Read first of all the opinions of three footballers who selected the immortal Neil Franklin in their “Dream Team”. When you read these commendations it would be easy to rate Neil Franklin as England’s best ever centre half.
Cornelius “Neil” Franklin was born in Shelton, Stoke-on-Trent on January 24th 1922 and emerged from Stoke City's nursery club Stoke Old Boys. At 15 he won schoolboy international honours as a right half and signed professional forms with Stoke in January 1939. The outbreak of World War II soon gave opportunities to Stoke's apprentices and Franklin made his senior debut at the end of 1939-40, before volunteering with the Royal Air Force in February 1941. He converted to centre half due to the absence of Billy Mould and also took his place as captain. Franklin thrived in his new-found position and his positioning and tackling ability was described by the press as 'perfection'. Franklin helped remove the stereotype of centre backs as being just stoppers as he was very comfortable on the ball and earned his first England cap in February 1945. His goalkeeper Dennis Herod was often left frustrated by Franklin's genius. "He was a great player, but so unpredictable. If he was under pressure he would shout to me Dennis, come on and I would come out expecting him to give me the ball. Nine times out of ten he would do a U-turn and trot off up the field. It was like playing in a minefield. He didn't believe he could have a bad game and was the only one who didn't suffer with nerves."
Back row (L-R): Willie Watson, Neil Franklin, Bert Williams, Bernard Stretton, Alf Ramsey, C Aston
Front row (L-R): Tom Finney, Jack Rowley, Billy Wright (captain), Stan Pearson, Jack Froggatt
Stoke narrowly missed out on their first league title in 1946-47 losing their must win match against Sheffield United 2-1. Stoke manager Bob McGrory was becoming frustrated with his side's best players, and after selling Stanley Matthews to Blackpool his gripe soon turned to Franklin. McGrory wanted him to play the ball earlier rather than keep possession and be more physical in his defensive work which led him to handing the captaincy back to Mould. McGrory's campaign against him eventually led Franklin to announce his intentions to leave Stoke in the summer of 1949. A world record bid of £30,000 from Hull City was mooted but the Stoke directors rejected Franklin's request and he re-signed four games into the 1949–50 season. However, he won a large bet of £250 which gave him the confidence to make an astonishing announcement to the football world. He declined a place in the England squad for the 1950 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, saying that his wife was due to give birth in the summer and he was to spend time playing in Colombia for Independiente Santa Fe. Santa Fe's president, Luis Robledo, had studied at Cambridge and believed that high quality football could put an end to the country's civil war. Robledo also tempted Franklin's Stoke team mate George Mountford to join him in Bogotá. The pair were paid £60 per week plus a huge £2,000 signing-on fee, more than four times the maximum wage in England. England manager Walter Winterbottom tried to persuade him not to go but he ignored his request and left for Santa Fe on May 8th 1950. In Colombia they joined up with Manchester United's Charlie Mitten. Colombia had been expelled by FIFA for poaching players from around the world and the 'rebel' players were also banned by FIFA. On arriving in Colombia Franklin was full of bravado."We'll live finer than any footballers in the world". Despite a good start with Santé Fe problems soon arose. A 6.30 pm curfew meant that they could not socialise and his wife was struggling with the culture and unrest and by August Franklin returned to England.
On his return to England Franklin faced the wrath of the Football Association and Stoke who suspended him indefinitely and then sold him to Hull City in February 1951 for £22,500. Damaged knee ligaments restricted Franklin's movement and he failed to reach his former high standards. In February 1956 he joined Crewe Alexandra and then ended his career with Stockport County and finally non-league Macclesfield Town.