Football maverick Frank Worthington famed for his audacious skills on the pitch and his veracious partying off it has died aged 72 after a long battle with dementia, his heartbroken family revealed today.
Considered of English football’s great mavericks, the former Huddersfield, Leicester and Bolton striker died peacefully in hospital in West Yorkshire yesterday.
In an extraordinary 828-game career where he scored 260 goals, the England star was compared to George Best in terms of his footballing talent and love of women and nightclubs.
In his book One Hump or Two he describes some of his greatest goals, including one against Chelsea which he celebrated at a London nightclub where he bumped into Raquel Welch where he had a dance with the American actress who then tried to kiss him.
On another occasion he was fined by Huddersfield Town for hiding exotic dancers in his hotel wardrobe before a big match.
His most famous goal, considered one of the best of all time, came for Bolton against Ipswich Town, where he did a few keepy uppies outside the box before flicking it over his head and volleying it into the net.
His wife Carol paid tribute to the much-loved football showman, saying he ‘brought joy to so many people throughout his career and in his private life’.
Meanwhile Gary Lineker lead the tributes online, dubbing Worthington, who refused to wear shinpads during matches, his ‘boyhood hero’.
Former Huddersfield, Leicester, Bolton and England striker Frank Worthington has died aged 72
Worthington hit the headlines as much for his off-field exploits as his rarefied talents on it, especially in his book One Hump or Two? where he described being wooed by pin-up Raquel Welch
Frank Worthington eventually settled down with model Carol Dwyer, and the couple remained together until his death
Worthington’s wife Carol (pictured together in 2019) paid tribute to the much-loved football showman, who died in hospital in Huddersfield
Unashamedly anti-establishment, Worthington hit the headlines as much for his off-field exploits as his rarefied talents on it.
Worthington won eight England caps and represented over 20 clubs in a long playing career that began with Huddersfield in 1966. He went on to play for Leicester and Bolton.
Worthington’s daughter, Kim Malou, announced on Facebook in 2016 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, but he issued a statement the following day denying that he had the condition.
He said at the time: ‘I have never been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any other neurological disorder or illness.
‘I do have some issues with short-term memory impairment but I have been assured this is not particularly unusual for a man of my age.’
However, his loved ones described how the disease took over his life – leaving him a shell of the charismatic great he once was.
His brother Bob told
Bob said: ‘He asked me a couple of months back: “Do you ever see your parents at all?”
‘I had to remind him, as gently as I could, that he actually meant “our parents” because they were his mum and dad as well.
‘Then I tried to explain that Dad died 40-odd years ago and Mum 25 years ago. “Oh,” he’d say, and then he wouldn’t talk any more.’
Worthington was a fan favourite, much-loved for his outlandish sense of dress and well-reported playboy lifestyle.
Footballer Frank Worthington seen here with his girlfriend at the time, Vicki, and his Lotus sports car. August 1971
Worthington won eight England caps and represented over 20 clubs in a long playing career that began with Huddersfield in 1966. He went on to play for Leicester and Bolton (pictured playing for the Bolton Wanderers)
Worthington also refused to wear shinpads on the pitch, playing with only his socks covering his ankles
One of English football’s great mavericks, Worthington (pictured in 2004) died peacefully in hospital on March 22, his family announced in a statement
An avid Elvis fan – once christened ‘the cowboy’ on an England Under 23 trip – he often donned medallion-man jewellery, paired with a shirt open at the chest, a fedora and buckled leather boots with his hair slicked back with Brylcreem.
He only stopped wearing the medallions when his wife Carol told him ‘it was beginning to look a bit naff’, he earlier said.
Commenting on his escapades in 1985 he said: ‘I admit I have not been an angel, but nothing has ever come before football.’
In 1994, his autobiography One Hump or Two?, detailing his various exploits.
One such anecdote sees him fined one week’s wages by Huddersfield after being caught hiding two female dancers in his hotel wardrobe before a game at Everton.
In another, he recalls joining the Mile High Club with a French woman he had known for 20 minutes on a flight to Los Angeles while playing for Leicester City.
The woman’s husband was asleep in the next seat.
He once admitted that should he have ‘taken things a little easier early on’ he would have progressed in his career further.
He said: ‘I have no complaints about my life and my career so far and no regrets, apart from one thing.
