IT WAS only two years ago that left-back Daniel Francis was starring in Bradford City’s run to the FA Youth Cup fourth round alongside the likes of Reece Staunton and Kian Scales.

It is fair to say his career has taken a couple of crazy twists and turns since then.

Just over a year after City were knocked out by Chelsea’s youngsters in January 2020, Francis moved to his mother’s homeland, Germany, to play for Rot Weiss Ahlen.

And a few months later, thanks his to Sierra Leonean father, he was called up to their national team, making his debut in a friendly against Ethiopia.

2022 may have topped the lot though, with 19-year-old Francis part of the Sierra Leone squad at the ongoing African Cup of Nations.

His proud mother, Dagmar Waiblinger, told the T&A: “It’s absolutely fantastic for him.

“He didn’t actually make the line-up (for the opening group game) against Algeria on Tuesday, but if he had been playing, I think my heart would have stopped, as it was such an intense game.

“I’ve been on the touchline watching his games for years, and it never stops affecting you.

“He would love to get on the pitch (Sierra Leone still have Group E games against Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea to come), but he’s just really excited to make the squad and be out in Cameroon.

“He’s played in a couple of friendlies for them against Ethiopia and Morocco and he’s part of a 28-man squad, which is slightly bigger than normal due to Covid.

“He’s in that squad alongside (former Premier League and one-cap England defender) Steven Caulker, so it really is a fantastic opportunity for him.”

Caulker stood out in Sierra Leone’s brilliant 0-0 draw with Algeria on Tuesday, and Francis’ mother said: “Algeria are the reigning champions and they’re often the biggest test in Africa.

“But the players who played on Tuesday were so composed. and the keeper (Mohamed Kamara) was amazing.

“Sierra Leone are massive underdogs, and this is their first AFCON since the mid 1990s, but they showed in the qualifiers for this year’s tournament that they could give the best teams a game.

“In one of them, they came from 4-0 down against Nigeria to draw 4-4 for example.”

As for Francis’ journey from Bradford to AFCON, his mother explained: “I’ve been in Bradford for 21 years, ever since Daniel’s father got a job at the university here. I’m a midwife myself.

“Daniel played for Westwood Juniors as a boy, before joining Leeds United’s academy, and then Bradford City’s.

“He had a fantastic time at the club, especially that FA Youth Cup run, where they beat Rochdale, Carlisle and Stoke before losing to Chelsea.

“He moved to Germany because he wanted to play in a men’s team, rather than at Under-18s and U19s level, and he trialled at Rot Weiss Ahlen, who are in the fourth tier, before moving there permanently last February.

“He got into the line-up pretty much straightaway and was playing every week, eventually helping them avoid relegation last season.

“Sierra Leone then came looking for players with links to the country that played around the world, and they invited him to training camps.

“He impressed there and that led to him being called up for the national side.”