England and Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has paid tribute to “trailblazer” Trevor Francis following his death at the age of 69.
Bellingham, who spent his formative years at Birmingham where Francis also made his name as a teenager, thanked him for the guidance he had provided.
In a post on his official Twitter account, the 20-year-old said: “A very sad day for @BCFC and all of football. Beyond legendary, a trailblazer, a great and an icon of the game.
“The only thing that could exceed his quality and accolades on the pitch was his class off it. Thank you for all the guidance and the benchmarks you set. Rest in peace, King Trevor!”
Bellingham was one of a series of current and former players to pay their respects to Francis after a spokesman for the family confirmed on Monday the former Birmingham, Nottingham Forest and England striker had died following a heart attack.
He became Britain’s first £1million player when he joined Forest in 1979 and he went on to score the club’s winner in the European Cup final later that year.
John McGovern, who lifted the trophy as Forest captain, said in a video interview tweeted by the club: “I’d be describing him as a footballer, absolute top class, but as a person he would probably be up there as well.
“My condolences certainly go out to his family because this is one of the game’s nice guys.”
Another former team-mate at Forest, Martin O’Neill, said on social media: “Really devastated to hear the tragic news that Trevor Francis has passed away. A phenomenal player, superb team-mate and a great friend. Football has lost a true great of the game.”
Francis earned 52 England caps and later led Sheffield Wednesday and Birmingham to major finals as a manager.
A post on England’s official Twitter account said: “We are deeply saddened by the news that Trevor Francis has passed away aged 69.
“He won 52 caps and scored 12 goals – including two at the 1982 @FIFAWorldCup for the #ThreeLions between 1977 and 1986.
“All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs.”
Former Forest and England goalkeeper Peter Shilton tweeted: “I’m absolutely devastated to hear about my old team-mate Trevor Francis. Such a wonderful gentleman a friend and a terrible loss.”
Francis former club’s Birmingham, Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Rangers, QPR and Manchester City offered their condolences, with the Genoa club writing simply: “Rest in peace, Trevor #Francis.”
Former England striker turned TV presenter Gary Lineker wrote: “Deeply saddened to hear that Trevor Francis has died.
“A wonderful footballer and lovely man. Was a pleasure to work alongside him both on the pitch and on the telly. RIP Trevor.”
Former England team-mate Peter Reid said: “Great fella, played against him, England team-mate. He signed me for QPR from Everton. RIP Trev.”
Chris Waddle, who was a member of Francis’ Owls side that reached the League Cup and FA Cup finals of 1993, tweeted: “So sorry to hear the sad news that Trevor Francis has passed away, he was a lovely man and such great player and thank you so much for bringing me to SWFC..RIP legend.”
Mark Bright, another member of that Wednesday side, added: “RIP, Trevor Francis. Trev signed me when he was player/manager at SWFC.
“The club experienced some great times in the early 90’s, both Trev his wife Helen were very kind in helping me to settle in at the club. I greatly appreciated it then & now. Love to sons Matthew & James.”
Chris Kamara, the former Brentford and Swindon midfielder who later became a media colleague of Francis’, also offered his condolences.
He wrote: “Oh no, just heard Trevor Francis has passed away. What a player he was & what a gentleman. Got to know him well when Trevor was doing his co-commentary’s for Sky, a job he loved.
“RIP Trevor the first million pound player who always looked a million dollars.”
Another media colleague, Hayley McQueen, daughter of former Leeds and Manchester United defender Gordon McQueen, said: “Gutted about the passing of Trevor Francis, he was never the same after the passing of his beloved wife Helen six years ago.
“One of the loveliest couples you could meet who took me under their wing whilst working on a World Cup way back, dinners, lunches & even meet-ups back in London.”
Francis broke into the Birmingham team at the age of just 16 and his fame went beyond the game.
Former heavyweight world boxing champion Frank Bruno tweeted: “Trevor Francis RIP. Sad news about the sudden death of Trevor, he played in an era when I watched Match of the day avidly, another legend gone too soon. We met a few times, especially when I did events in and around the midlands.”
Journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan wrote: “RIP Trevor Francis, 69. Britain’s first £1m footballer who had 52 caps for England and won back-to-back European Cups with Nottingham Forest.
“Then became a superb TV pundit and was by all accounts a lovely man. Sad news. RIP.”