Obituary: Don Francis, former St Albans City and St Albans Sunday League star

Don Francis scored 28 times in 53 appearances for St Albans City.

Don Francis scored 28 times in 53 appearances for St Albans City. - Credit: HERTS AD SUNDAY LEAGUE

Tributes have been paid to former St Albans City and St Albans Sunday League star Don Francis.

Born in Park Street before moving to the New Greens area, he played a total of 53 times for Saints, making his debut in 1963, and scored 28 goals,  

His footballing life began for the respected Carlton club, regarded as the youth team to St Albans City.

He played for Gainsborough United in the inaugural season of the St Albans Sunday League in 1961-62 and his 28 goals helped them to the title among the 12-team single division league.

He wasn't the top scorer for Gainsborough though as brother John managed 33 goals.

Further success was enjoyed in the Sunday League throughout the 60s with Gainsborough, Paupers and Sporting Club.

His debut for St Albans City Reserves came towards the end of the 1962-63 season with his first-team bow coming in a 3-1 defeat by Bishop’s Stortford in the final of the Herts Charity Cup.

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His league debut for City came in November of the same year, equalising in a 1-1 draw at home to Dulwich Hamlet with a 30-yard strike.

He retained his place for their next game, a 2-1 defeat to Oxford City, but it was his goals in the next six games which established him in the side.

That run included his only hat-trick for the club as City swept to a 5-1 win over Clapton at The Spotted Dog Ground.

He finished the 1963-64 season with 15 goals in 17 appearances and after a brief parting of the ways, club and player were back together for the start of the following season.

There he added a further 13 goals in 35 games with his final appearance coming in front of 2,503 spectators at Underhill, as Southern League Barnet won the Herts Senior Cup.

It was a painful ending as he suffered a fractured jaw during the game and had treatment at Barnet General Hospital, ruling him out of an end of season trip with the club to Padova in Italy.

He carried on playing in the next two season with Hemel Hempstead Town and Hitchin Town and also had spells with Selby and London Colney as well as Cornish side Wadebridge following a move to the south west.

Roy Scott from the Herts Advertiser Sunday League played with Don in the late 50s for Townsend School in their U16 and U18 teams.

He said: "Don made football look easy, a bit like Matt Le Tissier. He was not necessarily fast but his control of the ball and speed of thought caught many goalkeepers by surprise standing on the goal line helpless as the ball went flying in to the net."

He also had a reputation of being exceptional at whatever sport he turned his hand to.

Bob Murphy, a former player, manager and chairman of St Albans, described him as “one of the most talented sportsmen I’ve ever known".

Outside of football he worked for Fisher & Knights and Gainsborough Press as well as running a fruit and veg market stall outside Marks & Spencer.

He leaves two sons and a daughter.

Article written with thanks to Dave Tavener and Roy Scott.