‘WHO ARE YA?’ is a new weekly feature on EPL Talk that profiles players who have been capped for England and fallen from grace and players who never really reached their full potential, with the help of some anecdotes .Feel free to give some feedback on the article and your memories of the player. If you’ve got any ideas for players for me to do in the future just mention them in the comments box.
This player scored in his one and only England game and is the joint top England U21 goal scorer along with Alan Shearer.
So this week we take a lot at Francis Jeffers, the ‘fox in the box’.
Background: Jeffers commenced his career at Everton and made his debut at only 16 years and 335 days old on Boxing Day 1997. It looked like Jeffers had a lot of potential at an early age and understandably he was tipped as England’s next big striker. He had a record of a goal every 3 games for Everton but sullied his reputation very early on his career with a row with then Toffees manager Walter Smith about a pay rise.
However this did not deter Arsene Wenger from signing him for Arsenal in 2001 for £8 million. No wonder Arsene is reluctant to splash the cash these days. In his time at the Gunners he only played 22 times scoring 4 goals, with 2 coming in one FA Cup game against non-league Farnborough in 2003. Of course he faced stiff competition to the world class Thierry Henry and also Sylvain Wiltord not to forget Dennis Bergkamp but Jeffers could just not cut it at Arsenal.
Being at Arsenal did give him his one and only England cap though. His only appearance and goal came against Australia at Upton Park in 2003 when he scored a consolation goal in a 3-1 loss after a great move by England’s young hopes at the time; Wayne Rooney, Jermaine Jenas and himself.
Where it all went wrong: After an unsuccessful couple of years at Arsenal Jeffers was sent back to Everton on loan in 2003 making 22 appearances for the side but being sent back quickly due to another dispute with a manager, this time David Moyes. He then went to Charlton in the summer of 2004 for a still very high £2.6 million. That season he scored just 5 times and was then sent to Rangers in the August of 2005 on loan but again failed to stamp his mark on the team and a regular place which then led to Charlton boss Alan Curbishley choosing to release Jeffers in May 2006.
Somehow Jeffers got another chances when Blackburn signed him in June 2006, a season in which Rovers were playing in the UEFA Cup. Yet again though the move with unsuccessful and he scored only once for Blackburn. He played 9 games on loan at Ipswich in 2007 and scored 4 times but could not get a permanent deal there as Blackburn rejected two bids from the Tractor Boys for the striker and then personal terms were not agreed when a bid was finally accepted.
Strangely Sheffield Wednesday decided to pay £700,000 for the services of Francis Jeffers but his time at Hillsborough was blighted by injuries and he scored only 5 goals for the team. He was released in May 2010 and could not gain a move back to the Premier League when his trial at newly promoted Blackpool did not go right for him.
Newcastle was the next stop for Jeffers; well Newcastle United Jets of the Australian League, where he signed on a ten game guest contract. Jeffers did manage one goal in his time down under but he joined SPL side Motherwell in February of this year. He scored only once and has now returned to Newcastle United Jets on a 1 and a half year contract.
The ‘fox in the box’ was once billed as the next big thing for England and even scored on his England debut but disputes with managers, injuries and ultimately a lack of skill lead to Francis Jeffers falling to obscurity and out of the spotlight.