Trevor Francis: People will always remember me as the first £1m player

09 February 2009 07:35
It is February 7, 1979, and Trevor Francis is settling down to watch England v Northern Ireland on television when the telephone rings at his Warwickshire home.[LNB]Francis answers and Jim Smith, his manager at Birmingham City, breaks the news that the forward is on his way to Nottingham Forest in a deal that will smash all records.[LNB]A week earlier, David Mills had transferred from Middlesbrough[LNB]to West Bromwich [LNB]for £516,000, but Francis was something else. [LNB] Big deal: Unpredictable Brian Clough (right) was late after playing squash on the day he unveiled £1m signing Trevor Francis[LNB]Two days after Smith's call, Francis signed for Forest to become the first £1million signing in British football.[LNB]What was Brian Clough buying with Forest's money? [LNB]The BBC had led their flagship Saturday results round-up show nine years earlier with the words: 'Trevor Francis did not score today…' [LNB]He was still two months short of his 17th birthday.[LNB]One Birmingham fan was arrested for running on the pitch and punching Cardiff defender Mel Sutton for an over-zealous tackle on his hero. [LNB] Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?[LNB]Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers[LNB]THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers[LNB]Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best[LNB][LNB]During a promotion battle against Orient, opposition supporters threw knives at him. [LNB]Shortly after arriving to take over as manager in 1977, Sir Alf Ramsey — a man not given to hyperbole —said of the Birmingham No 8: 'There is no better player in the country than Trevor Francis.'[LNB]Thirty years on, Francis admits he thought he was joining Coventry to play for Jimmy Hill, until Clough waded in.'[LNB] Before his switch to Nottingham Forest, Francis (right) thought he was set for a move to Coventry City[LNB]Jimmy Hill owned Detroit Express in the North American Soccer League and the offer they had put on the table to join Coventry was unbelievable,' he admits.[LNB]'The agreement was I'd play for Coventry in the winter and then go to Detroit. [LNB]'If memory serves me right, I was due £100,000 over the length of a three-year contract.[LNB]'I bought my first house, in a pleasant suburb in Solihull for £72,000, so you can gauge how much it was from that. [LNB]'The money on the table from Coventry was better than Forest. [LNB]'But my reason for leaving wasn't to make money. I wasn't badly paid at Birmingham. [LNB]'Coventry weren't that much higher in the table. My decision to leave was about advancing my career. [LNB] All smiles: Francis (left) and his wife Helen (centre) with Forest legend Clough[LNB]'So, I travelled to Nottingham to meet Brian Clough.[LNB]'I was very excited to be meeting him. Nottingham Forest were buzzing, it was a great place to be. [LNB]'It makes me smile now to think about that day. I had taken someone with me to advise me on my pension. [LNB]'But that was it. No agents or advisers. [LNB]'All I had with me was a list of questions.[LNB] Francis was handed a half-time ear bashing from boss Clough on his Forest debut[LNB] 'But as I sat in the manager's office, I wondered where he was because he was late. [LNB]'It turned out he had another engagement. He was playing squash over the road at Trent Bridge.'[LNB]Clough agreed the deal, then, without a contract being signed, he suggested Francis might like to play in a match. [LNB]So the £1million centre forward turned out in a third-team fixture against local rivals Notts County.[LNB]'I'd agreed to sign by then but I'd not put pen to paper,' says Francis. [LNB]'What would have happened had I been injured, I don't know, but I agreed to play on a park pitch with about 20 people watching.'I took a shot, missed and someone shouted out: 'You'll have to do better than that, Francis,' and suddenly Clough races halfway around the pitch to berate a supporter, shouting: [LNB]'His name is Trevor!'[LNB]'The only other thing I can remember is that I didn't wear shin-pads. [LNB]'I recognised the importance of them, but I couldn't get on with them. I was told in no uncertain terms to wear them because it was a club rule.[LNB]'The story of my signing made the front pages, the back pages, television and radio. [LNB]'I made my debut against Ipswich at Portman Road. They are a decent crowd, but by this stage everyone knew about the £1m transfer. [LNB] Francis (left) and Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern celebrate after their European Cup win over Malmo[LNB]'I was heckled from the first whistle. It got to me.[LNB]'At one stage, the ball flashed across goal and I punched it into the net. The referee saw it and disallowed the 'goal'. [LNB]'When I returned to the dressing-room, I received the biggest dressing-down of my career. [LNB] Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?[LNB]Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers[LNB]THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers[LNB]Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best[LNB][LNB]Clough said, 'We are Nottingham Forest. That's rubbish what you have just done. Don't ever do that again while you are playing for this football club.'[LNB]'He let me know that Nottingham Forest played the game correctly. You weren't allowed to back-chat referees. [LNB]'He did not like what he saw me doing, trying to score by cheating. He blew his top. [LNB]'That's the first verbal volley I had off him. It wasn't pleasant. When he went, he went. I didn't do it again.'[LNB]Shortly afterwards, possibly to deflect the mounting pressure away from the country's hottest star, Clough put out a story suggesting the fee wasn't  £1m, but a penny short of that figure.[LNB] Francis played 52 times for England[LNB] 'I've since checked with Jim Smith. Actually, with the five percent that went to the League and five per cent to the player and the VAT payments, the actual fee was £1,150,000,' reveals Francis.[LNB]The transfer fee was a weight around his shoulders. [LNB]'I found myself trying to justify the £1m. You have to be yourself and play your own game. There was a pressure lifted when I got my first goal against Bolton[LNB]. [LNB]'It changed when I scored in the European Cup Final, against Malmo, but I'll never know how close I was to not playing.[LNB]'Martin O'Neill was fit, and he was terribly hurt that I was selected. While it was never confirmed until the morning of the match, Clough dropped out something that made me suspect I had made it.[LNB]'He got wind that a leading boot company wanted to pay me £1,000 to wear their brand in the final. [LNB]'He threatened not to play me if I took the £1,000 and wore a different pair of boots. [LNB]'He pulled me and said: 'You wear the boots that you've been wearing all season'.'[LNB]It was not Francis's feet that did the talking. It was his head, nodding home John Robertson's cross as a highlight of a glittering career that was to last 23 years and include appearances for Sampdoria and Rangers[LNB]. [LNB]But some things never change.'To this day whether it be a luncheon or an evening dinner, I'm always introduced as: ''The £1m man'',' he said. [LNB]'I played first-team football at 16. I was 39 when I finished at Sheffield Wednesday. [LNB]'That's a long career, longer than most.[LNB]'I had nine years with England winning 52 caps. I played in the World Cup. [LNB]'I also played in Italy and Scotland for very big, prestigious clubs.[LNB]'But sometimes you'd think the only thing I did was to be transferred for £1m.[LNB]'And, do you know, I'm quite proud of it.'[LNB] Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?[LNB]Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers[LNB]THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers[LNB]Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best[LNB][LNB] [LNB]  

Source: Daily_Mail


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