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Trevor Francis ‘taught’ Italy coaches Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli but hopes they lose Sunday’s final


Just like the video above, the scenes on Broad Street by 11pm on Sunday night will tell us if football really has “come home” – but the sport’s wheel of fortune is definitely turning full circle in the meantime.

And that means Blues’ legend Trevor Francis can’t quite believe what he’s been seeing in the build-up to the Euro 2020 Final.

By a strange twist of fate, he knows that he helped to train Gareth Southgate’s illustrious azure opponents.

Read more:England beat Denmark live – Broad Street goes wild

So while England’s players have qualified for their first major final for 55 years, lying in wait at 8pm on Sunday, July 11 will be Trevor’s ‘second international team’, Italy.

And nobody knows better than Trevor that Italy are now led by a pair of deadly penalty box assassins.

Two former teammates who learned their trade via his own European Cup-winning skills honed at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest!

Three strikers: Blues and England star Trevor Francis (centre) in between Italy’s Euro 2020 coaches Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Viali – former teammates at Sampdoria in the mid 1980s

Italy’s coaches Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli were younger teammates of Trevor’s during his post-Forest years at Genoa-based Sampdoria – halcyon days which included the first two years of Maradona’s legendary reign at Napoli from 1984.

But while Italy have always been Trevor’s ‘second’ international team, he is still rooting for England to put one over his old colleagues.

“I have great memories of my time in Sampdoria and I made many friends in Italy and have many Italian friends in this country, too,” says Trevor.

Sampdoria player Trevor Francis pictured before a game against Napoli circa 1984
Sampdoria player Trevor Francis pictured before a game against Napoli circa 1984

“Whenever England have gone out in a major competition, I would then switch my support to Italy.

“But my loyalties are going to be 100 per cent with England.

“We have a very good chance to win the game but, at the same time, I am really pleased with how well it has gone for Mancini and Vialli (Italy are now 33 games unbeaten).

“Because they are former teammates of mine from Sampdoria, it seems really strange to see Mancini as the manager of the national team.

The 1984-85 Sampdoria team (back row r-l) Roberto Bocchino, TREVOR FRANCIS, Alessandro Scanziani, Luca Pellegrini, Alessandro Renica, Roberto Galia, Ivano Bordon, (central row l-r) GRAEME SOUNESS, Pietro Vierchowod, Narciso Pezzotti, Eugenio Bersellini, Francesco Casagrande, GIANLUCA VIALLI, (front row l-r) Evaristo Beccalossi, Fausto Salsano, ROBERTO MANCINI, Moreno Mannini, Fausto Pari
The 1984-85 Sampdoria team (back row r-l) Roberto Bocchino, TREVOR FRANCIS, Alessandro Scanziani, Luca Pellegrini, Alessandro Renica, Roberto Galia, Ivano Bordon, (central row l-r) GRAEME SOUNESS, Pietro Vierchowod, Narciso Pezzotti, Eugenio Bersellini, Francesco Casagrande, GIANLUCA VIALLI, (front row l-r) Evaristo Beccalossi, Fausto Salsano, ROBERTO MANCINI, Moreno Mannini, Fausto Pari

“Even Mikkel Damsgaard, the scorer of the Denmark goal against England, is a Sampdoria player!

“Italy have been very good in this competition and Mancini and Vialla (who also played for Juventus from 1992-96 as well as Chelsea from 1996-99) will be the first to recognise how difficult it will be for them to play against England which is never easy.

“Italy are also not an easy team to play against so it’s a 50-50 game.”

Napoli star Diego Maradona watches Sampdoria's Trevor Francis on the ball in 1984
Napoli star Diego Maradona watches Sampdoria’s Trevor Francis on the ball in 1984

In Trevor’s eyes, one factor more than any other could be the key to the result.

“When England have gone in to big games in the past, we’ve hoped to win,” he says.

“Italy are always incredibly confident. They go into games expecting to win. That’s the difference.

But there has been a change in our mentality (under Gareth)…”

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini shakes hands with Bella the Aston Villa mascot
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini shakes hands with Bella the Aston Villa mascot

The Grealish dilemma

Before the tournament began, many ‘experts’ worried about England’s defence.

Given that it’s still to concede a goal in open in play across six games, what do we do about our forward options?

“Me? I would have played Jack Grealish from the first game,” says Trevor.

“He would have been one of the first names on my team sheet because he has got so many attributes and is so confident on the ball at international level he can receive it in any area.

“His control is very good and he wins many free kicks.

Denmark's Yussuf Poulsen (left) and England's Jack Grealish battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 semi final match at Wembley Stadium
Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen (left) and England’s Jack Grealish battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2020 semi final match at Wembley Stadium

“Grealish can play more centrally but is best on the left side, so perhaps it’s the fact that Gareth has had faith in Sterling and that he’s been so good that is keeping Jack from getting more game time.

“But then there’s Phil Foden as well (not getting in the team).

“He is top class, he is and played really well after coming on against Denmark, while (Chelsea managers) Frank Lampard and now Thomas Tuchel as well as Gareth all see Mason Mount as a great talent in advanced midfield.

“Could Grealish play that position? Is Foden better?”

