Trevor Francis

Trevor Francis
Francis in Amsterdam in 1980
Personal information
Full name Trevor John Francis
Date of birth (1954-04-19)19 April 1954
Place of birth Plymouth, England
Date of death 24 July 2023(2023-07-24) (aged 69)
Place of death Marbella, Spain
Height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Position(s) Forward
Youth career
1969–1970 Birmingham City
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1970–1979 Birmingham City 280 (118)
1978Detroit Express (loan) 19 (22)
1979–1981 Nottingham Forest 70 (28)
1979Detroit Express (loan) 14 (14)
1981–1982 Manchester City 26 (12)
1982–1986 Sampdoria 67 (17)
1986–1987 Atalanta 21 (1)
1987–1988 Rangers 18 (1)
1988–1990 Queens Park Rangers 32 (12)
1988Wollongong City (loan) 3 (2)
1990–1994 Sheffield Wednesday 76 (5)
Total 626 (231)
International career
1977–1986 England 52 (12)
Managerial career
1988–1989 Queens Park Rangers
1991–1995 Sheffield Wednesday
1996–2001 Birmingham City
2001–2003 Crystal Palace
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Trevor John Francis (19 April 1954 – 24 July 2023) was an English footballer who played as a forward for a number of clubs in England, the United States, Italy, Scotland and Australia. In 1979 he became Britain's first £1 million player following his transfer from Birmingham City to Nottingham Forest. He scored the winning goal for Forest in the 1979 European Cup final against Malmö. He won the European Cup again with the club the following year. At international level, he played for England 52 times between 1976 and 1986, scoring 12 goals, and played at the 1982 FIFA World Cup.

Between 1988 and 2003, Francis was a football manager with Queens Park Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham City and Crystal Palace.

Early life and education

Trevor John Francis was born in Plymouth, Devon, and educated at Plymouth's Public Secondary School for Boys. He was an agile and skilful forward and joined Birmingham City as a schoolboy.

Club career

Early career

Francis quickly rose in status, making his debut for Birmingham City's first team in 1970, aged just 16. His talent was noted when, before his 17th birthday, he scored four goals in a match against Bolton Wanderers. He ended his first season with 15 goals from just 22 games. Birmingham City manager at the time, Freddie Goodwin compared Francis to both Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law.

Birmingham City

In the 1970s, Birmingham City reached the occasional domestic semi-final but failed to make a great impact in the First Division championship, so the ability and achievements of Francis were made more noticeable as a result.[citation needed]

On 30 October 1976, he scored one of Birmingham's most famous goals, when he turned away from the touchline and cut inside two Queens Park Rangers defenders, constantly being forced backwards, before suddenly unleashing a 25-yard shot.

Detroit Express

Francis negotiated a loan from Birmingham in 1978 to play for the Detroit Express in the 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.

Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest, the reigning First Division 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 red gym kit and carrying a racquet as he addressed the press conference.

While recognised as the first British million-pound player, the actual transfer fee for the player was £1,150,000, including 15% commission to the Football League. Clough wrote in his autobiography that the fee was £999,999, as he wanted to ensure the million-pound milestone did not go to the player's head, although Francis says that was a tongue-in-cheek remark by Clough.

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, although Francis would not be eligible to play in the competition until the final. They won their semi-final, and in May 1979 Forest took on Swedish club Malmö in the final in Munich, and a major instalment of the huge investment money was repaid just before half time.[citation needed]

The ball was spread to Forest's 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 so he had to increase his pace in order 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.[citation needed] 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 City Ground stadium.[citation needed]

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 Pelé on the all-time scoring list, despite playing 23 fewer games.[citation needed]

At Nottingham Forest Clough frequently played Francis on the right wing, rather than in his preferred position as a central attacker.[citation needed] Francis was in the side which lost the 1980 League Cup Final to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but missed the European Cup Final against Hamburg due to an injury to his Achilles tendon.[citation needed] 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 6 in the next 18 games that he played for Forest. Although still a regular for England, his Achilles injury prevented him being in the squad for the 1980 European Championships.[citation needed]

Manchester City

The injury kept Francis out of the game for over six months. He was sold to Manchester City in September 1981, this time for £1.2 million. The deal caused behind-the-scenes friction at Manchester City. During negotiations City chairman Peter Swales informed manager John Bond that the club could not afford the transfer fee. Bond then issued an ultimatum: if Francis did not sign, Bond would resign. Francis made a promising start at the club, scoring two goals against Stoke City on his debut, but over the course of the season he was frequently injured. In total he scored 12 goals in 26 games and made the England squad for the 1982 World Cup.

Back at his club, financial problems were again an issue. Francis' contract gave him a salary of £100,000 plus bonuses, which the club could no longer afford to pay to a player who regularly sustained injuries.

