The words “Trevor Francis dead” were the most chilling and heart-breaking words imaginable. Three words I have yet to come to terms with. Sky News annoyingly referred to him as “The Former Forest and England Star” who twice won the European cup. Well firstly he only played in one final and was injured for the second one. He played 70 games for Forest and close to 300 over 10 yearsfor the Blues. The outpouring of grief and respect for him from all the clubs he played for, including those in Italy was moving and a mark of his greatness. As Trevor himself said that Birmingham City was his club, and he was our brightest star.
The name Trevor Francis first came to my notice when as a 14-year-old he scored 5 out of 6 goals for Plymouth schools against Birmingham Schools. This gave the Blues a head start on signingthe youngster. At the final England Schools trial after a bout of flu Trevor had a poor game and went unnoticed. Blues stepped in and persuaded Trev to join Blues and Mrs. Francis, his mom, received a new washing machine.
My first view of Trevor was in 1970 at the Damson Lane training ground where he played in the Midland Intermediate League. I remember looking at him from behind the goal and thinking what a scrawny youth.15 months later at Luton I saw a boy who had become a man although still only 17.
Now I have to admit I did not see the 4 goals against Bolton. I was still playing myself. The gate that day was around 19,000, already a 50% increase on the attendance that was usual until Trevor became a regular. With Trevor on a goal spree and Blues closing on a promotion spot they played Cardiff, themselves in the promotion hunt. I had given up playing to watch Trevor and I was part of that 49,000 that were there to see the Bluebirds seen off 2-0.
During that run Trevor scored the first of wonder goals against Millwall. Trevor was near the halfway line and with the ball dropping out of the sky and two of Millwall’s enforcers were bearing down on him. Barry Kitchener and Harry Cripps both renown for their thuggery were left for dead as Trevor brought the ball down on his toe turned 180 degrees and sped off towards goal.
Leaving the whole Millwall defence in his wake. From the edge of the box. smashed the ball past the keeper. Breath taking. Now if the Tv coverage was anything like it is today Trevor would have won every goal of the season and probably would have been 2nd.3rd.and 4th. When asked to describe Trevor’s ability I simply said this. If you took David Beckham’s passing and free-kick ability, and Micheal Owen’s goalscoring, add to that the pace and ability of Ryan Giggs then doubled it, you might have been close to “Superboy”.
The lack of coverage denied Trevor an early elevation to the national team. The achilles damage caused by Eddie Colquhoun
of Sheffield United didn’t help much either. Trevor was out for several months and when it was announced he would return in a reserve game at St Andrews there we unprecedented scenes. Blues had as normal. opened up the Main stand only, as the normal gate for a reserve match was 700. On this day I and 7000 others turned up to see the crowd overspill into the Tilton and Trever serve up a delightful display netting the 4th goal in a 4-0 win.
After Trevor departed, I was devastated and never forgave Jim Smith for selling him. Jim I’m afraid spent the money on some great players but handed out contracts like party hats and Blues were broke in two years, I watched Trevor play for Forest at West Brom where there were as many Blues fans there as Forest. The winners that night finished runner up in Div 1. Trever obliged his adoring fans with the winning goal.
In Glasgow, for Rangers. I saw him play some god like football as he, then in the No 10 roll, sprayed the ball to McCoist, Fleck and Davy Wilson like he was embroidering the badges on the shirts. After the game I entertained some Rangers fans with tails of Trevor’s early career. I then boarded the Midnight Train back to Brum ready for work.
Is losing the great man like losing a family member or a best friend? No is my answer. Losing Trevor Francis is unique because he was unique. I did meet him on a couple of occasions which I am glad to say he remembered. He was simply the best.
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God Bless you all
THE TILTON TALK SHOW
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