Four Australians have graced Bristol City’s Ashton Gate down the years and now a fifth, teenage winger Marlee Francois, is on the rise at the promotion-hunting Championship club.
Younger brother of Fulham-based Olyroos midfielder Tyrese - 17-year-old Marlee has already broken into the Robins’ U-23s, as he follows an Aussie trend set by David Seal in the 1990s and perpetuated by Nicky Carle and Luke Wilkshire before Socceroos stopper Bailey Wright took the baton.
Francois was brought to the club by former coach Lee Johnson, who was also keen to sign Massimo Luongo earlier this year before being replaced by assistant Dean Holden in July.
The Robins tempted Francois away from Fulham 18 months back after the kid from Campbelltown in Sydney’s west arrived at Craven Cottage along with Tyrese, aged just 10.
“This a club on the rise and they’re giving it a good shot to go up,” said Francois, who trained on a handful of occasions with the first team last season.
“My goal this season is to get to a point where I’m training regularly with the first team, and hopefully make my debut next season.
“The club has been really good to me ever since I arrived.
“They’re a strong, hard working side and the manager likes to see his attacking players also show they can defend at times.
“You have to understand how to play that role.”
A light-framed left-winger known more for his guile and technical qualities than his physical presence, Francois has worked to add strength and power but depends more on quick fleet and fast thinking than brute force.
“Physicality isn’t my main strength so I’ve found ways around it,” he said.
“I try and use my brain better than other players and try and avoid the physical battles.
“I’ve developed a lot with both feet and sometimes I’ll cut in and other times I’ll go the other way.
“Even my coaches know I’m difficult to mark because it’s hard for defenders to know which way I’m going to go.”
There’s no heated rivalry with Tyrese, 20, the attacking central midfielder whose already featured twice in League Cup action for Fulham and is now a regular member of the first team squad at Craven Cottage.
“We’re different types of players - I’m a bit more direct than him while he’s more like a playmaker sliding the ball through.
“I’m more about dribbling and then firing off shots and crosses.
“We don’t have a rivalry as such - we both support each other but drive each other at the same time.”
Contracted until mid-2021, Marlee is hoping to catch the eye of Young Socceroos coach Gary van Egmond as his career progresses.
“I’m still waiting for some contact from the national team but I need to be patient and hope they’ll spot me,” said Marlee who is also eligible to represent England.
“Last year I scored a fair few goals (for the U-18s), and I’ve played about six games this season.
“I just want to keep improving my stats.”