Frank Worthington: An appreciation

By SFC Media time Tue 23 Mar History
Photo by The Holley Collection | Frank Worthington

Saints historian Duncan Holley remembers much-loved former Southampton maverick Frank Worthington, who has died aged 72.

Frank Worthington, who has sadly passed away aged 72, only wore Saints colours for one season, but it just so happened to be the most successful ever for the club, as they came close to achieving the league and FA Cup double in 1983/84.

Eventually finishing runners-up to Liverpool in the old Division One and losing semi-finalists to Everton at Highbury, after extra-time, Frank led the forward line to superb effect.

Flamboyant but canny, his extravagant ball skills and sublime close control were of huge benefit to his two young strike partners, Steve Moran and Danny Wallace.

He was a football nomad – Saints were his seventh English club – and there were to be many more before he hung up his boots in the early 90s.

Frank Worthington Terry Curran
Worthington (right) challenges former Saints winger Terry Curran | Photo by The Holley Collection

Starting his career at Leicester City, where the young Gary Lineker was later an apprentice, he has recalled Frank as being “a beautiful footballer, a maverick and a wonderful character who was so kind to me”. Saints fans who saw him play that memorable season will certainly agree with Lineker’s sentiments.

Frank and Lawrie McMenemy eventually fell out at the season’s conclusion, with the latter not really prepared to accept that, along with on-field genius comes inevitable off-field character flaws, and so the old gunslinger with the rock and roll hairstyle was told to leave town. Saddling up and moving on, he joined Brighton in the close season of 1984, but was far from finished despite being past 35.

With Frank, the impression was always that life was for living. The title of his autobiography “One Hump or Two” bears that out, but beneath the razzmatazz and the headlines there was a serious, committed footballer who should have been rewarded with more than eight England caps.

Not surprisingly he became a popular after-dinner speaker until dementia took hold. He came from a large footballing family – his father and two brothers were all professionals – and his wife was the daughter of Noel Dwyer, the Swansea and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper.

Frank Worthington

23rd November 1948 – 22nd March 2021

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