Worlds first £1 Million footballer is bought

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Worlds first £1 Million footballer is bought

Nottingham, Nottinghamshire The 9th of February 1979 AD

These days transfer fees can hit tens of millions of pounds, and a mere million will probably only get you a one-footed hacker. But in February 1979 that sum brought a truly exceptional talent to Nottingham Forest - Trevor Francis.
It is fitting too that the manager who broke the £1m barrier should have been 'Old Bighead,' Brian Clough, of whom it was said that he was always destined to make a great coach; just take the teeth out and fit seats.
Francis had made his debut for Birmingham when just 16, and was already talked of seriously as an England player when he was 17. Though he was rather slight for a centre forward in those days Francis had bags of skill, a powerful shot, and real tactical intelligence that saw him later become a manager of some standing.
Clough insisted on the actual fee being £999,999, but whether with journalistic rounding up, or the addition of the taxes that meant Forest forked out £1.1m, Francis was always to be known as the £1m footballer.
The press conference where Clough introduced his new and expensive star was a strange affair, the manager keen to get it over with and be off to the squash game for which he was already changed - was he trying to play the thing down to make things easier for Francis, or was he as some think jealous of the limelight suddenly directed at the lad from Plymouth?
Francis had already spent eight years with unfashionable Birmingham, adding to his experience by jetting off to play in the USA for the Detroit Express in the summer of 1978, where he was a huge hit.
With Forest Francis made a rapid hit too, allowed to play at the semi-final stage of the European Cup, and then in the final against Malmo in May 1979, held in Munich, scoring the only goal. Uncharacteristically this was a header, though his run was one that few other players would have been capable of, and fewer still would have thought of making when he saw John Robertson preparing to cross the ball from wide on the left.
Clough tended to play Francis as a winger, on the right, rather than as the lone central attacker that suited him better - maybe Clough for once was fooled into the clichéd and obvious by the player's dribbling skill and look of a traditional boyish winger.
Playing out of position probably didn't help his career, and he suffered several serious injuries, but Francis still amassed 52 England caps, and the thought remains that used properly by club and country he could have done so much more - his record in the USA where he was played in his favourite role as a striker was better than Pele's in terms of goal-scoring, and Fabio Capello, no mean judge, rated him the best English import to Serie A.

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