moments from those World Cups. The museum also holds modern day relics from a David Beckham shirt to the infamous Sunderland beach-ball.
The people of Preston, and its surrounding districts will miss the service the Museum has provided to the community since it opened in 2000. Every bank holiday, and school summer holidays, the museum was abuzz with activities, including everything from subbuteo tournaments to badge making. It has also held a number of successful ex-player signing sessions, where the public have been given their chance to meet former heroes and villains. Our thanks go to Preston, you did football proud, and not for the first time.
Preston North End play in the English Football League Championship.
North End Cricket and Rugby Club which was formed in 1863, indulged in most sports before taking up soccer in about 1879. In 1881 they decided to stick to football to the exclusion of other sports and even a 16-0 drubbing by Blackburn Rovers in an invitation game at Deepdale, a few weeks after taking this decision, did not deter them, for they immediately became affiliated to the Lancashire FA. They were the first champions of the Football League in 1888 – 89 completing the League and FA Cup double, whilst remaining unbeaten all season, and earning the name ‘The Invincibles’. They are no longer invincible, finishing in the lower half of the league this year, but no one can take that title from them now. Indeed the feat has been commemorated by the club naming a stand ‘The Invincibles’ in their newly transformed, Deepdale.
Tom Finney is their most capped player gaining 76 caps for England (when a cap and a cameo had a different meaning). This quote from the great Bill Shankly (also a Preston player) gives you an idea of how good Tom Finney was and how good Preston must have been.
Tommy Finney was grizzly strong. Tommy could run for a week. I’d play him in his overcoat. There would have been four men marking him when we were kicking in. When I told people in Scotland that England were coming up with a winger who was better than Stanley Mathews, they laughed at me. But they weren’t bloody laughing when Big Georgie Young was running all over Hampden Park looking for Tommy Finney.
Mark Duckworth writes for The National Game. He is a guest columnist for The Soccer Guys.