Francis planning to move up with Lynn
Chris Lakey Joe Francis says his headline-grabbing exploits in front of goal have strengthened his resolve to play professional football - but it doesn't mean he's about to say goodbye to King's Lynn.
Joe Francis says his headline-grabbing exploits in front of goal have strengthened his resolve to play professional football - but it doesn't mean he's about to say goodbye to King's Lynn.
The Linnets' hitman made the step-up from Ridgeons League football look easy last season, scoring 22 times in just 38 starts - plus one in the FA Cup - and earning himself the Southern League player of the season award.
His performances attracted interest from West Brom, Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Peterborough - but Francis was happy enough to accept an improved contract from King's Lynn as a reward for his exploits.
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And he believes the Linnets could provide him with the route to professional football, as Keith Webb seeks to build on his title-winning first season by establishing the club as a major force in Conference North next season.
“I don't really feel any pressure from what happened last season,” said the 21-year-old. “If it happens, it happens.
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“Obviously I want to play league football one day, but you never know, I might be able to do it with King's Lynn. We are geared up to go up to league football and if I do it then brilliant.
“If the chance comes around then obviously I would like to take it. It is not down to me, it is down to the club because I am under contract. I am happy to be here for the next season at least.”
Francis joined Lynn last summer from Woodbridge, coming off a 27-goal season, but soon settled into Southern League football.
“I'm very happy with how it went, it exceeded all my expectations,” he said. “I knew it was going to take time for me to get into it but then when I did get into it, it just went from there.
“It went from good to brilliant really, I couldn't have asked for any better.
“I think over the season I have got fitter and stronger, I think I am quicker and my decision-making has got a lot better, but then that's down to the people I am playing with, because everything was that much quicker and I had to grow up quickly, and I think I did that - I think after 10 games I was there, more or less sorted.”
However, Conference North is likely to be a different kettle of fish altogether, which is why Francis has been pumping the weights and putting in work in the pool in preparation for the coming months.
“I am always learning,” said Francis, who ran the Woodbridge 10K in 42 minutes just three weeks after the season finished.
“I have Webby and Gloves (Lee Glover), who give me advice all the time, and I am working with players the majority of whom have been professionals - they are always giving me tips and stuff and helping me through games. The best thing I have noticed is they are constantly talking to me when I am playing and I need that because I am one of the younger ones playing, so it is nice to have that experience playing alongside you.
“I have been putting a lot of work in in the gym over the close season because I know this league is going to be quite a bit tougher than our last one, physically more than anything, so I have been trying to put some work in to cope with it right from the off rather than have a few games to get into it.
“I want to hit the road running. I am in the gym every other day for two or three hours and then have a swim afterwards.
“But I don't think there will be anyone who has six or seven weeks off. Everyone will be doing something over the summer to keep themselves ticking over.”
While not everyone at King's Lynn was enamoured with the decision to place the club in Conference North for the new season, Francis is happy to travel into new territory - where he hopes his scoring touch will be news to the opposition.
“Maybe they won't have heard much about me in the north and I can go in there and start afresh and hopefully get myself a new reputation in that league,” he said.
“I am pretty confident as an individual that I can go up and play at that level, but then I don't think individually I take the reputation with me - I think the whole King's Lynn team takes the reputation with us.
“I think as a team we will be feared by a few clubs. We have massive support and it is just a great club. Everyone will be wanting to play us.
“Last season we had eight away games on the trot. This season it won't be like that and if we start at home it will be brilliant. We will have a massive crowd there cheering us on and hopefully we can start off on a roll.
“We have the winning habit - we are unbeaten since early January so as long as we take it into next season we will be fine.”