There are certain players who require no introduction but such is their immense contribution to the game it would be entirely remiss not to offer one anyway.
Francis Lee is one such name. A stonewall Manchester City legend his bustling adventure gave older generations of Blues days to cherish while the trophies he won in a truly remarkable side offered younger Blues vicarious pride through the dark times.
His physique was that of a Tiger comic hero usually attributed a nickname such as ‘Hotshot’ yet though there was certainly ample venom behind each rasping effort and enough brute force behind every shoulder-barge to prompt a speech-bubbled ‘ouch’ from the crowd he also possessed style and flair in abundance.
How much would he be worth today? We couldn’t afford him.
Ahead of this weekend’s Capital One Cup final Stephen Tudor caught up with the City great to talk Pep, David Silva and why, like the Boomtown Rats, he didn’t like Mondays…
CW: You played in so many of the club’s most iconic matches – from the Newcastle title decider to the Ballet On Ice. But for you personally what would you say is your greatest performance in a City shirt?
FL: I’d like to say most of them (laughs). There is the odd game that does stand out because of the conditions or the way the game was going. Everyone says one of the best games I ever played was in the League Cup final. It was just one of those days when you know yourself that everything is going your way and everything you do comes off. Despite the fact that it was an atrocious pitch.
Another game where things just seemed to fall into place was the European Cup Winners Cup final in Vienna. I thought I played quite well that day.
CW: It must be a wonderful feeling to know everything is going your way in a final…
FL: It’s a sensation, a feeling you get. You can’t get too much of the ball. You don’t feel tired. Give it here and let me do this. You just know it’s one of those days that come around now and again. One of the finest games I ever played in was the match to win the league up in Newcastle. Every time we scored they scored. They had nothing to play for but they were playing like it was the World Cup. There were seven goals and all were cracking goals. There might have been one or two disallowed as well. That was a day that was something special in the history of Manchester City because for all the players who played that day at St James Park it was the first time they’d won anything.
CW: When you look back on your seven successful years with the club we’re guessing that’s right up there as your happiest memory?
FL: That was the start of the happy memories. All my days at Manchester City were happy memories. I used to enjoy every day there in training apart from Mondays when we were running track. I used to enjoy everything about the club until latterly in the last three or four months when things went wrong.
CW: You once said you were “lucky enough to play in an era when there was so much fun and laughter.” Do you think the fun aspect of football is becoming lost these days?
FL: Yes. You would have your strife with people and pitches weren’t as good but you had some fun. The players were usually good lads and it was a different time because we were just coming out of the maximum wage era where players could earn very little and suddenly you could earn eighty, ninety quid a week which was unbelievable.