‘If only I had taken things a little easier early on, I would have gone to Liverpool and the sky would have been the limit, but I have never made excuses for anything because that is a weakness.
‘I have always known what I was about and where I was going.’
A statement from Worthington’s family read: ‘It is with great sadness that the death is announced of football legend Frank Worthington (pictured) who passed away last night’
He also refused to wear shinpads on the pitch, playing with only his socks covering his ankles.
Worthington is perhaps best known for his most-famous goal, scored for Bolton against Ipswich at the old Burnden Park in 1979.
He spoke about the goal in his last ever interview in 2016.
He told Sportsmail’s Ian Ladyman: ‘It was against Ipswich and it came to me from a throw-in and I controlled it on my head.
‘Now I am facing my team’s goal with the opponents’ goal behind me. I have four international defenders in tow – Terry Butcher and Russell Osman are right behind me – but I am juggling with it and juggling with it.
‘I am actually edging away from goal at this point, but then all of a sudden I flick it over my head, spin past Butcher and Osman so now they are going totally the wrong way!
‘The ball comes down and I hit it. Bang! Right in the far corner past Paul Cooper’s left hand.
‘As I turned to acknowledge the fans I felt sorry for Butcher, but still I couldn’t resist saying something.
‘I pointed to the Main Stand and said: ‘You could have got a better view of that from over there.’ ‘He wasn’t impressed.’
In that same interview, Worthington told how US actress Raquel Welch tried to kiss him after a game at Chelsea.
He said: ‘Most of my goals weren’t even caught on camera. I scored loads for Leicester. I even used my right foot occasionally.
‘I scored a nice one at Chelsea once in a game we lost, but that’s not what I remember from that day. After the game, guess who I got a strong connection with? Raquel Welch!
‘She spotted me in the players’ lounge and came over. I took her out later to a nightclub. She had a blue tight-fitting leather suit on.
‘I had quite a lot of hair and was a lot younger then. I was wearing some wild clothes and she tried to kiss me on the dance floor. Happily, I didn’t have my moustache at the time.’
A statement from Worthington’s family read: ‘It is with great sadness that the death is announced of football legend Frank Worthington who passed away last night.
‘A spokesman for his wife Carol said Frank died peacefully in hospital in Huddersfield following a long illness.’
His wife Carol Worthington 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.’
Meanwhile, Gary Lineker lead the tributes the footballing great online, taking to Twitter to dub Worthington his ‘boyhood hero’.
He wrote: ‘Profoundly saddened to hear that Frank Worthington has died. He was my boyhood hero when he was at Leicester City.
‘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).’
Football commentator Gary Taphouse added: ‘RIP Frank Worthington. One of the great entertainers, scorer of one of the greatest ever goals.’
Worthington’s former clubs Bolton and Birmingham added their tributes on social media.
‘It is with great sadness that Bolton Wanderers has today learned of the passing of club legend Frank Worthington. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends,’ Bolton tweeted.
Worthington graced Birmingham’s colours from 1979 to 1982, with the Blues quick to add their condolences.
‘The club is saddened to learn of the passing of Frank Worthington aged 72. All of our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,’ Birmingham posted on twitter.
Huddersfield Town Association Football Club’s Twitter account wrote: ‘Everyone at Huddersfield Town Football Club is devastated to hear of the passing of Town legend Frank Worthington.
‘Our thoughts are with his family and friends.’
Leicester were another of Worthington’s former clubs to issue a tribute.
‘It is with great sadness that we heard the news of the death of Leicester City legend Frank Worthington, who passed away on 22 March, 2021,’ the Foxes tweeted.
Southampton hailed Worthington for the joy he took to the south coast in his one-year stint with the Saints.
‘Saints FC is saddened by the passing of Frank Worthington, who lit up The Dell with his talents in 1983/84. Our thoughts are with Frank’s loved ones,’ the club tweeted.
Once described by former Huddersfield and Bolton manager Ian Greaves as ‘the working man’s George Best’, Worthington played in 22 consecutive Football League seasons from 1966/7, scoring 266 goals in 882 appearances in all competitions.
In 14 of those seasons he played in the top division, notching 150 goals in 466 matches, and won the Golden Boot award in 1978/79 as the leading scorer ahead of Kenny Dalglish and Frank Stapleton.
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