Sampdoria

Later that summer, Francis was approached by Italian club Sampdoria, who paid Manchester City £700,000 for his services. He helped win the 1984–85 Coppa Italia, in the same team as Scotland midfielder Graeme Souness. It was the first time that Sampdoria had won the competition.

Atalanta

Francis joined Atalanta in 1986. He played 21 league games and scored once in his only season, but added two goals in nine games as the team in the Coppa Italia, where they lost the final to Napoli. He was the second Englishman at the Bergamo-based club after Gerry Hitchens, and by the time of his death their only other English-born player was Ademola Lookman.

Rangers

Francis returned to Britain in September 1987 to join Rangers under Graeme Souness. Numerous English players were brought to the Scottish club by Souness as English clubs had been banned from European competition since the Heysel disaster. Francis cost just £75,000 and won the 1987–88 Scottish League Cup, scoring a penalty in the shootout.[citation needed]

Queens Park Rangers

Francis signed as a player for Queens Park Rangers in March 1988 and took over as player-manager in November 1988 when Jim Smith moved to Newcastle United. Francis was replaced as manager by Don Howe in November 1989 after a year in charge, with the club in danger of relegation.[citation needed]

Sheffield Wednesday

Francis left QPR in February 1990 to play for Sheffield Wednesday; despite gaining a good reputation amongst supporters, he could not help the club avoid relegation to the second tier for the 1990–91 season. However, that season he helped Wednesday win the League Cup, although he was a non-playing substitute in the final, and also gained promotion back to the top flight.[citation needed]

International career

Francis played for England 52 times between 1977 and 1986 and scored 12 goals. In 1977, he was given his first England cap by Don Revie, in a 2–0 loss against the Netherlands. After missing out on Euro 1980 due to an Achilles injury, Francis was named in the England squad for the 1982 World Cup in Spain. In the first round of the tournament, he scored in the group games against Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. England were eliminated after goalless draws against both the host nation and West Germany. In spring 1986, he made his 52nd and final appearance for England in a victory over Scotland, and was subsequently not selected for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

Managerial career

Sheffield Wednesday

After the departure of Ron Atkinson, Francis took over as manager of Sheffield Wednesday with popular support from club and supporters. He guided Wednesday to 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, shortly before his 40th birthday. He was dismissed as manager a year later after Wednesday finished 13th in the Premiership.[citation needed]

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 requested 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, inspiring first them and then Manchester United to success. In a 2012 interview Francis said that he had agreed to take Cantona on as a favour to Francis' former agent, Dennis Roach, and Michel Platini, who he knew from his time playing in Italy, when they approached him about taking on Cantona, and that it was intended as an opportunity for Cantona to put himself in the "shop window": Wednesday had only recently been promoted back to the top flight, with most of the squad still being on Second Division-level wages, and the club could not afford to sign him.

Birmingham City

Francis was hired as Birmingham City as manager in 1996, with the club in the First Division. He guided Birmingham to 10th- and 7th-place finishes in his first two seasons, missing out on the playoffs on goal difference in the latter. Finishes of 4th, 4th and 5th in the next three seasons resulted in playoff entry, losing each time.

Francis led Blues to the 2001 League Cup Final, where they lost on penalties to Liverpool. He was dismissed in October that year. BBC Sport wrote "Francis the player was legendary. Francis the manager is the nearly man".

Crystal Palace

Francis had a spell in charge of Crystal Palace, from November 2001 to April 2003.[citation needed] Under his managership, Palace defeated Liverpool in an FA Cup fourth round replay at Anfield in February 2003 and beat Palace's main rivals, Brighton & Hove Albion, 5–0 in October 2002. However, after the team's second failure to achieve promotion to the Premier League, owner Simon Jordan dismissed him, stating: "People know I am very unhappy with the selection of our players under Francis. We have a very strong squad and we should have done a lot better this season – a lot of lessons need to be learned from injury prevention and transfer policy."

Personal life

Francis in 2009

Francis married Helen in 1974. The couple had two children together. On 5 April 2017, it was reported that Helen Francis had died.

On 13 April 2012, Francis was reported to be recovering in hospital from a suspected heart attack.

Francis died of a heart attack at his home near Marbella, Spain, on 24 July 2023. He was 69.

