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UK football fans fall in love with Leo Messi

by Dan 5. July 2012 04:45

Icons Press Release: July 2, 2012

UK Football Fans Fall In Love With Leo Messi

Signed Leo Messi products from Icons.com outselling the rest by 4 to 1

FORMER Manchester United Merchandising Director, Edward Freedman, says sales figures for Icons.com’s Leo Messi signed memorabilia prove the Argentinian maestro is now the UK’s best-loved player.

Freedman chairs Icons.com - the most trusted football memorabilia supplier in the game, providing sought-after signed shirts, photos and other products to fans and gift buyers throughout the world.

The former Managing Director of Tottenham Hotspur, hailed by The Economist as “football’s merchandising guru”, says Messi memorabilia now outsells Ronaldo, the next best selling player, by a factor of 4 to 1 and leaves Rooney and Gerrard trailing in his wake.

The Icons Chairman said:

“UK football fans love Spanish football and Messi in particular. He’s the neutral’s favourite with most football lovers now agreeing he is the best in the world, if not the best ever. The UK public has fallen in love with him.”

“Everyone wants to be close to greatness and by owning a signed Messi shirt then you’ve got the world’s very best. When Icons.com says ‘signed by the world’s best’, we mean it.”

Icons also sell its memorabilia in Harrods where the Argentinian legend outsells otherplayers by 5 to 1. Icons.com now sell his shirts to 78 countries around the world.

The company stocks ten Messi products including a signed and framed Barcelona 2011/12 home shirt; a dual signed Barcelona 2011/12 home shirt with Andrés Iniesta; a signed Adidas boot and a selection of signed iconic photographs of the great man in action.

Messi’s range of signed memorabilia outsold Icons range of other products - signed by the likes of Kaka, Robin Van Persie, Luis Saurez, Andres Iniesta and even Diego Maradona - by the bucket load between April 2011 and April 2012.

Freedman added:

“Does this mean UK football fans are getting less tribal and more sophisticated? That remains to be seen. But it does show how strong the Barcelona and Messi brands have become. They are setting new standards for the game and, in turn, reinventing the football memorabilia market.”

You can view and buy Icons’ range of signed products at www.icons.com.

For more information on this product, or Icons.com, or for interviews with Edward Freedman, please contact Ben Lee on blee@hardhat.co.uk or 07961 820 579.


1. Sales figures through Icons.com from April 2011 and April 2012:

Player - Team / Nation = Units sold

  • Leo Messi - Barcelona, Argentina = 2021
  • Cristiano Ronald - Real Madrid, Portugal = 496
  • Robin Van Persie - Arsenal, Holland = 481
  • Kaka - AC Milan, Brazil = 477
  • Luis Suarez - Liverpool, Uruguay = 409
  • Andrés Iniesta - Barcelona, Spain = 386
  • Steven Gerrard - Liverpool, England = 365
  • Wayne Rooney - Man Utd, England = 274
  • Diego Maradona - Argentina = 261
  • Fernando Torres - Chelsea, Spain = 254
  • 2. Icons has been in business since 1999. Icons is one of the oldest memorabilia operators in the country, if not the world.
    3. Edward Freedman has over 40 years experience in the retail industry and in the late 80s was Managing Director of Tottenham Hotspur. He then moved to Manchester United and became Managing Director ofManchester United Merchandising from 1992 onwards. Over the next six years he transformed the commercial side of the club's operation and built Manchester United into the biggest brand in world football. He was also a key player in the formation of the Premier League and was hailed by The Economist as "football's merchandising guru".
    4. Icons.com are an international brand and supply to well over 70 countries each year and haverepresentatives in North America and regularly supply customers in Japan, Australia and the Middle East.
    5. Icons.com employs the highest standards in the signed football merchandise industry to assure customers of the authenticity of its products. At each event, photographs document each signature and Icons creates a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for each item including the date and venue and a picture of the product and the signing image. Each product carries a uniquely coded Icons hologram whose identical twin is added to the COA which is signed by the Icons Managing Director.
    6. Icons were awarded the world's first ever signed football memorabilia license by FIFA in 2010. This summer Icons has been awarded the first ever official license for the UEFA Champions League.
    7. Icons have partnered with Sky Sports’ Revista De La Liga programme for years now. They are also now the official partner of the Abu Dhabi Media Company who own the rights to the Premier League throughout the Middle East.
    8. Icons also run regular promotions with the likes of Sky Sports, The Blizzard, 442 and GuillemBalague.com.
    9. A Spanish version of the Icons website is available for Spanish fans.

