Francis Lee – 1944-2023 – Bitter and Blue

Former Manchester City striker, chairman and club legend Francis Lee has sadly passed away at the age of 79. Lee, who signed for a club record fee from Bolton Wanderers in 1967, had fought a long battle against cancer, a battle which he lost today.

The former City star was an integral part of the trio that were Lee, Bell and Summerbee which led City to their second league title in 1968. Lee scored in a dramatic final day 4-3 win at Newcastle and would also score in the European Cup Winner Cup final against Gornik Zabrze to help City claim their first European trophy.

A Legend Arrives

The word legend is banded around far too easily in today’s modern game, but in the case of Lee, it is one that’s fully justified. Arriving from Bolton for a club record fee of £60,000, Lee made an immediate impact. He made his City debut on 14th October 1967 in a 2-0 victory at home to Wolves, and scored his first goal for the club just a week later, as City beat Fulham 4-2 at Craven Cottage.

During his seven-year spell with the blues, Lee would help City win the 1969 FA Cup final against Leicester City and, just a season later, scored City’s second goal in a 2-1 win over Polish side Gornik to help the blues claim European Cup Winners Cup in Vienna. In the same season, Lee and City also brought the League Cup to Manchester.

In 1974, Lee left the blues to join Derby County and helped the Rams to win the First Division title in his first season. The striker also made 27 appearances for England, scoring 10 goals.

Lee was a no-nonsense striker who loved a good derby. Until 2013, he held the record for the most derby goals with ten, three of those coming in a 4-1 win at Old Trafford in 1970, the last player to score a derby hat-trick until Andrei Kanchelskis in 1995. Lee actually scored the perfect treble of left foot, right foot, header in that game.

Watch Franny Lee score his perfect hat-trick at United in 1970.

From Striker to Businessman

After his playing career ended, Lee moved into paper manufacturing. In actual fact, Lee founded his company in 1966 and maintained the business throughout his playing days in order to have something to fall back on when he eventually retired from the game.

His business ventures made him a millionaire and his company, F.H Lee continued to thrive until it was sold in 2003.

His love for City remained long after his retirement and in 1994, with City struggling in the newly formed Premier League and serious underinvestment in the team by then chairman Peter Swales, Lee became embroiled in a bitter power struggle for the club. The Forward with Franny movement had made a substantial bid to take the club out of the hands of Swales, who had been a target for supporters anger since the mid-eighties.

Finally, Lee won the battle for Manchester City and took the reigns from Swales. His first match as chairman welcomed Ipswich to Maine Road. Ian Marshall gave the Tractor Boys the lead in the 16th minute, but Carl Griffiths equalised 15 minutes later. Garry Flitcroft scored for the blues 19 minutes from time to give Lee a winning start to his reign.

Sadly, it wasn’t to last and Lee stepped down as chairman four years later, although he retained a share of the club after stepping down, but later sold those to Thaksin Shinawatra in 2008.

In 2016, Lee’s football and charity work was recognised as he was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace.

Francis Lee – 1944-2023 – Rest in Peace, Legend

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