The Trevor Francis I knew – from boy to man, by Gary Newbon

Broadcaster Gary Newbon, the first FWA member to interview Trevor Francis when the wonderkid was only 14, pays a personal tribute to his lifelong friend, who died earlier this week.

Trevor Francis, who has died  at the age of 69, will be best remembered for several outstanding feats both as a fine footballer and as a manager.

Trevor was Britain’s first million-pound footballer when he joined Nottingham Forest from Birmingham City in January 1979. He was cup-tied from the European Cup before making his European debut in the final against Malmo in Munich when the scored the game’s only goal. He made his first team debut for Birmingham City as a sixteen-year-old and soon afterwards he scored four goals in one match. He played for England 52 times scoring 12 goals including one in the 1982 World Cup.

As a manager Trevor took two clubs to three losing finals. Birmingham lost the 2001 League Cup against Liverpool on a penalty shoot-out, and then his Sheffield Wednesday side lost both the FA Cup and League Cup finals at Wembley to Arsenal.

He was media conscious, helpful both as player and manager and went on to be an accomplished TV co-commentator and pundit.

I was the first FWA member to interview Trevor. He was 14 years old. I was 23. Trevor was the star footballer in the Plymouth Schools team that was attracting a lot of top club scouts. I was a young sports presenter at Westward ITV in his home city. He signed for Birmingham at 15. In 1971 I followed him to Birmingham to join ATV as their new presenter.

Trevor and I remained close friends over the years. He split his time between his Spanish home near Marbella and Solihull, where I live. He was devastated when his wife Helen died from cancer in 2017 and was very lost for a while. He was just about coming to terms with it when he died on July 24 from a heart attack at his home in Spain. He seemed so happy at last over the last few months.

Trevor had suffered a heart attack twelve years earlier which required a stent. He remained slim and fit. He went for power walks every day and weighed himself each day. His death came as a big shock.

Trevor was approachable but a very private man who never sought the limelight. I was fortunate to be a close friend. By his choice there were not too many. From football Graeme Souness, Howard Wilkinson, Ron Atkinson and Martin O’Neill and several of the Nottingham Forest European Cup winners as well as some of his old team-mates at Birmingham. Comedian Jasper Carrott and Trevor’s love of music reflected by his friendships with Jeff Lynne of the ELO,Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath and singer Paul Carrick.

Trevor played for Birmingham City, Detroit Express in USA, Nottingham Forest, Manchester City, Sampdoria and Atalanta (both in Italy), Rangers in Scotland, Queens Park Rangers, Wollongong City in Australia and Sheffield Wednesday.

He managed Queens Park Rangers,Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham and Crystal Palace, the only club of those four he did not play for.

Trevor loved his time in Italy with Souness and Liam Brady. He spoke fluent Italian and loved the food and always favoured Italian wines.

He leaves two sons, Matthew and James, a brother Ian and sister Carolyn and many sad friends and fans.

I am still coming to terms with a lovely friend that I often met for breakfast in Solihull. Music was his great love and the last time we met he took me to an Italian restaurant before we went to a big concert at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham- a city where even Aston Villa supporters have been mourning the passing of the player they and the Blues fans used to call SUPERBOY.

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