    A Year in Review: Luis Suarez

    by Al 2. December 2011 05:27

    2011 has been a whirlwind for Liverpool's explosive striker Luis Suarez. Following his £22.7m transfer from Dutch champions Ajax in January, Suarez has established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League and a worthy proprietor to Liverpool's iconic no7 shirt. This week we met up with the Uruguayan hotshot in London for our second signing session together. 

    An unspectacular return of 11 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool in 2011 does not tell the full story for Suarez. Boundless energy and enthusiasm combined with outstanding skill and technique have made him a Kop favourite. The fiery Uruguayan was an instant hit at Anfield, scoring 16 minutes into his debut against Stoke City in February. He has been Liverpool's shining light all year. He further endeared himself to Kopites with his first Merseyside derby goal against Everton in a 2-0 win in October.

    Suarez has never been a character to shy away from the spotlight, and since his move to England he has made for compulsive viewing. Goals continue to arrive sporadically for the Uruguayan, but he has been at the heart of Liverpool's finest moments this year. When the ball is not at his feet, he is usually furiously barking orders at teammates or madly sprinting after lost causes. He has tireless endeavour to match sublime talent, and he has become one of the most entertaining (and controversial) players around.

    While trophies at Liverpool remain a work in progress, Suarez has already tasted glory with Uruguay in 2011 at the Copa America in Argentina. One of the stars of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Suarez was similarly effective this summer in Argentina. He was named Player of the Tournament and scored four goals in total, including a brace in the semi-final against Peru and one in the final against Paraguay. His excellent form at international level continued when he sensationally netted all four of Uruguay's goals as they beat Chile 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in early November. He now boasts 26 goals in 52 games for Uruguay, and it's surely only a matter of time before the floodgates open at Liverpool too.

    We held our first signing with Luis back in March of this year, and we were delighted to catch up with him for a second time this week. Check out our superb new range of signed products from the Liverpool star.

    The famous no7 shirt

    Brand new Adidas boot

    Trademark goal celebration

    To view the full range click here

    Forward Friday: El Niño, Fernando Torres

    by Al 28. October 2011 08:49

    Chelsea's Fernando Torres is finally putting his nightmare start at Stamford Bridge behind him. The £50m man only managed one goal in 18 appearances for the Blues last term, but a new season has heralded a new start, and with four goals and three assists in nine games so far, Torres returns from suspension against Arsenal this Saturday with restored confidence and a point to prove.

    Torres has looked an altogether different animal this season, prompting manager André Villas-Boas and teammates alike to hail his improved performances and renewed hunger in front of goal. Chelsea boast a formidable glut of striking talent, but if the former Liverpool man can recapture his Anfield form, he will be confident of keeping the likes of Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge out of the team.

    The Spaniard took the Premier League by storm after his £21m transfer from Atlético Madrid to Rafa Benitez's Liverpool in 2007. Torres emerged as one of Europe's brightest young talents in the Spanish capital, and after making his debut at the age of 17, 'El Niño' became Atlético's youngest ever club captain two years later. By the time he departed the Vicente Calderón, Torres had hit an impressive 82 goals in 214 appearances.

    It was at Anfield, however, that he truly blossomed. Allying pace and strength with deadly finishing and intelligent movement, Torres surpassed Ruud van Nistelrooy's record for the highest scoring debut season from a foreign import in the Premier League, with 24 goals. He quickly became a Kop favourite and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in successive seasons. 

