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Bill Francis dies — Aged 76

It is with heavy hearts, sincere condolences to the family and much sorrow that we record the death, aged 76, of our former player-coach Bill Francis, who was in charge of the team, under the overall control of team manager Graham Starkey in the 1979-80 season and the first part of 1980-81.

A phone call from Graham informed us of the passing of his pal and former colleague, who were together at Oldham when the Colts team was established and who were at Watersheddings together when we first heard of the likes of Ray Ashton, Paddy Kirwan, Terry Flanagan, Andy Goodway, Mick Worrall etc.

“We brought in Bill to add experience and skill to a young side,” said Starkey, who had been at the club some years earlier, first as player-coach and then as coach, and who returned as manager at the end of the decade and brought in Francis as his eyes and ears out on the pitch.

Bill Francis, born in Featherstone, served Wigan, St Helens, Oldham and Salford at club level, and Yorkshire, Wales and Great Britain at rep level,

In total he played more than 520 senior club games (400 for Wigan) and scored 185 tries.

His time at Oldham yielded 49 appearances at centre and stand-off (mainly stand-off) but he will be forever remembered as a quality creator who stepped into the breach following the great job done by Cliff Hill under Starkey in his first spell at Oldham. Griff Jenkins, Jim Challinor, who was taken from us while still a young man, and Dave Cox followed before Starkey came back —- and called in Bill Francis, who had captained Wales and who had won 19 Welsh caps.

Bill made his Oldham debut in August, ’79 in a 22-15 Lancashire Cup win at Swinton when he lined up at stand-off in this team: Murphy; Munro, Larder, Ward, Fitzsimmons; Francis, Patterson; Fiddler, O’Mahoney, Taylor, Forster, Walczak, Hawkyard. Subs: Arnold, Flanagan.

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