FRANK Worthington was one of football’s genuine entertainers and it was a privilege to witness his season at The Goldstone between 1984 and 1985.
An all-too-brief England career which saw him win eight caps in 1974 was a long way behind him by the time his former Huddersfield teammate Chris Cattlin secured his signature for Brighton, but what the legs could no longer do, the brain more than made up for.
He was on the scoresheet in only his second game, when Notts County were beaten 2-1, and went on to make 30 appearances (plus five as sub) scoring eight times in total.
In June 2013, in the Huddersfield Examiner, Cattlin told interviewer Doug Thomson: “He did a good job for me. Frank wasn’t only a great player, but a great bloke as well, a dedicated trainer and a great bloke to have around a club.”
It was only a brief stop-off in a 20-year career which saw him score 236 goals in 757 league games. Add in games he also played in the United States with Philadelphia Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies, in South Africa, Sweden and in English non-league, and the games total amounts to an amazing 828.
Halifax-born Worthington’s father was a pre-war professional and his two brothers, David and Bob, were also professionals. Unlike his brothers, the hometown club dithered over signing Frank and Huddersfield Town jumped in and secured his signature.
After manager Ian Greaves selected him for the opening fixture of the 1969-70 season, he clocked up 100 consecutive appearances for the Terriers.
The flamboyant Worthington famously almost joined Liverpool in 1972 but the deal was called off when he failed a medical due to a reported high blood pressure reading.
Liverpool signed John Toshack instead while Worthington went to Leicester City for £85,000.
Having made nearly a quarter of a million pounds from the sale of David Nish to Derby County, Leicester boss Jimmy Bloomfield had a useful kitty which he splashed on Worthington, Dennis Rofe, Keith Weller, Jon Sammels and Alan Birchenall.
Worthington scored on his Leicester debut at Old Trafford and in an article with Goal magazine on 21 October 1972, he said: “It’s different playing for Leicester City compared with Huddersfield. At Huddersfield the emphasis was on hard running and effort – here it is on skill, and there is a hell of a lot of skill in this side.”
In the same publication two years later, he had finished the 1973-74 season with 25 goals to his name and he was full of compliments for Bloomfield.
“Basically I am a player who relies on skill and that fits perfectly into Jim’s plans,” he said. “I always think that teams reflect the style and outlook of their managers. That’s why Leicester’s philosophy is that there is no substitute for skill.”
His time at Leicester lasted five years and spanned more than 200 appearances before he switched to Bolton Wanderers – where one audacious goal he scored against Ipswich remains a YouTube favourite – and then Birmingham City, helping both sides to promotions.
In 1982 he played for Leeds, the following season Sunderland and the next, Southampton, before pitching up at The Goldstone.
After his season with the Albion, he decided to try his hand at management while continuing to play and had two years at Tranmere. Preston was his next port of call. And he finally called it a day at Stockport in 1987.
Albion’s shirt sponsor during his season with the club was Phoenix Brewery. Quite apt for a player who was famously quoted as saying: “I’ve squandered fortunes on booze, birds and gambling – it’s better than wasting it!”
Tellingly, his autobiography, published in 1995, entitled One Hump or Two, was a classic tell-all romp of a colourful career on and off the pitch.
Worthington’s lifestyle spawned many eye-catching headlines over the years and there is no shortage of stories about the man to be found on the internet.
Follow the links for just three examples.
Pictures from my scrapbook show Worthington in Goal magazine in Huddersfield and Leicester’s colours, in Albion’s Phoenix Brewery-sponsored shirt and a classic headline.