    It was only after Rafa Benitez's departure from Liverpool in the summer of 2010 that Torres began to consider his future. The side struggled under the stewardship of Roy Hodgson, and when Chelsea came in for him in the 2011 January transfer window, a disillusioned Torres was able to complete an acrimonious transfer away from the club. At £50m, Torres set a new British transfer record and became the fourth most expensive player in history.

    After a difficult start at Chelsea, Torres now looks set to become the focal point of the Blues' attack. The signings of fellow Spaniards Juan Mata - with whom Torres has already combined to devastating effect - and former Barcelona youngster Oriel Romeu have helped him settle in London, and his improved morale has sparked a string of encouraging performances.

    At international level, Torres has scored 27 goals in 89 appearances for Spain, and has featured in every major tournament since Euro 2004. Among his career highlights is his man of the match performance and winning goal in Spain's 1-0 victory in the Euro 2008 final. Torres is, of course, a World Cup winner too, but his involvement for Spain in South Africa was hindered by a lack of fitness after an injury-disrupted 2009/10 season with Liverpool.

    Things are looking up for a resurgent Torres though, and when Chelsea welcome London rivals Arsenal to Stamford Bridge on Saturday, he will be the man charged with breaking the Gunners down. Suddenly, he's looking like someone Chelsea can rely on.


    Check out our fantastic range of personally signed Torres products here, and to keep up with Icons, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook

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    Icons Legend of the Week #15: Mike Summerbee

    by Al 18. October 2011 10:18

    As Roberto Mancini and his star-studded squad look to usher in a glorious new era for Manchester City, they could do a lot worse than look to Mike Summerbee for inspiration.

    Summerbee, Icons Legend of the Week #15, was the star of the show for City during the late sixties and early seventies, the most successful period in the club's history. In three seasons from 1967-70 Summerbee and City won four trophies under the fabled managerial partnership of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. The 1967/68 First Division title was followed by the 1969 FA Cup, and a League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup double in 1970.

    Some 41 years later, with owner Sheikh Mansour's billions pumping through the club, Manchester City looks an altogether different landscape. A return to their former glories looks a realistic possibility now, and with Summerbee as Club Ambassador, City retain an important link to their glory years.

    Occupying City's right flank, Summerbee combined brilliant wing play and tireless running with a fiery temperament and tough tackling that ensured he was rarely far from the spotlight. His antics often enraged away fans, but he built up a great rapport with the City faithful, and was known for chatting to supporters as he sped up and down the wing during matches. 

    Off the pitch he was George Best's closest friend (pictured together above), and during the swinging sixties the riotous pair were notorious for the extravagant party lifestyle they enjoyed in Manchester. They even started up their own clothing business together, although Best was frank in admitting that the shop's main purpose was to attract female attention.

    Back on the field, while Best was dazzling at Manchester United, Summerbee was busy shaping his own legacy at City, making 357 league appearances between 1965-75, and scoring 47 goals.

    Summerbee was born in Preston in December 1942, and began his professional career at Swindon Town, for whom he made his debut as a 16-year-old in 1959. After over 200 appearances for the Wiltshire club, City manager Joe Mercer forked out £35,000 to take him to Manchester. Summerbee made an instant impact at City, and in his first season he was the only player at the club to start every single match.

    Summerbee's talent was combined with that of Colin Bell and Francis Lee, and together the trio formed the backbone of the most entertaining and successful City side there has ever been. While Summerbee sparkled on the wing, Bell elegantly controlled the middle of the park and Lee banged the goals in up front. City became the team to beat, and Summerbee embodied their exciting and entertaining brand of football.

    Summerbee made his debut for England in 1968 and went on to win eight caps in total, scoring once. He left City in 1975, and in the years that followed the club began a long period of decline. Summerbee - whose son Nicky also played for City during the nineties - is a Manchester City man, and he would love to see the club return to former glories, albeit watching from the stands this time.


    Keep up to date with Icons by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

    Icons Legend of the Week #12: Cristiano Ronaldo

    by Al 27. September 2011 10:34

    Love him or loathe him, Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo looks like £80m well spent. Since his record-breaking move from Manchester United, the world's most expensive player has justified his astronomical transfer fee in emphatic fashion.

