Defiant, hopeful, realistic and regretful – the many sides of Franny Jeffers

There are only small consolations left for Francis Jeffers, footnotes in a career that has mostly been a slow dwindling of hope. He knows the story well enough, so that after signing for Motherwell in the final hours of the January transfer window, he addressed again the nature of his time in the game: Everton, Arsenal, England, then the fretfulness of waning opportunities.

He talks of holding on to his enjoyment of the game, the simple pleasures of training, playing, interacting with his team-mates. Jeffers knows that he cannot leave behind the £8m transfer fee that Arsène Wenger paid, or the description that the Frenchman coined of him being a "fox in the box". They have to be endured, along with the sense that he has lost something – promise, certainly, and maybe the intrigue of a talent that seemed sharp and refined – but not abandoned his faith.

His career is reduced now to seeking meaning, or even comfort, from every training session and match, as though the idea of any higher purpose has been discarded. Jeffers spent the final two months of last year in Australia playing as a guest for Newcastle Jets, and there were offers from the Major League Soccer in the United States, but the chance to move to Scotland seemed like a way to deny the further diminishment of his career.

"When you go to America, they are not as passionate, are they?" Jeffers says. "Here, the fans turn out, they want to see the team play well and give it their all. I'm not the type of lad who would want to go somewhere to wind down. I've had injuries, so I'm not going to go anywhere and think, 'I'm here on my pension'. That's not what I'm about."

So how do we judge him? In the decline of his transfer fees, from £8m to £2.6m to £700,000 to nothing? Or in his goals: 20 in 60 games for Everton, then only 25 since he left Goodison in 2001? Or in comparison with Wayne Rooney: they both went to the same school, De La Salle in Croxteth, both made their Everton debuts at 16, and both made their senior England debut in the same game, against Australia in 2003, but then that was Jeffers' solitary cap (and goal), while Rooney's move to Manchester United only confirmed the brilliant range of his talent, and he now has 69 England appearances to his name.

The Jeffers who is sitting in a hospitality lounge at Fir Park seems removed from these distinctions. His thin, pallid face seems on the verge of melancholy but his narrow eyes are keen and restless and there is a defiance to his slim frame. He is unburdened, and this chance in the Scottish Premier League, where he once spent a futile spell on loan at Rangers, came as a late reprieve. His career will remain a source of regret, but also something that he has come to terms with.

"I've had some good times, playing for England and all that, but the thing that keeps creeping up is that I was not as successful as I should have been," he says. "People say I should've stayed [at Everton] but would my career have been different? I'd just had an ankle operation so I didn't play too many games in my first year with Arsenal. I struggled to get my head round playing in Carling Cup ties and making the odd appearance from the bench. It was difficult to take when you're young and want to impress."

Injuries have curtailed so much of Jeffers' career – particularly recurring ankle problems – that he should be aggrieved by his misfortunes. But then there have been times when his impatience has caused rifts with managers, while his spell at Sheffield Wednesday was disrupted by a red card for headbutting an opponent.

At 30, he is not a troubled figure, just accepting. He has brought some insightful movement and technique to Motherwell's forward line and has already scored once for the club, but it remains a temporary arrangement until the end of the season. It is as if teams are uncertain about the trust they can place in Jeffers, or at least the reliability of his fitness. There have been moments, too, when he has known that doubt himself.

"I've got to be honest, I didn't think I would get back from my last injury, because I missed out on a year's football," he says. "I went to five or six different surgeons who said they couldn't find the problem. In the end, it was only a simple little operation that I needed, and that makes you [savour playing]."

He is resourceful, Jeffers, and an earnest, generous soul. He has accumulated dismay, but also a sense of realism; he has come to an understanding that you take whatever you encounter, and try to hold on to your own spirit. "All of my family go to work every day. I turn up, do a bit of training then go home," he says. "I'm very blessed in that respect, and that's what I have to look at."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas