Frank Worthington: life and career highlights of Yorkshire-born ex-Leicester City footballer who has died, aged 72

Worthington, who also played for Leeds United and Huddersfield Town, had a knack for scoring spectacular goals

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 11:16 am

Former professional footballer turned after dinner speaker Frank Worthington has died, aged 72.

The West Yorkshire native had a long and successful career in the beautiful game - playing in 22 consecutive Football League seasons and clinching four promotions.

Worthington, who made his League debut with Huddersfield Town, was capped eight times by England and was once likened to George Best by a former manager.

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His long list of clubs include Leeds United and Bolton Wanderers but it is perhaps his five-year stay at Leicester City during the mid-70s he is best remembered.

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Known for his colourful lifestyle on and off the pitch, Worthington was a natural showman and rarely failed to entertain the crowds during and after his playing career.

Who was Frank Worthington?

Worthington was born in the West Yorkshire village of Shelf, halfway between Bradford and Halifax, on 23 November 1948 and was destined to become a professional footballer.

His father Eric was released by Manchester United before the Second World War and went on to play for Halifax, and his mother Alice played for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Both his older brothers Dave and Bob played in the Football League for Grimsby Town and Notts County respectively, while Worthington also had a younger sister, Julie.

A born showman, Frank Worthington was unashamedly non-establishment and hit the headlines as much for his off-field exploits as he did for his rarefied talents on it.

Frank Worthington, who made his League debut with Huddersfield Town, was capped eight times by England and was once likened to George Best by former manager Ian Greaves. (Pic: PA)

His Football League career spanned three decades between 1966 and 1988 - and he enjoyed life in the fast lane away from the game, typified by his nickname ‘Elvis’.

Worthington married first wife Birgitta, from Sweden, in 1973 soon after the birth of their son, Frank Jr, and their daughter Kim Malou was born in 1974.

He is also survived by second wife Carol, daughter of former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Noel Dwyer, whom he married in 1986 following a long friendship.

What clubs did Frank Worthington play for?

Worthington's long list of clubs include Leeds United and Bolton Wanderers but it is perhaps his five-year stay at Leicester City during the mid-70s he is best remembered. (Pic: PA)

Worthington started out at Halifax, like his brothers, but local rivals Huddersfield Town enticed him to sign schoolboy forms with them instead.

He made his league debut aged 18 in 1967 and scored 19 goals for the Terriers during the 1969-70 season to help them win promotion to the old First Division.

Then-Liverpool boss Bill Shankly was ready to break the club’s record transfer fee to sign Worthington for £150,000 in 1972, but a failed medical due to high blood pressure scuppered the deal.

Still determined to get his man, Shankly sent Worthington to Majorca for a relaxing holiday with the aim of trying again, but the 23-year-old succumbed to temptation on the island resort and continued to party instead.

He failed a second medical on his return to Anfield and later admitted in his aptly titled autobiography, ‘One Hump or Two?’, that it was the only regret of his career.

After his Liverpool setback, Worthington joined Leicester where he stayed for five years and made more than 200 appearances, scoring 72 goals.

From there he went on to play for Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Sunderland, Southampton, Brighton, Tranmere Rovers, Preston North End and Stockport County.

Worthington also had spells as a player in the United States with Philadelphia Furies and Tampa Bay Rowdies, plus a later stint in South Africa for Cape Town Spurs.

He had a spell as player-manager at Tranmere and went on to play the game at lower levels with Chorley, Galway United, Weymouth and Guiseley among others.

Did Frank Worthington play for England?

All eight of Worthington’s England senior caps came when he was playing for Leicester City.

His colourful character shone through when he received a late call-up by Sir Alf Ramsey for the England Under-23s squad in 1972.

Worthington greeted the World Cup-winning manager for the first time at Warsaw airport dressed in a green velvet jacket, floral shirt, leather trousers and cowboy boots.

What was Frank Worthington’s best goal?

He scored a career-defining goal for Bolton against Ipswich in 1979, when, with his back to goal on the edge of the penalty area, he flicked the ball up over his head to evade a clutch of defenders and swivelled to plant a volley into the bottom corner.

It was a magical effort, replayed regularly for years after, while Worthington typically insisted he had scored plenty of better goals that had not been captured by the television cameras.

What has Frank Worthington’s family said after his death?

Worthington’s wife Carol paid tribute to the much-loved football showman, who died in hospital in Huddersfield.

“Frank brought joy to so many people throughout his career and in his private life,” Carol Worthington said. “He will be greatly missed by everyone who loved him so much.”

Further tributes followed, including one from former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker who offered his condolences on Twitter following the death of his “boyhood hero”.

“Profoundly saddened to hear that Frank Worthington has died. He was my boyhood hero when he was at @LCFC,” Lineker said.

“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).”