    Ronaldo's arrival in Madrid in June 2009 came just days after the £57m signing of Kaka from AC Milan. It was the dawning of a new Galactico era. After all, it was the now reinstated Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez who oversaw the club's exorbitant spending between 2000 and 2007, during which time Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, the Brazilian Ronaldo and David Beckham arrived at the Bernabeu for fees totaling in excess of £140m.

    In terms of an individual contribution to Real Madrid, however, Cristiano Ronaldo can claim precedence over all of the above. The Portuguese specializes in goals, and his record at Real is staggering. In 68 La Liga appearances, he has hit 74. In total he has 94 in 97 games. During his most prolific season in England (2007-08), he scored 42 goals in 49 games, but it was not until his move to Spain that he was able to hit those phenomenal heights on a consistent basis.

    Ronaldo is a complete forward. He is a remarkable athlete, and his incredible pace and strength are absolutely key to his game. Precision shooting, devastating free-kicks and an unparalleled box of tricks combined with aerial prowess and steely determination put him at the very top of his profession.

    Ronaldo earnt a reputation for showmanship during his formative years, but he matured considerably under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and now couples his precocious talent with a strong work ethic. He still plays the pantomime villain, but it is a role he relishes, and he thrives under scrutiny. After receiving a particularly hostile reception from Dinamo Zagreb fans in a recent Champions League tie, Ronaldo – current captain of the Portugal national side - responded with typical swagger. "I think that because I am rich, handsome and a great player people are envious of me," he said.

    In La Liga and in Europe, Ronaldo - FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner in 2008 - vies with Barcelona's Leo Messi to top the scoring charts. Last term in La Liga he managed it, becoming the first player to score 40 goals in a single season in Spain. He smashed a host of records in the process, and usurped Ferenc Puskas as the fastest Real Madrid player to reach 50 goals. He also became the first player to win the European Golden Shoe in two different leagues, having previously won it in the Premier League with United.

    Despite Ronaldo's phenomenal efforts, Real have been unable to supplant Barca in La Liga since the 2007/08 season. His only trophy with Real to date is a Copa del Rey, but having won three Premier League titles and a Champions League with United, Ronaldo is no stranger to success. And with fellow Portuguese Jose Mourinho at the helm, it's surely only a matter of time before he adds more silverware to his CV.

    Since his £12.2m transfer from Sporting Lisbon to United in 2003, Ronaldo's career has been on a steep upward trajectory, and at just 26 years old, it looks like he has a long way to go yet.


    Click here to view Icons' exclusive range of personally signed Cristiano Ronaldo photos.

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    Icons Legend of the Week #11: Billy Bonds

    by Al 20. September 2011 09:35

    Icons Legend of the Week #11 is West Ham United hero Billy Bonds.

    Billy Bonds made an incredible 793 first-team appearances for West Ham United over 21 seasons. The Hammers legend was a passionate and tough-takling leader and an inspiration to his teammates. When Bobby Moore departed for Fulham in 1974, Bonds was an obvious choice to replace him as captain. He held on to the position for a full decade, during which he led West Ham to two FA Cup triumphs.

    In 1988, at the age of 41 years and 255 days, Bonds reluctantly hung up his boots as a knee injury finally got the better of him. His legacy lives on at West Ham, but it was at Charlton Athletic that he started his career. He left school at 15, and having joined the groudstaff at Charlton, he worked his way through youth and reserve teams to become a part of the first-team squad just before he turned 18. After 95 league appearances for the Addicks, West Ham boss Ron Greenwood parted with £50,000 to take him across the Thames to the Boleyn Ground in 1967.  

    Bonds started life at West Ham as a right-back, before he was switched to midfield to partner Trevor Brooking in 1970. He was at his peak in the early seventies, and in the 1973/74 season he was West Ham's top scorer with 13 league goals, including a hat-trick against London rivals Chelsea. Bonds was known for his combative, tireless style of play, but he coupled his physical and mental attributes with a fine footballing brain and intelligent use of the ball.

