Football greats have gathered for the funeral of Manchester City and England striker Francis Lee who died aged 79 after long battle with lung cancer.
Lee, who was affectionately known as ‘Franny’, passed away earlier this month, with his heartbroken family saying that he would be ‘sorely missed’.
Legends of the game have been pictured ahead of the funeral service for the former Manchester City chairman, who was also a highly-successful businessman and racehorse trainer.
Newcastle legend Graeme Souness, former Manchester City players Micah Richards and Mike Summerbee, and former captain of the club Keith Book have all been seen attending Manchester Cathedral today where the funeral is being held.
Lee scored 148 goals in 330 appearances for Man City before spending four troubled years as chairman of the club in 1994, replacing Peter Swales.
Football greats have gathered for the funeral of Manchester City and England striker Francis Lee (pictured) who died aged 79 after long battle with lung cancer
Legends of the game, including former Manchester City defender Micah Richards (pictured) have been pictured ahead of the funeral service for the former Manchester City chairman
Former Manchester City player Mike Summerbee has also been seen attending Manchester Cathedral today where the funeral is being held
Newcastle legend Graeme Souness ahead of a funeral service for Francis Lee at Manchester Cathedral
Former Manchester City captain Tony Book pictured outside Manchester Cathedral today
Former Manchester City player and manager Joe Royle was seen attending the service today
Lee became a multi-millionaire in his retirement thanks to the success of his toilet paper company which allowed him to take over as the majority shareholder at Man City in 1994.
It would be football that first brought Lee into the limelight – including his unforgettable sending off after getting into a vicious brawl with Leeds United hardman Norman Hunter.
Described as one of City’s all-time greats, Lee won the First Division, FA Cup, League Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup during eight years with the club.
The stocky forward also earned 27 England caps, scoring 10 goals in the process and he represented his country at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
Lee began his career at Bolton Wanderers before signing for City for a then record fee of of £60,000 in 1967. He was the club’s top goalscorer for five consecutive seasons from 1969/70 to 1973/74, helping City to a number of trophies.
After leaving City he won another league title with Derby in 1975 in a spell otherwise recalled for an on-pitch fight with Leeds’ Norman Hunter. Lee suffered a cut lip that needed four stitches, and on the way to the dressing room he attacked the Leeds man again, resulting in a four week suspension.
‘It’s a good job I didn’t get in the dressing room afterwards,’ he said later. ‘I might have just been coming out on parole now.’
After scoring 30 goals in two seasons for Derby, he retired in 1976 to focus on his business commitments.
The coffin of former Manchester City player and chairman Francis Lee carried to the church ahead of his funeral service at Manchester Cathedral
Lee’s coffin being carried by six pallbearers, with a large bouquet of white flowers resting on top of it. A floral tribute with Lee’s nickname ‘Franny’ can also be seen in the background
The coffin is laid in a hearse with a floral tribute reading ‘Lee 7’. Francis Lee wore the No.7 shirt for his Manchester City debut against Wolves
A floral tribute with the word ‘Dad’. Lee is survived by his wife Gill and children Charlotte, Jonny and Nik
Francis Lee’s wife Gill Lee pictured at her husband’s funeral in Manchester
Lee’s entrepreneurial spirit first manifested itself as a teenager when he used an old brewery lorry to collect waste paper.
It was this market he exploited, ploughing his football earnings into setting up FH Lee Ltd, a company which specialised in waste paper recycling and haulage before expanding into toilet roll, kitchen roll, foil and cling film.
He eventually sold the company for £8.35million in 1984, making £6m.
He later bought stables and had some success training racehorses before buying City from the unpopular Peter Swales in 1994.
He was hailed as a returning hero by City fans, but his early ambitious promises proved way off the mark.
‘If cups were awarded for cock-ups, you would not be able to move in City’s boardroom,’ Lee later admitted after a series of poor managerial appointments – Alan Ball, Steve Coppell, Frank Clark – set the club on a downward spiral.
City were relegated to the second tier and were on their way down to the third when Lee resigned in 1998.
Despite his departure, he retained shares until selling to Thaksin Shinawatra in 2007 and continued to attend City games regularly. He was made CBE for services to sport and charity in 2016.
Manchester City today released a selection of tributes from its fans for the former player and chairman who it described as ‘undoubtedly, one of City’s greatest ever players’.
Lee pictured after scoring the goal which won City the league championship in 1968
Manchester City’s Francis Lee on the ball during a League match in 1970
Left is Lee playing for City in 1971 and right he is pictured for England in the same year
Lee won 27 caps for England during his career, scoring 10 goals in the process. Here he is pictured against Scotland in May 1971
Manchester City footballers (left-right) Mike Summerbee, Tony Book, Colin Bell and Francis Lee attending a charity event event in Manchester, circa December 1970. The trophies in the foreground are the Football League Cup (left) and the UEFA European Cup Winners Cup
One fan named Pete wrote: ‘Franny played for City in the first game I saw (FA Cup versus Reading) I remember him hitting the woodwork with a shot from wide on the right. Unfortunately, the game ended goalless.
‘I spoke with him in the nineties and he couldn’t recall the shot but remembered the replay at Reading (which we won 7-0) of course he would!
‘He was definitely my favourite player of that era , and I always felt for him during his time as Chairman when the performances on the pitch didn’t match his or our expectations. My thoughts are with his family and those closest to him.’
Another, Tahir Awan, said: ‘I was nine years old in 1970 when I started supporting City. Francis Lee was an established member of the team and he was one of my heroes growing up. I absolutely loved him to bits, his personality, his playing style and his feisty nature.
‘I was so sad to see him leave when he did and then score that ‘interesting ‘ goal for Derby. I was so happy to see him return as Chairman and turn our fortunes around. I will really miss him. Many many condolences to the Lee family.’
A third City fan, Bill Douglas, added: ‘Having followed City from the late 1950s and experiencing the rising from the ashes, memories come flooding back from the Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison era.
‘Quite often great games and great players, Francis Lee is definitely one of those, a brave, skill full 100% City hero. It is with tears we have to say farewell thank you Franny.