Painful memories for Trevor Francis: Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola covers his face after injuring his achilles during the Euro 2020quarter-final match with Belgium at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Friday, July 2, 2021
Painful memories for Trevor Francis: Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola covers his face after injuring his achilles during the Euro 2020 quarter-final match with Belgium at the Allianz Arena in Munich on Friday, July 2, 2021

Painful memory

Although Trevor definitely wants England to win, the player he feels most sorry for is Italy’s defender Leonardo Spinazzola who now faces a six-month lay-off following an operation on his achilles after last Friday’s quarter-final victory over Belgium.

“If I’d been doing co-commentary on that game I would known immediately that that is what he’d done,” says Trevor.

“That’s because the exact same injury happened to me at Nottingham Forest and it kept me out of the 1980 European Cup Final and also meant I missed Euro 1980, too.

“But I think he had been the best player in the tournament until then.”

Jack Grealish celebrates with Raheem Sterling after combining for England's opening goal against the Czech Republic
Jack Grealish celebrates with Raheem Sterling after combining for England’s opening goal against the Czech Republic

England’s best chances

As a player who once scored four goals for Blues in his first season as a breakthrough 16-year-old, there are few greater experts on the knack of finishing than Trevor.

He recognises the ability of Harry Kane to hit the net, but says if only Raheem Sterling could become a ‘natural’ finisher then he would be in the top three players in the world.

“Is it too late for Sterling to become a ‘natural’ finisher… I don’t know,” Trevor muses.

“He has scored some really important goals, but if he could do it ‘naturally’ then with his pace he really would be a great player

“He hit one shot straight against Kasper Schmeichel on Wednesday night when a ‘natural’ goalscorer would have scored – and he missed another chance, too.

“It’s also worth remembering that Harry’s penalty would have been a miss in a shootout.”

Trevor Francis with Brian Clough (right) and Peter Taylor after signing for Nottingham Forest in 1979
Britain’s first £1 million footballer: Trevor Francis with Brian Clough (right) and Peter Taylor after leaving Birmingham City to sign for Nottingham Forest in 1979 – 110 days later on May 30 they won the European Cup together. But, after signing for Sampdoria in 1982, did Trevor pass on the Clough-Taylor magic to younger teammates Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli, now the coaches of the Italy team England will face in the final of Euro 2020 on Sunday, July 11, 2021?

Final advice

Although a European Cup and European Super Cup winner with Forest, a Coppa Italia winner with Sampdoria, a Scottlsh League Cup winner with Rangers and a League Cup winner with Sheffield Wendesday, Trevor didn’t win four other major finals.

Trevor lost a League Cup final with Nottingham Forest when former Villa star Andy Gray won the game for Wolves, a League Cup and FA Cup final in the same season as manager of Sheffield Wednesday and another League Cup final as manager of Blues.

Would he have any advice for England boss Gareth Southgate about getting over the line in such big games?

“I would never give Gareth any advice,” says Trevor. “He’s made a number of changes (this tournament) and given younger players opportunities.

Jack Grealish could be set for a key role for England against Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.

Whilst the Aston Villa star may not be in Gareth Southgate’s first-choice starting line-up, the England boss has still used Grealish in key parts of matches, and could well lean on his ability once again.

Sign up for updates from Grealish and the England camp ahead of the final by subscribing to our Euro 2020 newsletter in our preference centre.

“Ten of his players are probably set in stone (for the final) and the one likely mystery is who will play on the right side of a (front) three – the position where I could have played.

“So Gareth has lots of options.

“What we don’t see are the videos that he will use to analyse the opposition for their strengths and weaknesses, so although we can all pick teams from our armchairs, we don’t have that facility.

“It’s also been a tough tournament with limited opportunities for recovery.

“In the Spain v Italy game, I think we began to see how the Italian defence is beginning to age.

“So, although they are vastly experienced, it’s an area we can also exploit.

“They also haven’t, thankfully, got a No 9 like Alan Shearer, but if Immobile scores…!”

Brazilian footballer Pele with Trevor Francis

Football turns full circle for Francis

Already a 1978-79 European Cup winner with Nottingham Forest after becoming Britain’s first £1 million footballer, Trevor later began a four-year stint at the emerging Italian Seria A club, Sampdoria, where he played from 1982-86.

And there his teammates included two young hotshot strikers now coaching the current Italian national team – Roberto Mancini (Sampdoria, 1982-1997) and Gianluca Vialli (1984-92).

Like Mason Mount and Declan Rice in today’s youthful England team, Mancini and Vialli were childhood friends who became superstars with one paper calling them The Goal Twins.

Francis joined Sampdoria after a year at Manchester City that began 40 years ago this summer – a club that Mancini would not only go on to manage from 2009-13 but for whom he would deliver the first Premier League title which has been the bedrock of Pep Guardiola’s ongoing success.

Another Sampdoria teammate, from 1984-86, was Liverpool legend Graeme Souness who has been working as a pundit for ITV at Euro 2020.

With many coincidences and so many links following Trevor through 40 years of football history, you can bet he will be kicking every ball on Sunday night.

“It’s going to be a really special weekend!” he admits, but not one, he hopes, that ends with his two former teammates holding the prize.





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