Notts County have announced the signing of former Manchester City, Wolves and England youth captain Ed Francis.
Having progressed through the City Football Academy as a centre-back, he captained City’s youth sides and trained with the first-team on occasion from 17.
Having captained Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and numerous other talents at the Etihad Campus, he joined Almere City on loan before leaving for Wolves in search of first-team opportunities in early 2019.
While at Molineux, he captained the U23s to a Premier League 2 title and spent a short loan spell at Grasshopper Zurich in 2020, after an ankle injury denied him a first-team berth going into the 2019/20 season.
Francis cancelled his contract with Wolves in October 2020, joining Harrogate Town in December.
He went on to make 20 SkyBet League Two appearances, often at left-back, scoring one goal before being released in the summer.
It appears the 21-year-old has been signed to play a little further forward, in a holding midfield role he’s grown to enjoy.
He joins Notts as Ian Burchnall’s second addition in midfield after Frank Vincent arrived earlier in July, with Jake Reeves seeking opportunities in the EFL and Michael Doyle starting his time as Assistant Head Coach.
Head Coach, Ian Burchnall is delighted with his third acquisition of the summer, after Kyle Cameron also joined to bolster the defence.
“Ed’s time at City gave him a tremendous education,” he said.
“He arrives here with great pedigree and experience of playing with some outstanding talent.
“He progressed through the ranks as a left-sided centre-back but felt, at around 6ft, he probably wasn’t quite tall enough to make it at the top in that role – hence his adaptation into a holding midfielder.
“It’s the position Michael Doyle has played his entire career and Doyler’s had a good look at him. He’s keen to work closely with Ed and I think he can add a lot to his game by passing on some of the smaller details.
“In the role we want Ed to play, you’re the pivot of the whole team.
“You have to understand space, where to position yourself to received the ball and the defensive areas to cover.
“You’re also responsible for dictating the play, so it’s a hugely-important position.
“We feel Ed ticks all the boxes to do a great job for us. Positionally he’s very, very good, he’s comfortable on the ball and has a lovely left foot – as well as a good physical presence.
“Ed had his first real taste of senior football at Harrogate last year but it probably didn’t go exactly how he wanted,” Burchnall added.
“He found himself being used at full-back quite a lot but I know he sees himself as a holding midfielder, as we do.
“Our aim is to develop him into as good a player as he can be. You can see that a lot of the boys we’ve signed have the capacity to go on and develop further, which is what we want in the squad – hunger to get better all the time.”
The player told the club website about his ambitions for his time at Meadow Lane, and they are sure to endear the fans.
“The main thing about my next move was getting 30-40 games a season in a holding midfield role and showing everyone what I can do in that position,” Francis said.
“Notts wanted to give me that opportunity and it’s one of the key reasons I chose to come here.
“Growing up, I’ve got used to the pressure of winning and performing well. That’s not something that will faze me.
“Michael [Doyle] has had a great career and to have him around me as the Assistant Head Coach, giving me tips, is great. I’m really looking forward to working with him and learning from his experience.”
Francis’ style of play, developed for 11 years at Manchester City, seems cut directly from the Ian Burchnall mould, which may bear fruit in the Head Coach’s first full season at Meadow Lane.
“I want to get on the ball as much as possible and create attacks by distributing it to the creative players.
“Once we’ve got the territory, I want to help us sustain attacks and dominate teams with our pressing until we get the goals.
“Then it’s about controlling possession and hopefully picking teams apart with some good football.
“The way the Head Coach wants to play suits my game perfectly and it’s now about me getting out onto the pitch, proving myself to everyone and helping us get back into the EFL.
“Longer-term, the goal for me is to be here as long as possible – and the ultimate aim is to captain the club and win titles.”
Featured image credit: Notts County Football Club