Skip to Main Content
Members:   Log In  |  Sign Up
NewsRumoursReportsVideoTalking PointsArticles2017-18
Text Size:  A  A  A
Everton Past Player Profile
FRANCIS JEFFERS
Striker

Francis Jeffers  FACTS
Born Liverpool, 25 January 1981
Height 5' - 10" (178 cm)
Joined Everton as a YTS trainee in March 1997
Debut Sub: v Manchester United (a), 26 December 1997
Full: v Derby County (a), 7 February 1999
Left Everton to join Arsenal in May 2001 for £8M (rising to £10M)
Finalé Full: v Newcastle United (a) 3 March 2001
Sub: v Manchester City (h), 28 April 2001
Nicknames Skinny, Lanky, Noddy, Big-Ears, Dumbo
Honours England U-15's and U-16's
 EVERTON JUNIOR CAREER
 Seasons  Club  Apps  Gls
1995-1997 Lilleshall School
1997-1998 Everton Reserves / Youth 2(4) / 4(1) - / 2
1998-1999 Everton Reserves / Youth / U-19 3(-) / 3(2) 1 / 7

 STRENGTHS  WEAKNESSES
  • A goalscorer
  • Great first touch
  • Young and inexperienced
  • Headstrong under Wally's Wing
 BIOSKETCH
 
Francis Jeffers first appeared as a regular contributor to The Evertonian.  His monthly articles charted his progress at the FA Soccer Academy, Lilleshall, and with the England U-16 team, who seemed to rely heavily on his goal-scoring talents. 

After signing on as a YTS trainee in March 1997, Jeffers played an increasing part in the next season's Reserves campaign.  He finally made a first-team debut of sorts, coming on as a sub at Old Trafford on Boxing Day, 1997.  He did, however, play a vital part in Everton's highly successful run to victory in The Times FA Youth Cup.

In May 1998, The Sunday Times Magazine included a list of people who will be famous in 10 years time.  Francis Jeffers was the only footballer included:

"On Boxing Day 1977, Jeffers, then 16 years old, made his debut with Everton and became the team's youngest player since 1966.  A quick, slightly built striker who scores goals with apparent ease, in February this year the 17-year-old signed a five-year contract with the club, worth over £1M.  This makes him England's highest-paid teenage footballer ever, and he still has a year of his youth apprenticeship with Everton to run.  It is a mark of the club's confidence in a player whom they regard as the next Michael Owen."

Make of that what you will!  Francis Jeffers remained in the background at Everton for a long time, scoring freely for Everton U-19s and the impressive Youth Cup team, and occasionally getting a run out with the Reserves.  He did get all of 2 mins as a 90th-minute sub against Newcastle United, when Walter Smith took a huge risk by gambling with such a young player...  Well, why else wasn't he being giving a fair chance to show he could do something in front of goal?

That chance finally came in front of the Sky TV cameras against Derby County, when Franny played his first full match, showed up the clumsy and selfish Bakayoko by the skill of his first touch and intelligence of his movement away from his marker, and set up a nice goal for Nick Barmby to boot!

The performance was good enough to persuade Walter Smith to stick with him in the vital Cup-tie against Coventry, where Nick Barmby did the honours to help Jeffers score the opening goal – and he could have had a hat-trick.  Ex-Evertonian, David Burrows was impressed:

"Jeffers' movement was exceptional. He moved our centre backs all over the place and created all sorts of problems.  His partnership with Hutch was good, and between them they played some excellent one-touch stuff that had us in trouble."

"His pace and the way he got through for his goal did bother us.  We ended up defending far too deep because of that and it left us under lots of pressure."

With the arrival of Kevin Campbell in 1999, Walter Smith suddenly realised he had a decent attacking partnership that almost immediately gelled where it mattered: on the field in front of goal.  14 goals between them in 9 crucial relegation-threatened matches proved to be Everton's salvation in this 100th season of English League football.  Is it perhaps an omen that the last Everton goal of the season – scored by Francis Jeffers v West Ham – was the 6,000th Everton goal in all top-flight football spanning 96 of those 100 seasons?

Aug 99: In an incomprehensible development that stunned Evertonians already numbed from repeated body-blows, it was maliciously made public – just two days before the start of the season – that Francis Jeffers had had a spat with Walter Smith and handed in a transfer request!  The backlash against Jeffers was immediate and uniform, coming as it did so soon after the high-profile contract defections of Anelka and Hasselbaink.

Amid rumours that Jeffers wanted obscene amounts of money, and that he was put up to this prank by his dad, the real reason, apparently, was a concern that his limited use in pre-season friendlies meant Smith was not going to be using him as much as he should in the upcoming Premiership campaign.

It took a week of rumour, recriminations, and retribution before the rift was patched up and the ill-advised transfer request withdrawn.  But the effect on the trust and admiration of the fans will take a lot longer to heal – although a few well-timed goals might help the healing process!

