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City DNA #115: Francis Lee - City's man on the spot

City DNA #115: Francis Lee - City's man on the spot
Few figures are more woven into City’s proud history than Francis Lee.

A legendary striker with Club throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lee then returned to the Club as a charismatic Chairman in the late 1990s.

And to this day, he is still rightly revered as one of the finest strikers ever to grace the sky blue shirt.

One of the tridents of City’s world class triumvirate of Lee, Bell and Summerbee, Franny’s career record of 148 goals from 330 appearances only tells half the story of his remarkable impact.

And during his illustrious seven years at Maine Road, Lee also became known as both City’s – and the top flight's – penalty king. Never more so than in what proved to be a remarkable 1971/72 campaign.

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A barn-storming barrel-chested striker with bravery in abundance, Lee wasn’t the tallest, but Franny walked tall in an era when England were blessed with great forwards.

Having been brought to City from Bolton for a then club record £60,000 in 1967, Lee quickly repaid that fee and then some.

The Club’s top scorer for four seasons in a row, his goals were a key component in our dramatic Division One title win in 1968, an achievement which heralded a golden era for City with Lee a pivotal presence.

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FA Cup glory followed in 1969 with City beating Leicester 1-0 at Wembley before two more pieces of silverware were secured in 1970.

First came the League Cup – via a 2-1 extra time win over West Brom – before two months later City lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

And it was Lee’s penalty that clinched a 2-1 triumph against Polish side Gornik Zabrze to ensure the trophy came back to Maine Road.

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It was hardly a coincidence as penalties and Lee had, by then, become something of a synonymous theme.

A feisty, formidable presence on the pitch, Franny always gave as good as he got.

And in an era where no-nonsense, physical defenders didn’t think twice about dishing out the dirt, that meant he, more than most, came in for some close attention.

Not surprisingly that saw Lee both awarded and, usually, successfully converting more than his fair share of penalties for the Club.


                        SPOT ON: Francis Lee lashes home from the penalty spot against Manchester United
SPOT ON: Francis Lee lashes home from the penalty spot against Manchester United

It was a trend that reached its apex in the 1971/72 season when, of the 35 goals that Franny bagged for City across all competitions, an incredible 15 came from the spot.

Not surprisingly it is a staggering achievement that is unlikely to be bettered.

It’s worth emphasising that more that half of those penalties came as a result of fouls on Franny’s colleagues… not the man himself.

However, such a large number of spot-kicks inevitably brought Lee to the attention not just of opposition players and supporters but also the watching press pack.

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So much so that the suggestion from some in the Fourth Estate was that Franny was not averse to winning a number of those penalties through somewhat controversial means.

The inference from his detractors was that, on occasions, Franny could be prone to going to ground a tad theatrically.

Always looking for an attention-grabbing tagline, the national press subsequently came up with the nickname Lee Won Pen in light of Franny’s penalty exploits.

It was a headline that stuck – much, as he admitted in later years - to Lee’s irritation and frustration.


                        DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Franny after being upended
DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Franny after being upended

“The ‘diving’ accusation is something that tarnished my career in some respects,” he reflected in 2012.

“You have to remember I didn’t win all the penalties I scored; I just took them for the team.

“My argument on the diving front would be: it’s an easy excuse for defenders to say I (or any attacker) dived to win a penalty.

“How many defenders do you hear saying: ‘It was my fault’ or ‘it was a fair decision’ – very rarely do you hear that.”

Despite the media brickbats, Franny ultimately went on to have the last laugh on his detractors.

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After leaving City in 1974, with many regretting his exit, Lee moved to Derby County where he was to make a huge instant impact.

In his first season at the Baseball Ground, Franny become a talisman and a leading light of the talented Rams side assembled by Dave Mackay which went on to be crowned 1974/75 champions.

Lee scored 16 times that season – including one stunning effort against City.

And, in what was the biggest irony of all, not one was a penalty.

Typical City!

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