Trevor John Francis
(born 19 April 1954
), is a former footballer
who won 52 caps
. He was England's first £1
million player. He has also been a football manager. Francis is now working as a pundit with Al Jazeera Sports
manager Fabio Capello
labeled Francis as the best English player to have ever played in Serie A
Francis was educated at Plymouth's Public Secondary School for Boys. He was an agile and skillful forward
and joined Birmingham City
as a schoolboy. He quickly rose in status, making his debut appearance for its first team in 1970, aged just 16. His talent was noted when, before his 17th birthday, he scored four goals in one game. He ended his first season with 15 goals from just 22 games.
Birmingham City was an average team in the 1970s, reaching the occasional domestic semi-final but failing to make a great impact in the First Division championship
, so the ability and achievements of Francis were made more notable as a result.
On 30 October 1976 he scored one of Birmingham's most famous goals, when he turned away from the touchline and cut inside four QPR defenders, constantly being forced backwards, before suddenly unleashing a 25-yard shot which caught the goalkeeper off guard. In 1977, he was given his first England cap by Don Revie. England were beaten 2-0 by Holland.
Francis negotiated a secondment from Birmingham in 1978 to play for the Detroit Express in the fledgling North American Soccer League (NASL), where he scored 22 goals in 19 league matches and was named to the NASL first XI alongside Franz Beckenbauer and Giorgio Chinaglia before returning home to the Midlands. However, in February 1979 came the moment which would define his career and leave his name permanently in football folklore.
, the reigning League champions and League Cup
holders managed by Brian Clough
, put in a bid for Francis which totalled just over £1 million. No player had ever been sold between English clubs for a seven-figure fee before (the erstwhile record was less than half), and the deal was sealed, with Francis famously being introduced to the media by a manager impatient to play squash
- Clough was in his white gym kit and carrying a racquet
as he addressed the press conference.
While recognised as the first million pound player, the actual transfer fee for the player was £999,999 - £1 short of the million mark as Brian Clough wanted to ensure this milestone mark did not go the player's head, although with taxes the total fee exceeded £1.1m.
Nottingham Forest retained the League Cup shortly afterwards (though Francis was ineligible), and made progress in the European Cup to the extent that they reached the semi-finals, at which point Francis was permitted by registration rules to take part. They won their semi-final, and in May 1979 Forest took on Swedish side Malmö in the final in Munich, and a major instalment of the huge investment money was repaid just before half time.
The ball was spread to Forest's lugubrious but skilful winger John Robertson wide on the left and he took on two defenders at once to reach the byline and curl an awkward, outswinging cross towards the far post. Francis had already begun to sprint into position, but even he had to increase his pace to reach the cross as it dropped, and ended up throwing himself low at the ball. He connected with his head and the ball diverted powerfully into the roof of the net. Forest won the match 1-0 and footage of the goal was used in the opening titles to Match of the Day for some years afterwards. A giant picture of Francis stooping to head the ball remains on display in the main entrance and reception area of Forest's stadium. Even though the season ended there, Francis duly headed back to Detroit for another summer playing in the NASL where once again he was named to the first XI alongside Johan Cruyff (LA) and Giorgio Chinaglia (NY) despite playing only half the season. In his brief NASL career Francis scored 36 goals in 33 regular season matches and had 18 assists, placing him one spot ahead of Pele on the all time scoring list, despite playing 23 fewer games.
Francis arguably did not achieve his full potential as a Forest player. This may partly be due to Clough frequently playing Francis on the right wing, rather than in his preferred position as a central attacker. He was in the side which lost the League Cup final to Wolves in 1980 but missed the European Cup final against Hamburg SV due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. Somehow the success of his Forest career never quite reflected his huge fee, he scored only 14 league goals in the 1979-80 season and six in the eighteen games that he played for Forest in the next. Although still a regular for England (his Achilles injury prevented him being in the squad for the 1980 European Championships), his scoring record in club football was not spectacular.
Francis' injury kept him out of the game for over six months, and after playing fewer than twenty more games for Forest, he was sold to Manchester City
in 1981 (again for £1 million - the fee had become commonplace after the initial purchase opened the floodgates), where he scored 12 goals in 26 games and made the squad for the 1982 World Cup
. He duly scored goals in the group games against Czechoslovakia
, but when England needed goals in the second group phase, he and the other strikers hit a barren spell. England was eliminated after two goalless draws against both the host nation and West Germany
Later that summer, Francis was approached by Italian
, who paid Manchester City £700,000 for his services. He helped win the Coppa Italia
He joined Atalanta
for £800,000, where he played twenty-one times but only managed one goal. In 1986, he made his 52nd and final appearance for England in a victory over Scotland
. He had scored eleven goals for the national side.
Francis returned to Britain in 1987 and joined Rangers F.C.
under Graeme Souness
, as part of his self-styled "English invasion" at Ibrox
. Francis cost just £75,000 and won the Scottish League Cup
Queens Park Rangers
He signed as a player for Queens Park Rangers
in 1987 and took over as manager in November 1988 when Jim Smith
moved to Newcastle
. He left after a year in charge, with a previously effective QPR side now in danger of relegation.
Francis left QPR in 1990 to play for Sheffield Wednesday
, winning the League Cup in 1991 as a non-playing substitute
, prior to promotion back to the top flight. He later took over as manager after the departure of Ron Atkinson
and guided Wednesday to an excellent third place finish in 1992. The following year, Wednesday reached the FA Cup
and League Cup finals, losing both to Arsenal
, the former after a replay. In 1994, Francis finally retired as a player. He was sacked as manager a year later after Wednesday finished 13th in the Premiership, and many people still feel that his dismissal - the result of one relatively bad season - was the cause of a subsequent decline from which the club has still not fully recovered.
In February 1992, Francis brought former French International Eric Cantona back from the wilderness by inviting him for a trial at Sheffield Wednesday. However as the snowy conditions meant that he could only evaluate Cantona on astroturf, Francis requsted an extension to the trial to see whether Cantona could play on grass.
An outraged Cantona walked out on The Owls and was signed (without a trial) by Leeds United, famously inspiring first them and then Manchester United to success.
After leaving Wednesday, Francis spent time working as a television pundit (something which he had done throughout his career) before going back to his spiritual home of Birmingham City as manager
in 1996, aiming to regain their position as a top team. They continued to reach the play-offs but failed to be promoted. They also lost the 2001 Football League Cup Final
. Francis left later that year.
Francis had a short spell in charge of Crystal Palace
. Under his managership, Palace defeated Liverpool in an FA Cup fourth round replay at Anfield
in February 2003.
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