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.

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.

A week earlier, David Mills had transferred from Middlesbrough

to West Bromwich

for £516,000, but Francis was something else.

Big deal: Unpredictable Brian Clough (right) was late after playing squash on the day he unveiled £1m signing Trevor Francis

Two days after Smith's call, Francis signed for Forest to become the first £1million signing in British football.

What was Brian Clough buying with Forest's money?

The BBC had led their flagship Saturday results round-up show nine years earlier with the words: 'Trevor Francis did not score today…'

He was still two months short of his 17th birthday.

One Birmingham fan was arrested for running on the pitch and punching Cardiff defender Mel Sutton for an over-zealous tackle on his hero.

 Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?

Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers

THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers

Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best



During a promotion battle against Orient, opposition supporters threw knives at him.

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.'

Thirty years on, Francis admits he thought he was joining Coventry to play for Jimmy Hill, until Clough waded in.'

Before his switch to Nottingham Forest, Francis (right) thought he was set for a move to Coventry City

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.

'The agreement was I'd play for Coventry in the winter and then go to Detroit.

'If memory serves me right, I was due £100,000 over the length of a three-year contract.

'I bought my first house, in a pleasant suburb in Solihull for £72,000, so you can gauge how much it was from that.

'The money on the table from Coventry was better than Forest.

'But my reason for leaving wasn't to make money. I wasn't badly paid at Birmingham.

'Coventry weren't that much higher in the table. My decision to leave was about advancing my career.

All smiles: Francis (left) and his wife Helen (centre) with Forest legend Clough

'So, I travelled to Nottingham to meet Brian Clough.

'I was very excited to be meeting him. Nottingham Forest were buzzing, it was a great place to be.

'It makes me smile now to think about that day. I had taken someone with me to advise me on my pension.

'But that was it. No agents or advisers.

'All I had with me was a list of questions.

Francis was handed a half-time ear bashing from boss Clough on his Forest debut

'But as I sat in the manager's office, I wondered where he was because he was late.

'It turned out he had another engagement. He was playing squash over the road at Trent Bridge.'

Clough agreed the deal, then, without a contract being signed, he suggested Francis might like to play in a match.

So the £1million centre forward turned out in a third-team fixture against local rivals Notts County.

'I'd agreed to sign by then but I'd not put pen to paper,' says Francis.

'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:

'His name is Trevor!'

'The only other thing I can remember is that I didn't wear shin-pads.

'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.

'The story of my signing made the front pages, the back pages, television and radio.

'I made my debut against Ipswich at Portman Road. They are a decent crowd, but by this stage everyone knew about the £1m transfer.

Francis (left) and Nottingham Forest captain John McGovern celebrate after their European Cup win over Malmo

'I was heckled from the first whistle. It got to me.

'At one stage, the ball flashed across goal and I punched it into the net. The referee saw it and disallowed the 'goal'.

'When I returned to the dressing-room, I received the biggest dressing-down of my career.

 Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?

Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers

THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers

Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best



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.'

'He let me know that Nottingham Forest played the game correctly. You weren't allowed to back-chat referees.

'He did not like what he saw me doing, trying to score by cheating. He blew his top.

'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.'

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.

Francis played 52 times for England

'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.

The transfer fee was a weight around his shoulders.

'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

.

'It changed when I scored in the European Cup Final, against Malmo, but I'll never know how close I was to not playing.

'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.

'He got wind that a leading boot company wanted to pay me £1,000 to wear their brand in the final.

'He threatened not to play me if I took the £1,000 and wore a different pair of boots.

'He pulled me and said: 'You wear the boots that you've been wearing all season'.'

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

.

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.

'I played first-team football at 16. I was 39 when I finished at Sheffield Wednesday.

'That's a long career, longer than most.

'I had nine years with England winning 52 caps. I played in the World Cup.

'I also played in Italy and Scotland for very big, prestigious clubs.

'But sometimes you'd think the only thing I did was to be transferred for £1m.

'And, do you know, I'm quite proud of it.'

 Thanks a million - 30 years on from Trevor Francis how did other players shape up after their landmark transfers?

Thirty years on from the first £1m transfer Sportsmail looks at the record breakers

THE LIST: 10-1 of Sportsmail's top goalkeepers

Keep it in the family: The days when Clough senior made Derby the best





 

Source: Daily_Mail