Francis Lee hailed one of Man City's ‘all-time greats' after his death, aged 79
Manchester City have hailed former striker Francis Lee as one of their “all-time greats” following his death at the age of 79.
Lee, who also had a spell as City chairman in the 1990s, died on Monday morning following a long battle against cancer. He scored 148 goals in 330 appearances for the club between 1967-74.
In a statement on their official website, City said: “It is with the deepest sadness and heaviest of hearts we announce the passing of former Manchester City player and chairman Francis Lee.
“Everyone at Manchester City would like to send their condolences to the friends and family of Francis at this very difficult time.”
The reigning Premier League champions described Lee as “a club legend in every sense”.
City said: “He won one First Division title, one FA Cup, one League Cup, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and two Charity Shields during a glittering eight-year spell as a player – a legacy that ensures his position among Manchester City’s all-time greats is secure.”
Lee, who began his playing career at Bolton, joined Derby from City in 1974. He won 27 England caps, scoring 10 goals, after making his full international debut in 1968 and appeared at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
City added: “Franny passed away in the early hours of this morning after a long battle with cancer.
“His wife Gill and children Charlotte, Jonny and Nik say he will be sorely missed and would like to thank everyone for their kind words.
“Everyone at Manchester City would like to send their condolences to the friends and family of Francis at this very difficult time.
“As a mark of respect, flags around the Etihad Stadium and City Football Academy are flying at half-mast. More tributes from the club will follow in the coming days.”
Lee spent eight seasons at first club Bolton, scoring 106 goals in 210 games after breaking into the side at the age of 16, before City splashed out a then club-record £60,000 to sign him in 1967.
Bolton posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “All at Bolton Wanderers are saddened to learn of the passing of former forward, Francis Lee.
“The thoughts of everyone at the club are with Francis’ family, friends and loved ones at this difficult time.”
City sold Lee to Derby for £110,000 in 1974 and in his first match against his former club he scored a spectacular winning goal before helping the Rams lift the First Division title in his first season.
Derby said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of 1974/75 title-winner Francis Lee. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and all who knew him.”
Lee enjoyed huge success as a businessman following his football career – he retired as a player in 1976 – and sold his waste paper recycling company, FH Lee Ltd, for £8.35million in 1984.
After success as a racehorse trainer, Lee bought City from Peter Swales in 1994, but after being lauded by the club’s fans as a returning hero, his spell as chairman turned sour.
City were relegated to the second tier and were on their way down to the third when Lee resigned in 1998.
During his spell as a player with Derby, Lee was involved in an infamous on-field fight with former Leeds defender Norman Hunter and the Match of the Day footage is now a YouTube cult classic.
Lee, whose record of 10 goals scored in Manchester derbies was broken by Wayne Rooney in 2013, was made CBE for services to sport and charity in 2016.