    In his first season as captain Bonds led West Ham to FA Cup glory with victory over Fulham. In 1976 he was the inspiration behind West Ham's European Cup Winners' Cup run, which saw them finish runners-up after defeat to Belgian side Anderlecht in the final. West Ham were enjoying the most glorious era of their history. At international level, however, Bonds was overlooked. He appeared for England under-23s twice, but the closest he got to a full international cap was as an unused substitute in a World Cup qualifier against Italy in 1977.

    West Ham were relegated from the top flight in 1978, but they still managed to win the 1980 FA Cup as a second division side, beating first division Arsenal 1-0 thanks to a Trevor Brooking goal. Bonds, playing at centre-back since 1977, captained the East Londoners as they made their return to the top flight the following season, and played out the remaining years of his career with West Ham in the top flight.

    In over two decades at West Ham, Bonds firmly established himself as a club legend. He won 'Hammer of the Year' in 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1987, and was appointed MBE in 1988. He even returned to West Ham in 1990 for a four-year stint as manager, leading them to a comfortable mid-table finish in the Premier League before choosing to resign. Undoubtedly, however, Bonds finest achievements at West Ham came as a player, when he guided them through on of the most glorious eras in their history.


    To view Icons complete range of Billy Bonds signed photos click here.

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    Forward Friday: Sir Geoff Hurst

    by Al 9. September 2011 06:53

    Author of the most celebrated moment in English football history, Sir Geoff Hurst is a national icon.

    As all English football fans will be aware, Hurst's defining moment came in extra-time of the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. Leading 3-2 thanks to Hurst's famous 'ghost goal', England were on the cusp of making history, and when he broke free of the German defence to blast home his third and England's fourth with the last kick of the game, victory was sealed. The moment was immortalized by Kenneth Wolstenholme's legendary BBC television commentary:

    "And here comes Hurst. He's got… Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's four!"

    With that goal, Hurst secured the only hat-trick ever scored in a World Cup final. This from a man who was originally named in Alf Ramsey's squad as back-up to Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt. Indeed, Hurst's international debut only came five months before England hosted the World Cup, and while he was already an established favourite at West Ham United, he was a relative unknown at international level.

    The Lancashire-born striker began his club career at West Ham in 1959. He started out as a midfielder but was soon converted by manager Ron Greenwood. In the four seasons that preceded the 1966 World Cup, Hurst scored 67 goals in 145 First Division appearances for the Hammers. He also picked up an FA Cup winners medal in 1964 and won the European Cup Winners' Cup against 1860 Munich the following year.

    Hurst's club form guaranteed him a place in Alf Ramsey's World Cup squad of 22 but, as expected, it was Greaves and Hunt who started in the group games against Mexico, Uruguay and France. Hurst's lucky break came when, during the England's 2-0 victory over France, Greaves required stitches on a badly gashed leg. Hurst was called up in his place for the quarter-final against Argentina, and he made himself a hero when his near post header in the 78th minute secured a 1-0 victory for the hosts.

    Together with Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, Hurst completed a trio of West Ham players in the England line-up, and with Greaves still sidelined, the team maintained its East London spine for the semi-final against Eusebio's Portugal. Again, Hurst played a crucial role, providing the assist for the second of West Ham teammate Moore's brace as England triumphed 2-1.

    As the final approached, news of Greaves' return to fitness broke to the media, who started calling for the prolific Spurs frontman to be reinstated at Hurst's expense. Ramsey's decision to stand by Hurst in the face of growing pressure was a bold one, but one that would be emphatically vindicated.

    It was West Germany who started brightest in the final, with Helmut Haller giving them the lead after 12 minutes. Hurst equalised six minutes later after heading home a smartly-taken free-kick from Bobby Moore, and after Mark Peters gave England the lead with less than 15 minutes to play, only a last minute leveler from Wolfgang Weber prevented an England victory in normal time.

