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Gone but not forgotten:
Francino Francis
Position: Striker
From: Stoke City, apparently - free transfer - May 2005
Record: Played: 1(2) Scored: 0
To: ??? - free transfer - June 2006
Career stats: Soccerbase
He was: Not Gabriel Batistuta (You don't say - Ed)

Thing is, you just have to score. Take Gabriel Batistuta, if you will. A personal favourite, simply for the fact that he played like a flouncing, puffed-up tart for about ninety-nine percent of his very considerable career. He may still be doing it somewhere, for all I know. During that time, he'd contribute absolutely sod all to the collective effort, unless you count sitting on your arse and looking pained and generally victimised. If it wasn't for the five seconds that actually counted for something - when the ball broke loose and he was onto it in a flash, lashing it into the top corner before flouncing off in celebration - then he would've amounted to precisely nothing. He would've ended up as a waiter or something. Not a very good waiter either, probably.

At some point, Batistuta would've been a painfully young and inexperienced teenager, just like Francino Francis. And he would've made his debut in a similar game, too; after all, if The Magic Of The FA Cup is truly known from pole to pole, then that can only be because everyone has an equivalent of The Dreariness Of The League Cup instead. Perhaps he might even have been thrown in at the deep end, asked to play up front on his own against far more experienced defenders, the spearhead of an experimental side in a game that didn't really matter to anyone except those whose careers might be advanced or halted by it.

If so, it can only have been that the coaches on the touchline watched the flouncing Batistuta with increasing desperation. You can imagine much disappointed shaking of heads, much readying of substitutes. Much writing off of that particular career before it had even begun. And then, wallop....

For Francino Francis, that's how it happened, pretty much. Without the wallop, clearly. Thrown up front against Wolves in a League Cup Second Road tie that felt very much like a League Cup First Round tie, his presence raised a few eyebrows, especially given that the more familiar figure of Hameur Bouazza was pushed out to the wing. Predictably, he saw precious little of the ball during his evening's work, which can be summed up as "vaguely promising". He looked more than a little lightweight, understandably, and we were to counter-balance that with the arrival of Trevor Benjamin for the subsequent weekend game.

He reprised the role on a couple of other occasions, to similarly mundane effect. He was not useless. He just didn't ever look like scoring, that's all...and neither did he look like one of those strikers who'll still be rather useful when they don't score. At some point, you have to buy yourself time with a goal. Or you end up at Kidderminster on loan before the season's out, and then on somewhere else - Leyton Orient, perhaps, or Peterborough - when the manager decides that you haven't quite got it. Plenty - Steve Brooker and Nathan Lowndes spring to mind - have gone on to have perfectly presentable careers after such a setback; plenty more, however, have fallen rapidly out of view.

You'll know the answer by the end of next season, you suspect.

Ian Grant