I was the tallest player in the Football League and a star with Birmingham… now I fight crime & gangsters in Canada | The Sun
THE ONCE former tallest player in the Football League now has a very different career fighting gangsters in Canada.
The towering 6ft 7in striker became a firm favourite with the likes of Birmingham City and Stockport County back in his heyday.
He is now loving life as part of the Calgary Police Force.
The man we are talking about is, of course, the legendary Kevin Francis.
The 55-year-old was plucked from non-league Mile Oak Rovers by Derby County in 1989 but after just 17 appearances he was off to begin his journey into football folklore when joining Stockport County two years later.
Francis was spotted playing for the Rams' reserve side by then County manager Danny Bergara, who claimed he instantly wanted to sign him.
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The big man scored five to help them seal automatic promotion as runners-up in the old Division Four and then hit 26 the following season to help the club reach Wembley twice, although they lost both times.
But his hot-streak continued the following year with 33 goals as another Wembley appearance came along – but once again it was disappointment in store in the final of the Autoglass Shield.
Undeterred, he found the net another 30 times the next season, and there was another Wembley defeat, as the big clubs began circling.
He still managed another 13 goals for Stockport in the 1994/95 season before his hometown team Birmingham City swooped to sign him in January for £800,000.
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And he could not have gotten off to a better start for the Blues as this time he enjoyed Wembley glory in the Football League Trophy against Carlisle.
And then he followed that up by helping them finish as champions of Division Two with eight goals.
He stayed at Birmingham for two more seasons in what is now the Championship but began to struggle with injuries, although he did play a key role in their run to the League Cup semi-finals in 1996.
Francis left Birmingham in 1998 to join Oxford United, scoring eight in 40 appearances, prior to a brief return to Stockport in 2000.
But he suffered a broken leg on just his fourth appearance and was released at the end of the season.
However, despite that sad end to his time with the club, he was still named “County Player of the Century” in 2002.
Short spells with Exeter City and Hull City followed before he bowed out of the Football League to sign for Hednesford Town which was followed by stints with Redditch United and Studley prior to retirement in 2005.
Francis also enjoyed a taste of the international scene, winning two caps for Saint Kitts & Nevis after qualifying through his parents.
But any thoughts of coaching soon evaporated once he had retired as he embarked on a whole new journey in Canada.
After briefly coaching Birmingham City Ladies on a part-time basis, he landed a truck-driving job across the pond for a company in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Calgary.
Francis, wife Sharon and one of his daughters Keisha went with him while his other girl, Stacey, stayed in the UK to focus on her netball career – a decision that paid off for the now 35-year-old England international star who helped Team GB secure bronze at 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Eventually, with trips sometimes lasting up to ten days on Canada’s hazardous roads, in 2009 he joined the Calgary Police Force after looking for a another new venture.
He currently serves on the Gang Suppression Team, which is devoted to monitoring and investigating local criminal groups, and it is as terrifying as it sounds – although he is still producing award-winning displays.
Speaking to The Athletic, Francis said: “There was one incident at a club.
“We were about to do a walk-through and, in certain places, we all go in together. Strength in numbers.
“It was a cold night but we had the windows down and were waiting for one of the other cars to turn up when we heard the gunshots and the range. It’s a very different sound in the night air.
“We looked at each other and sprang into action. You don’t think about it. Guns out, we ran across the street just as our other unit was coming around the corner.
“The shooter was outside and his gun must have jammed. One of the doormen grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground.
“I got a hold of the guy and got the gun from him but there was pandemonium because people were saying another shooter was inside. And the hardest thing for me was staying there on my own and not being able to go in with the rest of the boys to clear the bar.
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“Because we train as a team, we go in together. Obviously, the guy needed to be subdued and that was my job but it was still tough.
“We apprehended an accomplice too, who was waiting in a car and ready to drive off. One guy — a completely innocent bystander — got hit inside the bar but survived and we ended up getting a police award for our efforts that night, which was pretty cool.”
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