Damien Francis became
Norwich City's second signing of the 2003 summer when he completed
his move to Carrow Road on 22nd July 2003.
The 24-year-old passed his medical the previous day and joined
City on a three-year contract from Wimbledon for a fee in the
region of £260,000. Assigned the number 20 shirt, Damien
said "I know David Nielsen from when he was at Wimbledon
and spoke to him when I came up here to have a look around. He
told me Norwich is a good club and I could see that for myself
as well. Another one of the reasons why I picked Norwich
is that they are a good passing team and I like to pass. I also
like to get box to box and tackle, and to score goals, and that's
something I'm hoping to continue. I'm flattered to have
been described as the new Robbie Earle because Robbie was a very
good player and scored a lot of goals in his career, but I'm a
different player to him and if I can score as many goals
as he did then I'll be very happy."
The transfer gave Francis the chance to get away from the uncertainty
at his previous club, which was then in administration and in
the middle of an on-off move to Milton Keynes. However these difficult
circumstances probably made it easier for him to leave the club
that he had been with since the age of 9. He made his debut against
Arsenal during 1997/98 and had gone on to 117 appearances in the
following seasons. Many Wimbledon managers played Damien out of
position but Terry Burton gave him a chance and he exploded into
the Dons midfield. In 29 appearances he scored 8 goals and his
hard tackling and box-to-box play won him plaudits from many opposition
managers. Dominating the central midfield he out played and out
thought many more experienced players and was attracting interest
from a number of Premiership managers including Glenn Hoddle.
An ligament injury sustained by Ugo Ehiogu meant Damien missed
many games but returned to the Wimbledon first team in the Spring
Damien made his first appearance in a Norwich shirt in the 3-0
home defeat by Spurs on July 22nd in a pre-season friendly. His
league debut came in the 2-2 draw with Bradford on the opening
day of the season and his first Man of the Match award came for
his performance in the 2-0 defeat of Rotherham the following Saturday.
He ended the season with 43 appearances and 7 goals.
On 5th March 2005, Damien was linked with a £3million move
to Charlton according to The Sun. In June 2005, Portsmouth
were said to be preparing a £1.5million bid although Fulham
and West Ham were also linked to him according to The Daily
Mirror. The next club to be linked with him were Middlesbrough
on 30th June 2005 with the Daily Express suggesting that
Damien would be a replacement for Liverpool-bound Bolo Zenden.
Portsmouth were then reported in the first week of July 2005 to
have submitted a £1.75m "take it or leave it"
bid. Damien was dropped from the pre-season friendly with Colchester
with rumours reporting that he had "gon on strike" or
that he was in talks with Portsmouth. When Pompey didn't back
up their interest, Wigan stepped in and agreed a £1.5m fee
with Norwich. Damien made his debut for Wigan in their opening
game of the 2005/6 Premiership season which they narrowly lost
1-0 to Chelsea. As the season progressed, Damien struggled to
hold down a regular place in the side and made it clear he wanted
On 23rd May 2006, the Independent reported that Francis
was offered, along with £7million, by Wigan to Crystal Palace
in return for striker Andy Johnson. Two days later and it was
claimed that Cardiff chairman Sam Hamman had approached Wigan
manager Paul Jewell about signing Francis. Two days after rejecting
a move to Stoke City, Damien signed for Watford on 12th July 2006
for a fee that could rise to £1.5m. Watford boss Adrian
Boothroyd said: "I knew Damien from my time at Norwich
and he's a professional right to the end. Things have not happened
for him at Wigan and that sometimes happens at some clubs, but
I think we're right for him and he's right for us. He's a £2m
player, and the fact we've got him for the money we have is a
real coup for us."
Watford boss Paul Jewell said: "We didn't want to sell
him because we do not have the biggest squad here. But I respect
him too much as a person to stand in his way, and he goes to Watford
with our best wishes."
On 3rd October 2008, it was announced that Francis had to retire
from the professional game due to a serious knee injury. He damaged
his cruciate knee ligament in the 1-1 draw with Manchester City
in April 2007. Francis made the decision to retire on strong medical
advice following a series of setbacks whilst trying to regain
complete fitness. "I'm devastated to have to accept the
decision to announce my retirement," he told the club
website. "But I have been strongly advised by my surgeon
that I cannot continue to put my knee through such trauma."