Kevin Francis, the former tallest player in the Football League, has traded his football boots for a career fighting gangsters in Canada. The towering 6ft 7in striker was a fan favourite during his time at Birmingham City and Stockport County. Francis was signed by Derby County in 1989 from non-league Mile Oak Rovers but after just 17 appearances he joined Stockport County. He scored five goals to help them secure automatic promotion as runners-up in the old Division Four and then hit 26 the following season to help the club reach Wembley twice, although they lost both times. His hot-streak continued the following year with 33 goals as another Wembley appearance came along, but once again it was disappointment in store in the final of the Autoglass Shield. He still managed another 13 goals for Stockport in the 1994/95 season before his hometown team Birmingham City swooped to sign him in January for £800,000. He helped them finish as champions of Division Two with eight goals.
Francis left Birmingham in 1998 to join Oxford United, scoring eight in 40 appearances, prior to a brief return to Stockport in 2000. However, he suffered a broken leg on just his fourth appearance and was released at the end of the season. Despite that sad end to his time with the club, he was still named “County Player of the Century” in 2002. Short spells with Exeter City and Hull City followed before he retired from the Football League in 2005. Francis also enjoyed a taste of the international scene, winning two caps for Saint Kitts & Nevis after qualifying through his parents.
After briefly coaching Birmingham City Ladies on a part-time basis, Francis moved to Canada with his wife Sharon and one of his daughters Keisha. His other daughter, Stacey, stayed in the UK to focus on her netball career. Francis landed a truck-driving job in Calgary for a company in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Eventually, with trips sometimes lasting up to ten days on Canada’s hazardous roads, in 2009 he joined the Calgary Police Force after looking for a new venture. He currently serves on the Gang Suppression Team, which is devoted to monitoring and investigating local criminal groups.
Speaking to The Athletic, Francis said: “There was one incident at a club. We were about to do a walk-through and, in certain places, we all go in together. Strength in numbers. It was a cold night but we had the windows down and were waiting for one of the other cars to turn up when we heard the gunshots and the range. It’s a very different sound in the night air. We looked at each other and sprang into action. You don’t think about it. Guns out, we ran across the street just as our other unit was coming around the corner. The shooter was outside and his gun must have jammed. One of the doormen grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground. I got a hold of the guy and got the gun from him but there was pandemonium because people were saying another shooter was inside. And the hardest thing for me was staying there on my own and not being able to go in with the rest of the boys to clear the bar. Because we train as a team, we go in together. Obviously, the guy needed to be subdued and that was my job but it was still tough. We apprehended an accomplice too, who was waiting in a car and ready to drive off. One guy — a completely innocent bystander — got hit inside the bar but survived and we ended up getting a police award for our efforts that night, which was pretty cool.”
Francis’ daughter Stacey is an England international netball star who has represented Team GB and helped secure bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.