    Hurst's second strike is another unforgettable moment in World Cup history, as his shot in the first half of extra-time crashed off the underside of the bar and was controversially adjudged to have crossed the line. Goal-line technology has since been applied to conclude that the ball had, in fact, not fully crossed the line, but that is a minor detail to England fans. Ramsey's side were on course for victory, and as the final second's ticked away and the elated home crowd began to trickle onto the pitch in celebration, Hurst broke away for his legendary hat-trick goal.

    In an international career that continued until 1972, Hurst scored 24 goals in 49 appearances. For West Ham he scored 252 goals in 499 before seeing out his playing days at Stoke City, West Brom and Seattle Sounders in the US. He was knighted and awarded an MBE for his services to football. But he will forever be associated with that magical day in 1966.  

    Forward Friday: La Pulga, Leo Messi

    by Al 26. August 2011 07:34

    Having just completed our sixth signing session with Leo Messi, the Argentinean was an obvious choice for this week's Forward Friday. Messi signs exclusively with Icons, and you can check out his amazing new range here.

    "I've run out of adjectives to describe him," confessed Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola back in March 2010. Indeed, the brilliance of Leo Messi is not easy to put into words. With every season that passes, the best player of his generation strengthens claims that he is the best of all-time, and the eulogies that cascade his way are wholly justified.

    Messi is beyond hyperbole. Combining sensational speed and close control with phenomenal balance and power, he is an utterly devastating force. His technical prowess is almost superhuman. The ball can appear glued to his feet as he glides effortlessly past defenders, and when he's not smashing the ball into the net, he's expertly carving out chances for his teammates to do it for him.

    FIFA Ballon d'Or winner in 2010, Messi, 24, has already helped Barcelona to five La Liga titles and three Champions League wins, including a double last season. Since he was handed the departing Ronaldinho's iconic number 10 shirt at the start of the 2008/09 season, Messi has scored an incredible 141 goals in 161 games. During that time Barcelona have claimed a hat-trick of La Liga titles.

    Messi was born in the Argentinian city of Rosario on 24th June 1987 to a factory steel worker and a part-time cleaner. His life-changing move to Barcelona came in 2000 at the age of 13. Astonished by the level of ability he demonstrated on trial in Catalonia, Barcelona's sporting director Carles Rexach hurriedly scribbled out a contract on a napkin and - several signatures later - Messi was enrolled at Barcelona's renowned La Masia youth academy.

    His first-team breakthrough came under Frank Rijkaard. Having already featured in friendlies as a 16-year-old, Messi made his league debut on 16 October 2004 against RCD Espanyol. At 17 years and 114 days he became the youngest player ever to appear in a La Liga match.

    It didn't take him long to break into the Argentina set up either. At the 2005 under-20 World Cup the explosive Messi fired six goals and was named the winner of the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe as Argentina emerged triumphant. That August, Argentina manager José Pékerman handed the young prodigy his senior debut in a friendly against Hungary, but within a minute of coming on as a substitute in the 63rd minute, Messi swung an arm at a defender tugging his shirt and was sent off. It was an acrimonious start to an international career that has yet to scale the great heights he is accustomed to at club level, but at 24, Messi has time on his side.

    Picking out highlights from a career bursting with glorious moments is not easy, but amid comparisons to the great Diego Maradona, April 2007 seems a good time to start. Up against Getafe in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey, Messi picked up the ball just inside his own half, and with his mop of long hair streaming behind him, he produced a carbon copy of Maradona's legendary solo goal against England at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. A few weeks later he even reproduced Maradona's infamous 'hand of God' moment when his blatant handball past Espanyol goalkeeper Carlos Kameni was allowed to stand.

    "He is my Maradona", says Diego of his heir apparent. But the 'new Maradona' looks destined to overtake his idol.

    Forward Friday: The Million Pound Man, Trevor Francis

    by Al 12. August 2011 04:30

    Trevor Francis' career-defining moment came in February 1979, when he was transferred from Birmingham City to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest for a seven-figure fee totaling just over £1m.

    Trevor Francis will always be remembered as England's first million pound player, but that landmark transfer should not overshadow a long and successful career.

