RIP Frank Worthington, “Love Me Tender”, “It’s Now or Never”

Sad to hear that Frank Worthington had passed away earlier this week, and to see one of Leicester City’s most legendary players ever leaving us all at the age 72. Born in Halifax in 1948, spending his younger years in a footballing family, with his father a footballer, so was his older brothers Bob and Dave.

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His real breakthrough in football came at Huddersfield Town in the late 60’s, and after a while in the 2nd tier, being part of a promotion, spending two years in the top flight before signing for Leicester City in August 1972.

He became an instant hit at Filbert Street, and first noticing his talent in a Saturday televised game v. West Ham on the 30th of December in that first first season. The talk before the game, in Norwegian newspapers, where all about Clyde Best, Bobby Moore and all those West Ham players being the favourites and famous names over here in Scandinavia.

A packed home stadium did see Frank Worthington score, so did John Farrington, Trevor Brooking scored for the opponent. Leicester City were “all white” that season, and it was fantastic to watch as the game became entertaining and leaving behind an impression about a team that had something with them, a bit of flair, not yet to flourish the way it would.

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Leicester had a difficult start but climbed and with Frank Wortington up front it became more and more steady as “the talent” ended the season with 10 league goals in 39 games. The next became the breakthrough season, hitting 20 goals in 42 games, being an ever present in the league line-up.

Frank that season contributed in the race for the FA Cup semi’s, losing to the winners to be, Liverpool, in a two game affair, with the first ending in a 0-0 draw and in the replay Liverpool scored three against a Leicester single goal.

Frank Worthington was a few weeks later handed his full England debut in a game v. N Ireland, winning 1-0, actually playing alongside two other Leicester City team mates, Peter Shilton and Keith Weller, with the latter scoring the only goal of the game.

Frank was also the preferred choice for Don Revie, naming the Leicester City attacker in his ever first eleven for the Euro qualifier v. Czechoslovakia. A great 3-0 win for England but all goals scored after Frank had left the field. He later played against Portugal that same year, coming on in a 0-0 draw and never again played for England, stopped at 8 caps and 2 goals.

Leicester City made progress during the years of Jimmy Bloomfield with great league finishes in 1975/76 (7th) and 1976/77 (11th), Frank continuing scoring and helping the club to become well working in the top flight of English football.

During Leicester City travels to Norway in the mid 70’s, playing friendlies for packed stadiums, and remember them playing Odd and Brann, and being present at Falkum, Skien to watch, I actually cought Frank Worthington, jumping a fence at the stadium, and getting his autograph, and then jumping back to see the game, he laughed and signed my book, great memory.

The next season (1977/78) was to be his last at Leicester City, and also sad to see his idol, Elvis, leaving us all in August 77, strangely Frank left a few weeks after to join Bolton Wanderers in the 2nd tier, and everyone “over here” was shocked with the fact that our biggest star had left the club for a life outside the top flight. Leicester City never managed to replace their front man and the season ended in a terrible relegation after another Frank (McLintock) had taken over, also very surprisingly, from our favourite Jimmy Bloomfield, a through legend for Scandinavian fans, most of us becoming fans during his years in management at the club.

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After Frank Worthington left Leicester City he did live a life as a “nomad” moving almost every second season to new clubs, playing for Bolton, Birmingham, Sunderland, Leeds and Southampton all in the top flight, winning a League runners-up medal while at The Dell and with The Saints.

After 1984 he continued playing in lower league teams such as Brighton, Tranmere, Preston and Stockport, also being the man in charge while at Prenton Park. In the summers he also moved around in different countries having short spells in the NASL, Sweden and South Africa.

His time in Sweden is greatly remembered, turning out for Mjallby in Allsvenskan, the year was 1980 and his contribution was to be remembered scoring four goals in twelve games for the Swedes, but also his “escapades” outside football is well described. A record audience of 7200 turned up for his debut.

The fact that Frank Worthington was turned down by Liverpool, might have bothered him a bit, but later in life he turned out in a Liverpool shirt, playing in a Chris Lawler special selection at Ceamas Bay, also seen in Manchester United colours being a guest player during an Australia tour in 1984.

“Worthy” later in life became a popular “After Dinner Speaker” and his latter days in life was spent back in Huddersfield, often seen on Terriers home games together with palls from his playing days at the club.

Nothing better to end this little tribute to Frank Worthington with two Elvis Presley songs “Love Me Tender” and “It’s Now or Never”, listening you will think of those wonderful goals scored, his runs and dribbles against great opponents, just simple and easy, a great footballer, a legend, RIP Frank Worthington!

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