And he was, our great friend Frank (Worthington) and I say “our” because he was everyone’s friend – unless you were Don Revie (always a downside) – and this young man, whom I first met in 1969 at Huddersfield was Elvis then and was Elvis until today or yesterday whenever the inevitable happened.
Don (Shanks) and I saw him last in Rhyll, somewhere in Wales, me thinking I’m going to Crewe where Stan Bowles began his career to see Stan, but I was misled as if being followed or letting some kind of cat out of the bag, but Stan didn’t like cats – he liked Greyhounds.
Don’t get mixed up here as both these players were ‘magicians’ and both would have been at home in the saloons of Dodge, with Stan playing the Bart Maverick role on the poker table as Frank knocked out a few Elvis tunes as he did on one of our days playing in a Testimonial, it might have been Hungerford, and the post match was getting pretty glum so I asked Frank if he’d give us an Elvis number seeing that this Club House had a stage.
He never took a breath. They had a microphone and was introduced to about a hundred people who had come to pay their respects to those so unfortunate to be involved with the Hungerford situation. These were the kind of things us former players did paying out of our own pockets for those who needed remembering and of course it was although bitter sweet always great to see the likes of Frank, although he would rather be called The King, which he was. I found out on this day he could master a song as incredibly well as he could master that “bag of wind” and boy you could have heard a pin drop as he strolled cross the stage knocking out a very nonchalant version of Are You Lonesome Tonight. This was of course aimed at all of the opposite sex, as Elvis would have copied, as Frank was convinced he was the One and Only Elvis even telling me that he took the King onto the field with him wherever he played whether it be Huddersfield in those early days, Leicester City or as the saying goes: “Frank had more clubs than Jack Nicholas” thinking that moving from club to club was which he did at 1.30am on any given night.
It is a very sad day. No, it is more than a very sad day. In a time where people are fearing this invisible disease or illness, whatever they wish to call it, it hits home the other things that take such wonderful people away from their friends and loved ones. I like to think I was both to Frank, as others might do, because once you had met him the word “love” came into play much like a Beatles or John Lennon song although Frank wouldn’t have swapped Elvis for the incredible Lennon. No way. He wouldn’t hear of it. He was Elvis. When I first clapped eyes on him, I was eighteen in the backstreets of Huddersfield where Leeds Road his home ground was situated. I came from the Kings Road, the most swinging town in the world in the Sixties but seeing Frank made me wonder, as he sat on the bonnet of his sports car as if he was going to be the next James Dean, Steve McQueen and any other Hollywood star available. He would say, “If you rolled them all up into one package they would weigh as much as Elvis.”
Elvis Presley made Frank Worthington. Elvis was Frank’s inspiration and salvation, without Elvis Frank was nothing. I remember the time when Alan Ball, Frank and I had the option to play Bingo and Carpet Bowls or take a walk down Millionaires Row in Hertfordshire?
Alan Ball being captain of Arsenal knew who was who down there although this young lad came from Blackpool. First port of call was Bernie Winters. Bernie was a big Arsenal fan. Bernie was a gentleman. He opened his home to us and poured a drink standing at his bar like we were lifetime members. There was one real funny moment when he asked what we were doing?
AB told his friend that, “The others were busy playing” and Bernie said, “I take it you three don’t play Golf?” And AB replied sharply and comically, “Bernie, no it’s Bingo or Carpet Bowls or both,” which had Bernie take a deep swallow before saying, “It’s a no wonder we haven’t won a World Cup since 1966.” Bernie proved you didn’t have to be a manager to know that he was actually spot on. We had a very warm time with Bernie and I say warm because being under the roof of the Royal Lodge Hotel with you-know-who it was cold, so very cold. A couple of years later I was playing in a match at Fort Lauderdale and as we jumped off the team bus saw his brother Mike standing there, obviously been told about our soiree in north London. I approached him and invited him into our dressing room where our boss Alan Hinton gave him the warm reception I expected, as his brother did us. It is times like this, money or no money, that being a professional footballer gives you such privileges. He brought our record breaking team good luck as Peru’s Cubillas for the first 20 minutes looked like tearing us apart before we took full control and waltzed away 4-0 winners. We were good. We were very good.
Being good takes me back to Frank, as we left Bernie who I am certain was bot pleased and baffled, pleased to see three international visit his home and baffled that Revie had all the others playing Bingo, wouldn’t you be?
It was far too early to go back to the hotel and break up their fun so AB called upon a friend, only this time it was a young lady. We were made very welcome here also and although she was very flattered by us calling in she didn’t expect what was coming up. We sat around drinking and chatting when I thought it the right time for Frank to weave the kind of magic you’ve only seen on the football field – something like his goal for Bolton against four international Ipswich Town defenders – therefore it was Elvis time and AB and I watched this young last completely spellbound, in a very different way than that Ipswich back four.
Yeah, wherever he went he took Elvis with him and as I sit her so very sad and on the verge of feeling sick as to not being able to just touch him goodbye, he put on a performance on this Tuesday afternoon that beat any game of Bingo.
The only thing I can add is that I truly don’t know how I have stopped myself shedding a tear for our lovely, warm, caring, decent, loving friend and even if we could I don’t think I could attend his departure, and that is only because the amount of times that I have looked at my telephone and wanted to call him, but what would be the use, and the only option would be speak to his loving wife Carol – but what can one say to Carol about the man that hasn’t already been said?
All I can say is that I hope she knows how much he was loved, and in cases worshipped, outside of their Huddersfield household. It’s 12.19pm and I promise you Frank ever sip I take of my very first drink is toasting having been lucky enough to have not only known you, but to have enjoyed so much fun in your company – and then there was the HUDSON AND SHANKS FOOTBALL ACADEMY where you proved it was not only the females you had under your spell, but those young lads who you showed all of your magnificent skills. They are now old enough to tell their families that Frank Worthington started off our day at Alsager by giving us his ten minutes of magic – and it wasn’t a song.
This is the first occasion I have written numb with a slight touch of shakiness and I hope this is him thanking me for loving.