Frank Worthington: Former England striker dies aged 72 following long illness

Frank Worthington in a Huddersfield shirt
Frank Worthington began his career at Huddersfield in 1966, going on to play for more than 20 clubs during his 26-year career

Former England striker Frank Worthington has died aged 72 following a long illness.

Worthington, who won eight England caps and scored twice for the national team, began his career at Huddersfield Town.

He went on to make more than 200 appearances for Leicester City and played for clubs including Bolton, Birmingham City, Southampton, Leeds United and Sunderland.

He also had a spell as player-manager of Tranmere Rovers.

Former Leicester striker and BBC Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker paid tribute, tweeting: "Profoundly saddened to hear that Frank Worthington has died. He was my boyhood hero when he was at LCFC.

"A beautiful footballer, a maverick and a wonderful character who was so kind to this young apprentice when he joined the club. RIP Frank [Elvis]."

Worthington was known as much for his flamboyant antics off the pitch as he was for his maverick talents on it.

He played in 22 consecutive Football League seasons from 1966 to 1987, scoring 266 goals in 882 appearances in all competitions.

In 14 of those campaigns he played in the top division, notching 150 goals in 466 matches, and won the Golden Boot award playing for Bolton in 1978-79 as the leading scorer ahead of Liverpool's Kenny Dalglish and Arsenal's Frank Stapleton.

It was during that season he scored one of the defining goals of his career against Ipswich at Burnden Park in April 1979, juggling the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area before turning, knocking the ball over the onrushing defenders and volleying low into the corner.

He was player-manager of Tranmere between 1985-87 before having a number of short spells at non-league clubs including Chorley and Weymouth. He was player-coach at hometown club Halifax in the 1991-92 season.

He made all eight of his England appearances in 1974, scoring in friendlies against Bulgaria and Argentina.

In a statement, the Professional Footballers Association said: "We are very sad to hear the news about Frank Worthington. He was a great player and great character who lit up the game. He was also a marvellous after dinner entertainer with his football tales.

"Our deepest sympathies to Carol and all his family. Frank will be much missed but never forgotten."

Former Bolton striker Alan Gowling, who provided the assist for Worthington's famous goal against Ipswich, told BBC Radio Manchester: "Frank was a really skilful player. We always used to have a little laugh about the fact I used to do all his running for him while he was doing all the show business bits.

"Frank was up there with the George Bests and people of that ilk in football. He had this image of being the playboy. In fairness to him he enjoyed a social life, but his football came first.

"I'll remember him as a good friend a great footballer with the best left foot I have ever seen on anybody."

In 2016, Worthington's daughter, Kim Malou, announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, something he publicly denied the following day.

In a statement, his wife Carol said: "Frank brought joy to so many people throughout his career and in his private life.

"He will be greatly missed by everyone who loved him so much."

'One of the game's great entertainers' - Phil McNulty's tribute

Frank Worthington will be remembered as one of the game's great entertainers, a magnificently gifted striker with a colourful lifestyle that made him revered by team-mates and loved by supporters everywhere.

Ian Greaves, his manager at Huddersfield Town and Bolton Wanderers described him as "the working man's George Best."

There were similarities on and off the field but nothing must ever disguise or downplay the wonderful natural ability that made the tall Worthington one of the game's most silky and effective attackers.

He graced a host of clubs throughout his career but even that may path may have taken a different turn when he moved from Huddersfield Town to Liverpool for £150,000 in summer 1972. The traditional signing pictures were taken with Liverpool manager Bill Shankly and his then right-hand man Bob Paisley only for Worthington to fail the medical on the grounds of "high blood pressure."

Frank Worthington signing for Liverpool in 1972 - before the deal collapsed
Frank Worthington signing for Liverpool in 1972 with Bill Shankly (left), assistant Bob Paisley (centre) and club secretary Peter Robinson (right), before the deal collapsed

Who knows how he would have fared at Anfield but Leicester City, who he joined shortly afterwards, and all those clubs he subsequently played for were eternally grateful that they were able to benefit from the services of this one-off maverick - he even had a picture of his idol Elvis Presley on his desk when player-manager at Tranmere Rovers - who brought excitement and entertainment wherever he went.

Worthington only won eight England caps but he played in an era when unpredictability was often greeted with suspicion.

He enjoyed a glorious career in which he stayed true to his footballing principles that the game was about entertainment and enjoyment and everyone who witnessed him in action will be glad that he did.

The passing of a club legend - Worthington tributes

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