Frank Worthington

Kim Malou-Worthington & Frank

I was delighted to see a post from Frank Worthington’s daughter on my Facebook yesterday. We have been FB friends for 10 years and it was wonderful to see a photo of her father looking so well. Many will know that Frank has been fighting that cruelest of cruel diseases Alzheimers for a number of years so I was pleased to hear from him.

As a fan on the terraces, Frank was always one of my favourites. He was a maverick and an entertainer. He was loved by the fans but despite scoring goals for fun, he only got eight England caps. Why? He was a Bowles, a Marsh, a Hudson, a Charlie George. Players beloved by the fans but “difficult” for managers. An easier option for them was a player more willing to fit into a structured formation. He was the antithesis of the dour defenders of the 70s and 80s, journeymen in an eight-man defence with cloggers determined not to lose but with scant regard to winning. He wanted the ball, up-front, and he wanted to entertain.

Many years later when I was planning my 92 club ride, a friend said as if by accident. “Oh, I know Frank Worthington. Would you like me to ask him to sign a shirt?” “Errrr, yesss!” Ann was concerned she might not tell the story well but there was no problem. As soon as Frank, heard about my journey he was, “Great, fantastic, what do I need to do?” Hero. 24 hours later … shirt signed and a note of best wishes from a true legend. Kim was kind enough to stay in touch and that led to yesterday’s photo.

I am an active member of a FB group about English Football in the 80s. We banter about a very difficult decade in the history of football in the UK – Heysel, Hillsborough, tiny attendances, regular violence and hooliganism.

I added the photo and as I write this, just over 24 hours later, it has attracted an incredible 1200 likes and no less than 280 comments. What is AMAZING is that there is not one bad word. Normally if a Spurs player is mentioned, Arsenal fans bleat that he was average and would never have got games in a better team or that when he moved on to York City he cost them their place in the cup etc. None of this at all. Every single post is a variant of “Great player, entertainer, destroyed us single handed, brightened up many a poor game etc.” This unanimity is unheard of among football fans.

Going through the thread was a particularly touching comment from John Charlton who went on play for England Schoolboys and then was signed by Arsenal. He mentioned a trick he saw Frank perform at Sunderland and how he practised it for days on end, time in, time out. I pinged John and he said he would be pleased to be quoted and sent a couple of photos of himself (below). Tragically, a serious injury killed John’s career but he still remembers Frank’s trick and how he practised, practised, practised.

John wrote, “Honestly, Steve, as soon as I saw the post I had to say… I have to attribute part of what I achieved to Frank Worthington… legend. Before the times of YouTube first time I saw a trick when Frank signed for Sunderland catching the ball on his neck. It inspired me to master the trick.. in doing so I then went on to appreciate the game even playing for England Schoolboys… something so small was an inspiration.

You had no You Tube see skills for fun or tricks… it sticks to this day. Inspired me no doubt.. the difference Who doesnt love a bit of magic and get you wanting to be able to do it? It’s about Frank … only the skill etc he impacted lives.”

Pognantly, John concluded, “If you can inspire one person you’ve done something amazing and he did.” What a great testimonial to Frank.

As John says, there were no 247 football channels but here is Frank at his best with perhaps the “Goal of the Century.”

“Even the ref applauded”

John Charlton – England Schoolboys
Steve Moran, Southampton

One of the members who was kind enough to comment on the post was Steve Moran who played with Frank at Southampton. He said that he played with Frank in, “Season 1983/84 Southampton runners up in First Division & semi-finalists in FA Cup! Frank Worthington led the line magnificently and, although he only netted 4 goals, his hold up play led to 25 goals for myself & plenty for David Armstrong & Danny Wallace! Frank was a legend & a gentleman! Love to him & his family xxxx.”

Meanwhile, Andy Hodkinson said, “I was privileged to share a dressing room at 3 clubs with Frank.Bolton, Tranmere and Stockport County. Brilliant player and an even better human being. Great memories.” He asked for his best wishes to be passed on to Frank.

So, there we are – some small signs of gratitude and appreciation of the TRUE LEGEND, an entertainer and a showman on the field and a gentleman off it. It only remains for me to wish Frank the health and happiness he deserves.


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