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He took Rangers seriously – Celtic hero O’Neill’s emotional tribute to pal Trevor Francis

CELTIC treble-winning boss Martin O’Neill has paid a heartfelt tribute to his Nottingham Forest team-mate Trevor Francis.

The former Rangers player passed away yesterday after suffering a heart attack at home in Marbella. He was 69.

Francis joined Rangers early under his Sampdoria team-mate's Ibrox reign


Francis joined Rangers early under his Sampdoria team-mate’s Ibrox reignCredit: SNS Group
Francis lifted the League Cup at the start of the Souness revolution


Francis lifted the League Cup at the start of the Souness revolutionCredit: Getty
Martin O'Neill paid tribute to his old Forest friend


Martin O’Neill paid tribute to his old Forest friendCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

And Celtic icon O’Neill fondly remembered Francis and revealed their contrasting Old Firm support never got in the way of their close bond.

As players they won the European Cup together with £1m man Francis scoring the winner against Malmo in 1979.

He later went on to play for Graeme Souness at Ibrox following a stint in Sampdoria, while O’Neill took over the Hoops hotseat more than a decade later.

And O’Neill revealed his pal was “as big a Rangers fan as I am a Celtic fan” and they’d share banter across the Glasgow divide.

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O’Neill explained: “Trevor was a terrific footballer. He had electric pace and was very, very quick. He could score a goal and he befits the title of the first million-pound player.”

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph he added: “He became a player for Rangers under Graeme Souness and Graeme and he both played in the same team in Italy, so that might have been a bit more difficult for him.

“He was a big, avid Rangers fan himself, but that didn’t stop us from a proper friendship. In fact, we used to laugh about it as much as anything else.

“When I say laughing, don’t get me wrong. Trevor took Rangers seriously; he was as avid a Rangers fan as I suppose I am a Celtic fan, but it didn’t impinge on our relationship at all.

“I think because our paths never really crossed in Scotland, that might have had something to do with it.”

But O’Neill cheekily added: “It might have been different had he been managing Rangers at the same time I was managing Celtic.

“I might not have been speaking to him then!”

But the pair’s friendship was forged during their time at the City Ground and O’Neill publicly paid tribute via his Twitter account where he wrote: “Really devastated to hear the tragic news that Trevor Francis has passed away.

“A phenomenal player, superb teammate and a great friend. Football has lost a true great of the game.”

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