Francis was a Brentford legend who, with his lifelong friend Jim Towers, formed one of the truly great Brentford goalscoring partnerships and one that is never likely to be matched.
George scored one hundred and thirty-six goals for the club, second only to Jim Towers who ended up with one hundred and sixty-three.
Amazingly, neither player cost Brentford a penny to sign as they were both local boys, Jim from Shepherds Bush and George from Acton, and “The Terrible Twins” terrorised Third Division defences throughout the nineteen fifties and early sixties.
George started as he was to continue, scoring a late equaliser on his debut at Walsall in February 1955, when only twenty-one years of age.
The partnership with Jim Towers was launched the following season and the pair of them dominated the Brentford goalscoring charts year after year throughout a decade when the Bees were the “nearly men” coming so close on a couple of occasions to recovering their Second Division status.
Perhaps his proudest moment came in October 1959 when he put local rivals Queens Park Rangers to the sword with a match winning hat trick at Loftus Road.
He couldn’t stop scoring that season and, ever present, he notched up an incredible thirty-one goals in forty-eight matches.
In today’s world of prematch meals and early team get togethers it is hard to picture the more relaxed and less organised and scientific regime of the 1950’s when players were simply expected to report for home matches an hour or so before the kick off and conducted their prematch warm-up sitting on the toilet smoking a Woodbine.
George, in fact, missed the home match against Brighton in 1956 after not waking up from his late afternoon nap in time to get to Griffin Park before the kick off, a state of affairs that would be quite impossible to contemplate nowadays but, at the time, was simply shrugged off after his sheepish apology!
As George himself explained:
I like a nap before the game and left instructions to be woken up.
But my mother-in-law woke me at the time I should have been at the ground.
I couldn’t get a taxi and and was caught in the crowd, so that when I arrived the lads were going out onto the field.
No alarm clocks or mobile phones in those days then!
After the removal of the maximum wage in 1961 the Brentford board and management surprised nobody by deciding to pull in their horns and cut costs to the bone.
A disastrous decision, which saw both Francis and Towers sold together, amazingly, to Queens Park Rangers, of all people, for a meagre eight thousand pounds in total, a giveaway fee for a pair of proven and established goalscorers, not far past their prime and both still only in their late twenties.
Such a boggling decision was rewarded, quite inevitably, with relegation at the end of the season, as a toothless team denuded of its only goal threat subsided without much fight into the bottom division.
Interestingly enough Brentford manager Malcolm MacDonald claimed at the time that Francis and Towers had in fact insisted on the move and that he would never have been responsible for transferring them both.
So confusion reigns over the cause of the transfers, but what is not in any doubt is the grudging tribute to the pair of them who were airbrushed out of existence and received a peremptory single line in the club programme, merely thanking them for their past services.
How’s that for gratitude after almost three hundred goals between the pair of them?
Shoddy work indeed by the club, which smacks of the feudal attitude that existed in those days between the masters, who owned and ran the clubs, and the players, their serfs.
George made a brief return to Griffin Park, but the magic was gone and he finished his Football League career, alongside Jim Towers yet again, at Gillingham where he went out in a blaze of glory, leading the Gills to promotion in 1964, before ending up at the customary elephants’ graveyard for Brentford players, Hillingdon Borough.
So what sort of player was George Francis?
The best and most qualified person to answer that key question is surely his long-term partner Jim Towers:
George was very quick around the box, he chased the ball down and forced defenders to make mistakes, and because of that he scored a lot more goals than me inside the area.
He was a real nuisance too and made a lot of goals for himself, whereas I would wait for the right pass or cross and I scored with a lot of shots from outside the box too.
George was a very modest man though. He would describe himself as a bit of a poacher and say things like “I just used to hang around the goalkeeper and wait for them to drop the ball so I could tap it in”.
But he was a far better player than he would let you believe.
George Francis was, not before time, inducted into the Brentford FC Hall of Fame in March this year and died at the age of eighty from bowel cancer.
When conducting our research recently for a potential Big Brentford Book of the 60s, Dave Lane, Mark Croxford and I discovered to our concern and disappointment just how few Brentford players from the late 50s and early 60s remain with us, and George’s passing has seen that number decrease yet again.
I am sure that the club will mark his passing with suitable ceremony and I would make the fervent and heartfelt request that they announce a minute’s silence to take place before the next home game against Derby County.
Silence, if properly observed, seems such a more fitting and appropriate tribute than applause, and the supporters at the recent match against Reading, with an immaculately observed silent and moving tribute to murdered local schoolgirl Alice Gross, proved that they can be trusted to behave properly.
Let’s hope that this gesture is repeated a week on Saturday to mark the passing of a true Brentford great and local legend.
Rest in Peace, George Francis and I hope that your partnership with Jim Towers is renewed in Heaven.