And by the beginning October 1999, Jeffers was out on his own as Everton's leading scorer, the pre-season strife all but forgotten.

Jeffers, in tandem with Kevin Campbell, had transformed Everton's fortunes.  His movement, his ability to find space and give support to his muscular partner, suggested he could be a significant figure in Everton's future.  Jeffers showed subtle qualities that should have allowed him to develop into a well-rounded striker.   He wasn't rely on his pace, so he was that much more difficult for defenders to work out.

He also showed at times, an acute awareness of the play around him, even before it developed.  Jeffers could be a defender's nightmare because his appreciation of space, and his ability to drift into it, which was hard, almost impossible, to effectively counter consistently.

Even defenders found the young scally a handful.  Jeffers showed a great ability to drift off Campbell and create space for a lethal strike, like a shoplifter with a Christmas list.  The emergence of his partnership with Campbell helped make him Everton's second-highest goalscorers for most of the season – such a contrast to the early months of last season.

But the threat of injury was always lurking... and in February 2000 it struck after just 8 mins of an England U-21 match against Argentina, when Jeffers was stretched off after twisting his ankle.  He sustained serious ligament damage that kept him out until the end of the season. 

August 2000: Back from injury and raring to go for the new season, Jeffers clearly has so much potential, but he isn't the finished article just yet.  This is likely to be the make or break season for him, if he doesn't get injured... which is exactly what happened after just a handful of games, with Jeffers riding unusually high in the Premiership's leading scorer chart.   Perhaps he is just not strong enough...  

As he neared match fitness again, the rumours of rich pickings for other clubs started up, with Manchester United, Leeds United, and Spurs all mooted as on the verge of sealing his big-money transfer, while Everton worked away on a lucrative new contract.

But Franny insisted: "I am an Evertonian through and through..." and says, about his transfer request, "In hindsight, it wasn't a very clever thing to do... I never wanted to leave Everton because of my love for the club and the fans."

...but that love proved to be insufficient when it came to signing the biggest contract ever offered by Everton, in March 2001.  No clear reasons were given as to why Franny wanted to wait until the summer before committing himself to Everton, giving Walter Smith the perfect opportunity to cast the young striker as a disgruntled wantaway...

June 2001:  Despite suspicions that Jeffers may actually have agreed to the massive contract on offer, Bill Kenwright's decision to stick with Walter Smith and his pugilistic sidekick, Archie Knox, no doubt left Frances Jeffers only one sensible choice: to try his hand elsewhere.  

His departure to Arsenal came as a terrible indictment on a club regime that continues to denigrate the once-great name of Everton – despite the lip-service paid to boyhood dreams, statutes to past heroes, and belated testimonials.

Jeffers may be injury-prone and lightweight.  But under Arsenal's more intelligent coaching scheme than that offered by Archie Knox's baseball bat and fisticuffs, he could reasonably expect to improve his chances of playing for England and winning medals.  With the current Everton set-up, he had no chance.  His sale sadly confirms Everton's continuing decline as a Club quite content with selling its best players.

June 2003:  Everton had reaped a sum believed to be in the region of £8M to £10M off Arsenal for the signature of Francis Jeffers: £4M down and a further £4M a year later.  Richard Wright may have been in part payment of the second instalment.  The other £2M of the reputed £10M fee was dependent on appearances (ha ha ha), goals scored (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha) and England caps (ho ho ho he he he he he he ha ha ha ha ha no stop it, you're killing me ....).

Despite his proclaimed "love" of Everton, one suspects he was being a little bit selfish and to turn down a huge sum of money to stay at Everton and develop properly, choosing instead to head for the bright lights — a career move one could predict would have beer doomed to failure from Day 1 because the lad has an inflated view of his own importance and footballing worth.  How did Jeffers ever think he could command a 1st team place in a squad which featured Henry, Berkamp, Pires, Wiltord, etc etc etc ???

In reality, it was nothing short of a disaster, with just 13 starts — only four in the Premiership — during a miserable two seasons in the burgeoning Arsenal squad. 

Then, for the 2003-04 season, Francis Jeffers returned to Everton on a season-long loan from Arsenal.  His new player profile is here

 
 EVERTON CAREER STATISTICS
Season Squad
Number
League
Apps(sub)
League
Goals
Cup
Apps(sub)
Cup
Goals
TOTAL
Apps(sub)
TOTAL
Goals
1997-98 34 0 (1) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (1) 0
1998-99 34 11 (4) 6 2 (0) 1 13 (4) 7
1999-2k 17 16 (5) 6 4 (3) 0 20 (8) 6
2000-01 14 10 (2) 6 2 (0) 1 12 (2) 7

Totals: 37 (12) 18 8 (3) 2 45 (15) 20

  Note: These records do not include the 2003-04 season Jeffers spent on loan at Everton