Irish Football Legend Trevor Francis Passes Away at 69
Trevor Francis, the former Birmingham striker and Nottingham Forest hero, has tragically passed away at the age of 69. Francis, who famously scored the winning goal in Forest’s 1979 European Cup final victory, suffered a heart attack while in Spain. His family spokesperson confirmed the news.
Francis had an illustrious career both as a player and a manager. He earned 52 caps for the England national team and went on to manage Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham, leading both teams to major finals. Despite his success, Francis will forever be remembered as British football’s first £1 million player.
In today’s era of astronomical transfer fees, it may be difficult to comprehend the significance of Francis’s record-breaking transfer in 1979. When Nottingham Forest signed him from Birmingham, the £1 million fee caused quite a stir. Francis, however, was proud to have his own unique place in football history.
Born on April 19, 1954, in Plymouth, Francis developed a love for football at a young age. His father, who had played at a semi-professional level, nurtured his talent. Francis quickly made a name for himself in the Devon schools system, scoring over 800 goals and attracting interest from clubs such as Plymouth Argyle, Bristol City, and Birmingham.
At the age of 15, Francis joined Birmingham as an apprentice. Known for his dedication and determination, he worked tirelessly to improve his speed, an area where he had initially faced criticism. His hard work paid off, and he soon became Birmingham’s youngest senior player, making his debut at just 16 years and 139 days old.
Francis’s impact was immediate, scoring 15 goals in his first 15 games. He was dubbed “Super Boy” and drew comparisons to football legends Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law. Birmingham’s crowds swelled to nearly 50,000, and Francis became a household name. Despite his success, he still had to fulfill his apprentice duties, including sweeping terraces, mopping floors, and cleaning senior players’ boots.
In 1972, Birmingham were promoted to the top flight, and Francis continued to excel, scoring 133 goals in 328 appearances for the club. However, he longed to join a team that could challenge for silverware. After submitting multiple transfer requests, Francis finally secured a move to Nottingham Forest in February 1979.
Forest, under the management of the charismatic Brian Clough, were the reigning First Division champions and offered Francis the opportunity to compete at the highest level. Clough famously downplayed the £1 million fee, claiming that Forest had actually paid £999,999 for the player. Despite the pressure of the price tag, Francis thrived at Forest and played a crucial role in their European Cup triumph.
Francis’s career continued to flourish, and he went on to achieve success as a manager. However, he often felt overshadowed by his status as the first £1 million player. In an interview with The Guardian in 2019, he expressed his pride in the achievement but also emphasized his desire to be recognized for his other accomplishments.
Tributes have poured in for Francis from across the footballing world. Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton described him as a “wonderful gentleman” and a “terrible loss.” Francis will be remembered as a true legend of the game, a trailblazer who paved the way for future footballers to secure lucrative transfers.
As the footballing community mourns the loss of Trevor Francis, his impact on the sport will never be forgotten. He will forever be remembered as a pioneer and an icon in the world of football.