    Francis joined Birmingham City as a schoolboy, and after making his debut in 1970 at the age of 16, he set about establishing himself as one of the most talented English players of his generation. He scored four goals in a single game before he had turned 17, and finished his first season in the Second Division with 15 goals from 22 games. The following season Francis was ever-present as the Blues won promotion to the First Division. 

    Francis remained with the Blues for six seasons in the top flight, and by the time he left for reigning champions Forest in 1979, he had scored a total of 133 goals in 329 games. Nimble, skilful and prolific; he remains the second-highest scorer in the club's history. He also played his way into the England set-up, making his debut under Don Revie against Holland in 1977.

    In 1978 Francis left the Midlands and went on loan to the Detroit Express in the North American Soccer League (NASL). He scored 39 goals in just 38 appearances, and joined the likes of Franz Beckenbauer in the NASL first XI. He joined Forest on his return to the England, though he would return to Detroit for another loan spell in the summer of 1979.

    That year Francis played a crucial role in Forest's famous European Cup win. Clough's boys came up against Swedish side Malmo in the final in Munich, and just before half-time Francis nodded home a John Robertson cross to put them in front. Forest held on to win 1-0, and match-winner Francis achieved legendary status. A giant picture of the moment he stooped to head the ball in to the net remains on display at Forest's City Ground stadium to this day.

    Francis missed out on Forest's second consecutive European Cup win in 1980 with an achilles problem, and with injuries limiting his playing time at Forest, he was sold to Manchester City in 1981, this time for £1.2m. Injury problems persisted, but Francis still managed 12 goals in 26 league games at City and earnt a place in the 1982 England World Cup squad, where he scored twice before England's elimination in the second group phase.

    Francis duly left England and joined Italian side Sampdoria for £700,000. He won the Coppa Italia in 1985 with Sampdoria before joining Atlanta. He impressed in Italy, and in 2008 England manager Fabio Capello hailed Francis as the best English player ever to have played in Serie A. But after managing just one goal in 21 appearances for Atlanta, Francis returned to Britain in 1987 with Scottish giants Rangers, managed by former Sampdoria teammate Graeme Souness. Later that year he signed for Queens Park Rangers, where he became player-manager in 1988, before taking on the same role at Sheffield Wednesday for the final four seasons of his playing career.

    Francis guided Wednesday to an excellent third place finish in 1992, and led them to FA Cup and League Cup finals the following year. In 1994, however, he was sacked after a 13th place finish. He hung up his boots that year at the ripe old age of 40. He stayed in management though, and took charge at his spiritual home of Birmingham City between 1996 and 2001, before taking the reins at Crystal Palace from 2001 to 2003.

    In a playing career that spanned 23 years, Francis scored a total of 229 league goals in 623 appearances. He also won 52 England caps, scoring 12 goals.

    For the million pound man, these are the numbers that really matter.

    Icons at Total Football Show 2011

    by Finbarr 4. July 2011 10:28

    The Icons team are delighted to announce our presence at the Total Football Show, taking place later this week in Telford, Shropshire. We'll be at stand E1 of the expo, which will also be attended by such football luminaries as Gary Speed, Ade Akinbiyi, Kevin Phillips and Steve Bull. Icons will be taking a full range of signed merchandise, available at fantastic prices. The event, which runs from 8th - 10th of July, will feature guest talks by the aforementioned players, as well as referees' chief Keith Hackett, former Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee and Walsall coach Dean Smith. 

    As well as having the chance to pick up some great merchandise and advice from the seminars, attendees will be able to watch two underage football tournaments and participate in twice daily coaching sessions. It really is a carnival of football for those who can't wait for the beginning of the new season. Tickets are available from Ticket Web and are priced at £7.50 for adults and £4 for concessions. Further information on the event is available on the official website, where the event organisers are also giving away a signed Iniesta shirt, courtesy of Icons. Come on down to say hello to the Icons team at stand E1 and get to see some of the great products on our website first hand. See you there!

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    Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

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