This Week in Football History: Trevor Francis, England's first million pound man

Brian Clough postponing his game of squash to announce he'd broken the English transfer record
Brian Clough postponing his game of squash to announce he'd broken the English transfer record
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It was 36 years ago that Brian Clough opened up the Nottingham Forest chequebook and, for the first time in British football history, wrote down seven figures. On today's anniversary, Adrian North looks back on English football's first 'million pound man'...

"But there is one man who is remembered for nothing else but a price tag. He is not remembered as one of England’s best strikers in the 70s, nor is he remembered by anyone other than Forest fans for his winning goal in the 1980 European Cup final. The name Trevor Francis will forever be associated with his one value - £1million."

February 9, 1979 - Nottingham, England: Cloughie always claimed he cost £999,999.

Some players have their entire careers defined by singular moments that fall into either 'good' or 'bad' columns. From Pele's dummy to Zidane's headbutt via Baggio's penalty footballers, just like any other person, are usually in control of their own destiny. Zidane made the decision to lay his head into Materazzi just as Baggio made the decision to lean back an inch too much on his penalty.

There are a few notable exceptions however for which our sympathies go out to. Players who, no matter they achieve on the pitch, will forever be remembered for events that they had no say in.

Andy Carroll will spend his entire career with a the number '35 million' looming above him.

In some parts, Luther Blissett is no longer known as the great Watford striker of the 70s and 80s, but rather as an anarchist movement that started in Bologna in the mid 90s named in his honour.

But there is one man who is remembered for nothing else but a price tag. He is not remembered as one of England's best strikers in the 70s, nor is he remembered by anyone other than Forest fans for his winning goal in the 1980 European Cup final. The name Trevor Francis will forever be associated with his one value - £1m.

Francis, of course, was British football's first million pound man. On February 9, 1979, Brian Clough announced his signing of Francis from Birmingham City for £999,999 after famously arriving late to the press conference as he had been playing squash. Clough always claimed the deal was £1 short of the million mark so as not to brand Francis as 'the million pound man'.

Clough's tongue-in-cheek remark was ultimately rather pointless as he must have known he had already determined Francis' legacy simply by writing a check.

Three months later Francis gave Nottingham Forest the greatest moment in their clubs history when he headed in the only goal of the 1979 European Cup final, and while this was undoubtedly the high point of his entire career I still find it a little sad that Francis to this day remains as the million pound man.

Then again, Francis is in some quite impressive company when one realises Johan Cruyff was sold to Barcelona for only £920,000 five years earlier. Perhaps the price tag itself, which has come to define his name, is also the best lasting compliment of Francis' talents.

Adrian North,

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