With Everton trailing Manchester United by 2-0 on Boxing Day of 1997, Howard Kendall tried to summon a Christmas miracle by pulling an unknown 16-year-old striker from the bench for his Premier League debut. That prodigy was Francis Jeffers – hailed as Everton's biggest talent for a generation – and it promised to be the start of an illustrious career. Unfortunately, Christmas miracles don't always come off.

While Jeffers spent the following four years establishing himself as one of the most exciting players in British football, scoring 18 league goals in 49 games before he'd left his teens, his big money move to Arsenal proved to be the catalyst for one of the most infamous declines in English football's modern history.

In the summer of 2001, Arsene Wenger described Jeffers as “obsessed with scoring goals” and dropped £11 million on him. In the twelve years between signing for Arsenal and retiring from the game, Jeffers would score just 22 more times. The ‘fox in the box’ could never live up to the buzz; his talent was forgotten and he became a running joke, falling from Champions League nights in London to midweek mediocrity in Malta. His career has become a stark warning to young players prematurely christened by the media as English football's 'next big thing'. 

We decided to find out what actually happened to Francis Jeffers. We spoke to fans, managers and teammates and found a story of bad luck, bad decisions and, ultimately, a talent that was tragically wasted. 

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