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Trevor Francis puts football in perspective again

That famous old phrase about life being more important than football has a romantic sentiment attached to it.

But it has more to do with the passion, obsession and tribal instincts involved in supporting 'the beautiful game' than anything to do with reality.

If you don't understand football - and the emotional attachment and genuine sense of belonging, happiness, joy, pride, anger, sadness and even devastation it generates among its fans - that 'famous old saying' could cause offence, disgust and horror.

Football is the 'religion' of choice for billions of followers worldwide. The game is a lifestyle, not just a sport. Football fans never refer to the team they support as 'they' - always 'we'.

Bill Shankly is usually misquoted though. His 'famous phrase' is an abbreviation of what he actually said: "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that".

That is how it feels to football fans at times. In reality, it's a load of old tosh.

Heart attack

Trevor Francis has suffered a heart attack. It's the latest piece of news that has helped to put football - and Shankly's quote - into perspective.

The family of the first £1 million player in British football have thanked the public for their "overwhelming messages of support".

The 57-year-old former England striker is recovering after being admitted to Birmingham Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green on Friday.

A tweet from former club Birmingham City read: "Trevor Francis' family have contacted the club to express their thanks at the overwhelming messages of support from Blues fans."

A statement from Birmingham City said they have been told that Francis had undergone surgery to have a stent fitted - and that he had made good progress.

He is expected to return home within a week.

First £1 million player

Francis played for the Blues from 1970 to 1979 before he became the first £1 million player when he signed for Nottingham Forest. He went on to manage Birmingham between 1996 and 2001.

"Everybody at Birmingham City would like to send our best wishes to club legend Trevor Francis following news that he is recovering in hospital," his former club said on their website. Their initial statement referred to a 'supsected heart attack' but it has since been confirmed that he did suffer a heart attack.

The former England striker won two European Cups with Nottingham Forest and also played for Manchester City, Sampdoria, Atalanta, Rangers, Sheffield Wednesday and QPR.

Francis scored 12 goals in 52 appearances for his country.

He went on to manage QPR, Sheffield Wednesday, Birmingham and Crystal Palace.

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