“There is no better player in the country than Trevor Francis” – Sir Alf Ramsey
In 1979 Trevor Francis etched his name in history by becoming Britain’s first £1 million footballer, scoring the winning goal in the 1979 European Cup final for Nottingham Forest and having his name mentioned in the ‘Only Fools and Horse’ theme tune lyrics–yet there is more to this classy footballer than a record-breaking price tag and Trevor Francis Tracksuits
1. He is a Perfectionist
Trevor Francis ‘likes things done right’ when writing his 2019 autobiography he had the help of writer Keith Dixon.
In the foreword of the book Keith writes “Trevor arrived dead on time for our meeting, stating that he hated being late…I was aware of his attention to detail and desire to get things absolutely right, During the meeting Trevor made it clear that he was only prepared to embark on this project if we both agreed that the end product would be top quality – in other words the best book we could write” (Francis pg11)
This is a mentality that Francis has had throughout his life and career which has led him to success as a player, manager and now with Francis Homes
2. Loyalty to Birmingham City
Francis was born in Plymouth on 19th April 1954 – but he made his start in football over 200 miles away from home with Birmingham City FC, joining the youth team in 1969.
By 1970 16-year-old Trevor Francis had broken into the first team and was causing a sensation at St Andrew’s – the bluenoses knew they had a special talent in their team and gave Trevor the nickname ‘Superboy’
Francis broke records with Birmingham, he was the youngest ever debutante in 1969 (vs Cardiff City) aged just 16 years and 139 days. On his 9th start for the team he scored 4 goals against Bolton Wanderers setting a record as the youngest person to score a hat-trick at 16 years and 307 days
Attendance at St Andrew’s started to rise with Francis getting the attention of the general public as the Birmingham Mail reported
“Many thousands of fans will go to St Andrew’s…for their first look at 16-year-old superkid Trevor Francis. It is a situation which looked impossible only a few weeks ago when attendances had tumbled to a worrying 13,000 with performances to match. Francis is the draw.”
He even scored one of the greatest ever goals for Birmingham against QPR in 1976
Whilst many young talents see their first club as a stepping stone to greater things, Francis remained at Birmingham until 1979, spending 10 years with the club making 319 appearances and scoring 129 goals.
He was so important to Birmingham that Manager Jim Smith put a record-breaking price on his head
3. The £1 Million Man?
The first thing anyone says about Trevor Francis is “did you know he wasn’t actually a million pounds, Brian Clough made sure it was £1 less” – as one of his famous tactics to keep his players feet on the ground
Whilst it is a great story and believable simply because its Brian Clough – the truth (as ever) is a lot more mundane. Including the league’s levy fees and additional costs involved the actual fee was over £1,150,000 which was a huge leap from the previous transfer record of £516,000 to pay for David Mills to go to West Brom from Middlesbrough
The reality is Cloughies tactic to reduce the gravity of the situation was to turn up to the historic signing as if he had just been interrupted on his way to the squash court, racquet in hand!
The fact this story persists is testament to the brilliance of Brian Clough and the incredible mark he left on English Football.
It is worth noting that Clough and Francis had a positive relationship and when they both met in 1992 as managers of Forest and Sheffield Wednesday. With Wednesday 2 - 0 Cloughie approached the opposing dugout and said to Trevor ‘Young man, your team played well and were the better team today” – there was 20 minutes left! ( Francis p53)
There will never be another Brian Clough
4. He scored the winning goal in the 1979 European Cup Final in his first ever game of European Football
30th May 1979 Trevor Francis headed in a goal that established himself as a Nottingham Forest icon and transformed the club into one of the nations ‘Big Clubs’. Nottingham Forest won the European Cup and were dubbed the ‘miracle men’ for having achieved what most believed to be impossible, after winning the domestic league the year before
Whilst this is the moment that proved that Francis was worth every penny of that huge transfer fee – it was actually his first ever game in European football. Francis was ineligible to play in the competition until the semi-finals, but the genius of Brian Clough kept him out until the final. Ever the big game player Francis saw his opportunity to justify his position in the team and silenced any doubters.
Ironically in the 1980 European Cup run Francis missed the final due to injury. He played more games without getting to a final in one year and played no games and got to a final in the previous one!
5. He might be the first player cautioned for faking an injury
In the opinion of referee Norman Burtenshaw anyway. In a 1973 match between Sheffield United and Birmingham City, which was very important in regards to the relegation battle that year. In Norman’s 1973 book he states.
“I am bending over them trying to break it up and his right-hander nearly hit me (not Francis). The nearest Sheffield Player said, ‘I never touched him, ref.’ I told him I could see that. I went to Francis and said ‘I am booking you for feigning injury. You could of got that other player sent off if I hadn’t been looking.’ Francis – Who had a brilliant game, incedently – said he didn’t agree” (Francis p231)
Whether you believe Francis or Burtenshaw – Trevor’s overall record has 2 Yellow cards and one sending off, which in a 23 year playing career is commendable
Trevor Francis is a legend in English Football, a true gentleman who is still passionate about the game.
Whether you know him for his time as a talented teenager at Birmingham and a match winner at Forest, he also earned himself a regular position in the England team and after his playing career moved into broadcasting and management
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