25 April 2012

England's ten most gifted footballers of the last 50 years: Number 8, Trevor Francis

A class act from 16 to 40, and without giving too much away, a player on this Top 10 who operated furthest up the pitch. Touch, vision and distribution are attributes that suggest a player operating in the centre of midfield, ideally, but a good roaming striker can also discharge these characteristics effectively if their prime job - ie, finishing - comes up to scratch too. Francis was a goalscorer, a great one, but he was such a reliable and cultured outlet in his nine years at Birmingham City that he was often tasked with deeper or wider responsibilities. Able to beat players through wit rather than pace, he was a strong runner, a demon passer and totally lethal in the box. His international debut was comparatively late and came after qualification for the 1978 World Cup had been spurned, but for almost a decade he became an A-list English footballer, enhanced further by a successful period in the Italian game. And although his goalscoring record was outdone by other finishers of his era, the variety of goal he scored - outside the box drives, flying headers, weaving runs past defenders, tap-ins, outrageous self-made chances - gave him that extra edge as a marvellous footballer who scored goals, rather than a mere goalscorer. And the number he set up for others wasn't shabby either. A truly superb player.

And we'll do it again tomorrow with Number 7...

1 comment:

Matthew Gilbert said...

People should watch the 20 minute plus video on YouTube of Forest's European Cup semi-final against Ajax in 1980 to see Francis at this peak - to deliver in a match of that importance shows what a brilliant player he was.