‘Hello, hello; Frankie Wortho’
It seems that every few days a footballing legend is leaving us, today we learnt of the sad passing of a City legend, the one and only Frank Worthington. Frank came to Leicester City in the 70’s and soon became a City fan’s favourite with his rock-star looks and his amazing football skills. Jimmy Bloomfield brought Frank to Filbert Street in 1972 to be a member of the side that played what the media dubbed ‘champagne football’: in a team full of characters like Birch and Weller; Frank was the most charismatic of them all.
There were 24 Clubs that Wortho played for making 828 appearances and scoring 260 goals, 210 of those appearances and 72 of the goals were for City, more than for any other Club. Whether he could have achieved more in his career is a moot point, his only honour a second division winners medal with his beloved Huddersfield, he most certainly deserved more. Above all Frank was an entertainer, a showman, a player who loved the footballing lifestyle, he seemed to love the rapport he had with the fans who idolised him. His reputation with the ladies, the booze, the cars, and the clothes were testament to how he loved and lived his life away from football: the title of his autobiography ‘One Hump or Two’ supports that view. He simply lived life to the full.
Those older fans will remember that Baileys Nightclub had a hospitality box at Leicester when the boxes sat above the Filbert Street stand. There were occasions that celebrities appearing at Baileys would attend the match and I remember the Three Degrees appearing on the pitch before kick-off. In those days there were no pre-match organised drills on the pitch before the match, teams ran-out 2 or 3 minutes before kick-off and players did their own warm-ups. On this occasion, Wortho seemed more interested in talking to the pop-star trio than doing his stretches.
Before signing for City from Huddersfield Town, Wortho was due to sign for Liverpool, at that time managed by the legendary Bill Shankly. Wortho failed the medical because of high blood pressure it was reported. Shankly, in his determination to sign the forward, sent him on a week’s holiday to Majorca to relax. Apparently, on his return Frank undertook a second medical, his blood pressure had risen higher, apparently, he had not taken the opportunity to relax but had indulged in more of his favoured lifestyle activities; and so, the transfer fell through: that was to be City’s gain.
To my mind Wortho’s best match for City was on 19 January 1974, a Saturday evening fixture due to the Three-Day-Week when electricity supply was limited to specific areas on specific days. That evening Wortho scored a hat-trick against Ipswich Town. On 22 May that year, I was at Wembley to see Frank line up with his City colleagues Shilton and Weller playing for England against Argentina, Frank scored his first international goal in a 2-2 draw. What a team England put out that night, with Emlyn Hughes captaining the likes of Keegan, Bell, Todd and Brooking. This team was under the caretaker management of Joe Mercer and was full of flair. Don Revie had left the England manager job and his squads, full of yes men and robots, overlooked the likes of Worthington; his total of 8 caps for his country was a travesty given his talents.
When Frank turned up for his first U23 squad, he did so in cowboy boots, red silk shirt and lime green velvet jacket: Alf Ramsey was not impressed as suit or tracksuit were the order of the day.
In the 1980’s I happened to be working in Brighouse, I was taken out by a client to a local pub. We were the only one in the hostelry, when the door opened and in walked a glamourous lady followed by Frank. I had a programme with me for a Charity match I was arranging at Gretton with Birch’s Leicester City All Stars: I had a long chat with the legend and he signed the programme, which I still have. I also have two other mementos: One is a T Shirt I bought about twenty years ago – Party Like a Rock Star; the second a framed signed print my son bought me only last year.
Frank ‘Elvis’ Worthington, thanks for the memories, a true showman. Rest in Peace my hero, may you now meet Elvis and Party Like a Rockstar for evermore.
Article written by Colin Murrant
Today social media has seen numerous posts from fellow City fans equally declaring the hero status for Frank and the inspiration of many from that era to become life long City fans