By Tony Attwood
“You never know where you will turn up in football. You have to deal with the cards dealt. You keep going to the death.” Francis Jeffers.
Born in Liverpool, on 25 January 1981, Francis Jeffers began his footballing at Everton, coming on as a sub on 26 December 1997 in the game Man U v Everton. He was 16.
He scored 20 goals in 60 games and built a partnership with ex-Arsenal Kevin Campbell. But after an argument over money (he was offered the biggest contract in the history of Everton in the club’s history but then turned it down) he was turned upon by Everton fans.
And so he came to Arsenal for somewhere between £8m and £10m depending on the source you readon 14 June 2001. (Interestingly in the light of the rest of his life, Jeffers’ own recollection of this event is different. He said in an interview recently, “Arsenal were chasing me and Everton needed money coming in.” No mention of a failure to agree terms with Everton, or indeed in other situations, as you can see below.
Now as we all know Arsene Wenger can make some brilliant signings – both in terms of unknown players who come good, good players who get much better (Henry, Pires) and young players who flourish. In the latter camp we think of Walcott and Ramsey perhaps, in the middle group Henry, Pires.
It is hard to think how Mr Wenger and indeed everyone else got Jeffers so wrong – indeed why he was not only offered Everton’s top package ever to stay, but Arsenal broke their own record to buy him.
Perhaps it was all the fox in the box nonsense that even Henry repeated once or twice. Perhaps Mr Wenger was urged by someone on the board to follow the shouts of the AAA.
Either way, from the off one had the feeling that here was either a man who believed his own agent’s publicity, or else a little boy lost.
Of course there were the injuries – bad enough to suffer, but worse when your club gets to the Cup Final (2002, 2003). He scored en route to the latter – but they were two against Farnborough, although there was also one against Chelsea.
As for the league win of 2001/2 he played six games.
His last game for us was the 2003 FA Community Shield. It was typical of life for Jeffers. He came on as a sub and got sent off again. On 1 September 2003 he was back at Everton – on loan.
And the goal scoring had gone. He played 22 and scored twice. And just as he had fallen out with the Everton management before, he fell out again and was sold to Charlton for £2.6m on 10 August 2004. He scored five in 24 and went on loan to Rangers but was returned early because he wasn’t cutting it in the Scottish league.
His contract ran down at Charlton and he went to Blackburn. He scored one goal for them before going on to Ipswich on loan. Here his form picked up a bit, and Ipswich tried to buy him but amazingly Blackburn (who had got him on a free) refused, and even when the ice thawed a little Jeffers rejected Ipswich’s terms.
On 9 August 2007 Jeffers signed for Sheffield Wednesday, played in a 1-4 defeat to Ipswich who must have been glad they had’t got him, and got injured.
His form got better but playing against Stoke City on 20 October 2007, he came up against the utterly evil Ryan Shawcross and was stretchered off with ankle ligament damage.
The injuries, the occasional goals and very occasional bits of brilliance continued until on 25 August 2009 Jeffers was sent off for headbutting Tommy Fraser in a 2–0 League Cup defeat to Port Vale. He was placed on the transfer list.
No one wanted him so he was released as Wednesday went to the third division.
By this time we were in the era of unsuccessful trials. He would turn up at a club, have a trial, and not get a contract. Blackpool, and even Everton came him a chance.
So next it was Newcastle United Jets in Australia.where he signed on 29 October 2010 on a 10-match contract. And guess what, although Newcastle wanted Jeffers to stay, they couldn’t agree terms.
So to Motherwell where he stayed until 1 June 2011 when he was released and he went back to … Newcastle United Jets on 20 October 2011. He scored four goals in 25 games and he was let go.
On 12 October 2012, Jeffers signed Maltese Premier League club Floriana. He left after two games claiming he had not been paid. On 8 March 2013, Jeffers signed for Accrington Stanley.
In November 2013, Jeffers had a trial at Bury, and then a trial with Brunei DPMM. He didn’t sign.
Today, Jeffers seems a man with problems. Recently, police were called after allegations of aggressive behaviour which have since been reported as “brandishing a broomstick” at his father-in-law who sustained injuries. He was charged with threatening behaviour, he was bound over to keep the peace for 12 months.
However he does have some nice things to say, such as this one in a recent interview…
“I’ve played with some good managers. Walter Smith, David Moyes, Mark Hughes but, to this day, Arsene Wenger is by far the best manager I’ve played for.
“Arsene and Walter had totally different styles. Walter was a bit more of a shouter and talker. Arsene was very hands on. He liked to see every training session but he was pretty quiet. He very rarely raised his voice. He did not need too much shouting. He set his team up the right way and we never lost that many games. He had a lot more world-class players. His job was made easier.”
As for his own future, he said last year, “I will carry on unless no one else wants me. I am only 32. There is loads left in the tank.”
The clubs (goals scored in brackets)
1997–2001 Everton 49 (18)
2001–2004 Arsenal 22 (4)
2003–2004 Everton (loan) 18 (0)
2004–2006 Charlton Athletic 20 (3)
2005 Rangers (loan) 8 (0)
2006–2007 Blackburn Rovers 10 (0)
2007 Ipswich Town (loan) 9 (4)
2007–2010 Sheffield Wednesday 54 (5)
2010–2011 Newcastle Jets 9 (1)
2011 Motherwell 10 (1)
2011–2012 Newcastle Jets 17 (1)
2012 Floriana 2 (1)
2013 Accrington Stanley 7 (2)
Total 235 (40)
He does not appear to have a club at the moment.