Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cult Hero: Kevin Francis

This is the first edition of a new series here on TBFUTH (or rather, a new iteration of an older idea) in which we will be profiling former OUFC 'Cult Heroes'. The aim is to celebrate the careers of those players who have enlivened our experience of supporting the club - be it through their footballing prowess or simply their character – but who we may hesitate to grant 'legendary' status. Thanks to everyone who has already got in touch with us via Twitter to suggest players for this feature – if you'd like to suggest one yourself, or even write us an article on your favourite OUFC cult hero, you can email us at

We'll start with the almost-inhumanly-tall, 6ft 7in striker Kevin Francis.

'Super' Kevin Francis was perhaps a victim of his unusual physical appearance, in that he simply didn't look like a footballer as he loped around the field on his long, gangly legs. Certainly it seemed to hinder his early development and Francis spent his formative years playing for Redditch United and then the now-defunct Mile Oak Rovers in the Midland Combination (10th tier) before Derby County chose to take a punt on him.

It was at Stockport County that Francis really made his name and he was prolific during his four years at Edgeley Park before securing a move to Birmingham City. From there, he made his way to Oxford as part of the deal which took the hugely important Darren Purse the other way and initial reaction amongst the United faithful was that we had lost one of our most important players (true) in return for a complete donkey (not so true).

But that impression didn't last long as Super Kev made an instant impact, scoring one and creating one to help United to a 2-1 victory over West Brom on his debut. Francis was instantly installed as a fans' favourite, going on to score seven times in his first 11 matches and the unlikely hero of the London Road was rewarded for his excellent start to life in yellow with an international call-up for St Kitts & Nevis, making him one of the select few players to win an international cap while at Oxford.

Francis missed the first half of the 98-99 season due to injury, but continued to endear himself to the fans even while he was on the sidelines, famously clambering into the London Road stand during one match to lead the singing.

He returned to action just in time for perhaps our biggest game of the season – and certainly the one which he has since become most remembered for. At this point Oxford were in severe financial difficulties, but the club's plight was brought into the public eye thanks to a live televised FA Cup tie against Chelsea. With the final whistle fast approaching and cash-strapped United clinging to an incredible 1-0 lead, Francis – who was making his first appearance off the bench since his return from injury – was shockingly adjudged to have fouled Gianluca Vialli in the box to give Chelsea an undeserved last-minute equaliser, thus denying a famous cup upset.
Kevin Francis was not the most elegant player, shall we say, and he sometimes looked a bit clumsy. The referee saw that awkward challenge and that marred his vision of it. If those cameras back then were as good as what we have today they would show without doubt that he never touched him - Nicky Banger

To some extent this incident came to be the defining moment in Francis' time at Oxford, though he was no less popular for it due to the sense of injustice that surrounded it. But Francis was never the same player afterwards and he scored just once more during his time at the club, returning to Stockport in 2000.

On an interesting side-note, Francis has had quite an interesting career since his retirement from football in 2005, leaving for Canada to become a trucker. He now plies his trade as a police officer in Calgary.

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Super, super Kev, super, super Kev, super, super Kev
Super Kevin Francis
top man!

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