Career statistics

Club

Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National cup League cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Birmingham City 1970–71 Second Division 22 15 2 0 2 0 26 15
1971–72 39 12 6 2 1 0 2 1 48 15
1972–73 First Division 31 6 1 0 5 2 37 8
1973–74 37 6 2 1 5 1 3 1 47 9
1974–75 23 13 2 0 1 0 2 1 28 14
1975–76 35 17 2 1 2 0 39 18
1976–77 42 21 2 0 1 0 45 21
1977–78 42 25 2 2 1 0 3 2 48 29
1978–79 9 3 1 0 1 1 11 4
Total 280 118 20 6 19 4 10 5 329 133
Detroit Express (loan) 1978 NASL 19 22 3 3 22 25
Nottingham Forest 1978–79 First Division 20 6 1 1 21 7
1979–80 30 14 2 0 6 0 6 3 44 17
1980–81 18 6 6 5 1 0 1 0 26 11
1981–82 2 2 2 2
Total 70 28 8 5 6 0 8 4 1 0 93 37
Detroit Express (loan) 1979 NASL 14 14 2 0 16 14
Manchester City 1981–82 First Division 26 12 2 2 1 0 29 14
Sampdoria 1982–83 Serie A 14 7 5 1 19 8
1983–84 15 3 7 2 23 5
1984–85 24 6 11 9 35 15
1985–86 14 1 11 1 3 0 28 2
Total 67 17 34 13 3 0 104 30
Atalanta 1986–87 Serie A 21 1 9 2 30 3
Rangers 1987–88 Scottish Premier Division 18 0 1 0 2 0 4 0 25 0
Queens Park Rangers 1987–88 First Division 9 0 9 0
1988–89 19 7 1 0 5 3 1 0 26 10
1989–90 4 5 0 0 3 0 7 5
Total 32 12 1 0 8 3 1 0 42 15
Wollongong City (loan) 1988 National Soccer League 3 2 3 2
Sheffield Wednesday 1989–90 First Division 12 0 12 0
1990–91 Second Division 38 4 3 1 6 1 1 0 48 6
1991–92 First Division 20 1 1 0 1 2 22 3
1992–93 Premier League 5 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 7 0
1993–94 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Total 76 5 4 1 8 3 1 0 1 0 90 9
Career total 626 231 79 29 44 10 16 4 18 8 783 282
  1. ^ Includes FA Cup, Coppa Italia, Scottish Cup
  2. ^ Includes Football League Cup, Scottish League Cup
  3. ^ Includes 1971–72 third-place play-off, which was not played until August 1972
  4. ^ Appearances in Anglo-Italian Cup
  5. ^ a b Appearances in Texaco Cup
  6. ^ Appearances in Anglo-Scottish Cup
  7. ^ a b Appearances in NASL play-offs
  8. ^ a b Appearance(s) in European Cup
  9. ^ Four appearances three goals in European Cup, two appearances in European Super Cup
  10. ^ Appearance in European Super Cup
  11. ^ Appearance in Intercontinental Cup
  12. ^ Appearances in European Cup-Winners' Cup
  13. ^ Appearance in Football League Centenary Trophy
  14. ^ Appearance in Full Members' Cup
  15. ^ Appearance in UEFA Cup

International

Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
England 1977 7 1
1978 5 1
1979 5 2
1980 1 1
1981 5 0
1982 10 5
1983 8 2
1984 4 0
1985 6 0
1986 1 0
Total 52 12
Scores and results list England's goal tally first, score column indicates score after each Francis goal.
List of international goals scored by Trevor Francis
No. Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition Ref.
1 30 March 1977 Wembley Stadium, London, England  Luxembourg 2–0 5–0 1978 FIFA World Cup qualification
2 24 May 1978 Wembley Stadium, London, England  Hungary 3–0 4–1 Friendly
3 17 October 1979 Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland  Northern Ireland 1–0 5–1 UEFA Euro 1980 qualification
4 3–1
5 26 March 1980 Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain  Spain 2–0 2–0 Friendly
6 27 April 1982 Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales  Wales 1–0 1–0 1981–82 British Home Championship
7 20 June 1982 Estadio San Mamés, Bilbao, Spain  Czechoslovakia 1–0 2–0 1982 FIFA World Cup Group stage
8 25 June 1982 Estadio San Mamés, Bilbao, Spain  Kuwait 1–0 1–0 1982 FIFA World Cup Group stage
9 22 September 1982 Idrætsparken, Copenhagen, Denmark  Denmark 1–0 2–2 UEFA Euro 1984 qualification
10 2–1
11 27 April 1983 Wembley Stadium, London, England  Hungary 1–0 2–0 UEFA Euro 1984 qualification
12 19 June 1983 Olympic Park Stadium, Melbourne, Australia  Australia 1–0 1–1 Friendly

Managerial statistics

Managerial record by team and tenure
Team From To Record
P W D L Win %
Queens Park Rangers 14 December 1988 27 November 1989 48 15 17 16 031.3
Sheffield Wednesday 17 June 1991 20 May 1995 216 89 68 59 041.2
Birmingham City 10 May 1996 15 October 2001 290 139 70 81 047.9
Crystal Palace 30 November 2001 18 April 2003 78 28 22 28 035.9
Total 632 271 177 184 042.9

Honours

Player

Birmingham City

Detroit Express

Nottingham Forest

Sampdoria

Rangers

Sheffield Wednesday

Individual

Manager

Sheffield Wednesday

Birmingham City

Individual


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