Football: The Day Francis Became a Star; as Blues Take on Bolton Brian Halford Looks Back to an Historic St Andrew's Encounter
Byline: Brian Halford
Three goals in five league games behind them, Birmingham City badly need to start locating the opponents' net again against Bolton Wanderers at St Andrew's today.
To Clinton Morrison, Stern John and Geoff Horsfield will fall the principal burden of finding the goals to galvanise Blues following last weekend's blip against Manchester City. Any of those guys would be, to say the least, happy to blitz Bolton the way a certain young striker called Trevor Francis did, back in 1971.
February 20, 1971, to be precise. Birmingham City 4 Bolton Wanderers 0. It was only Francis's ninth start for Blues but really, it was the day he arrived.
He scored all four goals and that feat, as a colossally talented 16-year-old, set him on the path which would eventually lead him to become the first pounds 1 million footballer and the winner of 52 England caps.
Sometimes, the provenance of great careers can be pinpointed to a certain moment, a certain day, a certain match. Here was the birth of Trevor Francis, star striker.
On the night of Friday February 19, 1971, he snuggled up in bed in his digs as a young player of considerable promise - by 5pm the next day he was the full Monty. A star had been born. This 16-year-old boy was irrevocably destined to spend the rest of his football career, as a player and beyond, in the public eye.
Francis had already unveiled his promise during the 1970-71 campaign as Freddie Goodwin's side overcame a slow start to hit a rich seam of mid-season form. They had won only five games before December 12, at which point they languished in the bottom half of the old Division Two, but a 1-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, secured by a Bob Latchford goal, ignited a spectacular burst of form.
Of the next seven games, they won five and drew two, scoring 17 goals along the way. Latchford and Phil Summerill shared nine goals to form the main catalysts of the revival and when Francis returned to the side for a home match with Millwall on February 6, he was on target straight away. He scored Blues' third goal in a 3-1 win. A week later, Blues drew 3-3 at Sheffield Wednesday and Francis scored twice to take his tally to six goals in his first nine league games. Next came Bolton at home.
By now, Blues' supporters were growing excited by the emergence of this shining talent, shrewdly prised from schoolboy football in Plymouth by the club's scouting network. On the eve of the Bolton match, however, Goodwin sought to dampen the fans' expectations of the long-haired newcomer who was, according to contemporary press reports, 'still trying boldly to grow a trendy moustache'.
'I hope the fans are not going to expect too much from him,' Goodwin said. 'Due to all the recent publicity he could be a marked man now. …