A few weeks ago the BBC's Match of the Day cameras were at Deepdale, home of Preston North End, for an FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Before the game, in the shadow of the Sir Tom Finney stand, stood the man himself, answering stupid questions in typically bluff, but polite, Prestonian fashion (I spent the second decade of my life in Preston - it's a no bullshit place to grow up). Finney, irrefutably one of England's greatest ever players, was a one club man, despite this resulting in a trophy cabinet to make Alan Shearer's look fit to bursting. To put it in the vernacular, "He won nowt tha' knows".
While Finney now embodies PNE, I recalled from his biography that he had wanted to leave the club for Palermo in 1952. Tom was on £12 a week, and the Italians were offering a £10,000 signing on fee and ten times his salary. PNE's chairman, the exquisitely named Nat Buck, dismissed Finney's transfer request: "What's 10,000 quid to thee? Nay lad, tha'll play for us, or tha'll play for nobody".
Unfortunately for Tom and me, PNE succumbed to two late goals from City, and I got to thinking about one-club players. Incredibly six current England players are one-club ponies: Scholes, Neville, Gerrard, Carragher, King, Terry. But while five of them have got shiny medals to keep them glued to their first club, and warm in their dotage (not to mention the GDP of a small South American country in their pension pots), only Ledley King fits the Finney profile: great player, one club, no medals. So will King stay at Spurs and why?
If Ledley needs an example of loyalty in defiance of logic, rather than dipping into the history books to the indentured days of Finney and company, he need look no further than a man who actually signed for Spurs in 1991, only to tear up the contract. Step forward, in your own good time mind, Matthew Le Tissier. Two-footed and naturally gifted, like Finney, 'Le God' was also instrumental in keeping his side in the top division, though while the 'Preston Plumber' had the likes of Bill Shankly to help him out, Matt had Francis Benali! Tellingly, both Southampton and Preston finished bottom in the season after their most famous servants retired from football.
As to their respective rewards, Finney has a knighthood, was awarded the freedom of his home city, and of course he has that new stand at Deepdale, while outside the ground stands an impressive sculpture of Tom in his prime versus Chelsea. Le Tissier may have to wait a little longer for the statues and stands, but he too is a freeman of his adopted city. He shares with George Best the distinction of having an aeroplane named after him, and, appropriately for the convivial Guernsey boy, fans can enjoy a drink in the Matthew Le Tissier Hospitality Suite at Southampton FC's St Mary's Stadium, a ground built in no small measure on the back of some of Le Tissier's vital, and often brilliant, goals.
One final thought: while you would have to be mad, or a Saint, to pick the languid Le Tiss over the bona fide football giant Finney, in an all time one-club international eleven, you'd do well to bring Matt on for the penalty shoot-out. Out of fifty career penalties for Southampton, he only ever missed one.
PS. My post 1970 one-club eleven, in a 5 3 2 formation: Sepp Maier, Berti Vogts, Willie Miller, Franco Baresi, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Paolo Maldini, Matt Le Tissier, Steven Gerrard, Eddie Gray, Raul, Paul Sturrock.