The Leeds Legends

LEEDS UNITED MONTHLY, April 1995, Volume 1 Issue 9.

Frank Worthington

"I thought it was about time I put some of the wild times I spent in football down in print," says Frank Worthington, reflecting on his recent autobiography revelations. Outspoken in his views on both his career and the game in general, the former Leeds man reveals all to our own wild man, Dave Callaghan...

On the football pitch he was often flamboyant and outrageous, and judging by his recent autobiography, former Leeds United star Frank Worthington enjoyed his life away from the game in much the same way.

His book. One Hump or Two, showed up well on the Christmas best seller' list with it's revelations about the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll lifestyle he enjoyed during his time in the game. The book also lifts the lid on some of the darker sides of the national game, with Frank having a go at the greedy superstars who inhabit modern football and the manager who have stifled the talents of many of the most gifted players.

You wouldn't expect anything less from one of the most colourful football characters of his day. Everywhere he played he delighted supporters with his remarkable skills and showmanship. But he is also prepared to speak his mind. Worthington was born at Shelf, near Halifax, into a football-mad family.

"My father, mother and both of my brothers took up the game at some level or other," he says. "I honed my football skills in the streets around our home. We had a make-shift goal in the street outside the house. My dad Eric would always encourage me to aim for the corner of the goal to make sure I beat the keeper."

The family football traditions continue to this day. Frank's nephew, Gary, is now starring for Halifax Town in the Vauxhall Conference. It was with Town's local rivals Huddersfield that Frank made his first impression in the game. He moved onto Leicester City, where he became the hero of the young Gary Lineker. The former England skipper followed Leicester as a lad. A spell at Bolton Wanderers followed before Leeds United came in with a bid for Worthington in the early 1980s.

Frank's stay at Elland Road was brief, but the centre forward became a cult figure. He was instantly recognisable by his shock of swept back hair much in the style of his great hero Elvis and he had designer stubble long before it was popular with a younger generation of entertainers.

The much travelled Worthington joined Leeds in March 1982 form Birmingham City. During his nine months at Elland Road he made 35 appearances and scored 15 goals. He marked his debut in a televised match at Hillsborough against Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday with two stunning efforts. His departure to Sunderland in December 1982 was untimely but in less than a year he'd won a completely new audience of devoted fans.

It is the revelations about sex and drugs which have made all the tabloid headlines immediately after the publication of One Hump or Two. Frank tells us: "I thought it was about time I put some of the wild times I spent in football down in print. I wanted people to know that Paul Merson wasn't the first to be involved in drugs. I admit I snorted cocaine and smoked dope. It was all part of the crazy scene at the time.

Frank also goes on to tell tales of how he bedded a string of seventies supermodels, including Miss Barbados and Mandy Rice-Davies. The former Leeds striker had an impressive scoring record - off the pitch.

"George Best had a reputation with the ladies but I had more than my fair share. There's one story in the book about how I managed to seduce a Swedish teenager and her mother. They were great days."

In between the stories of partying and womanising, Worthington does find time to talk about his football career - and what a career it was. He tells of the many high and low points during the three decades he graced the game.

One of his career highlights was winning the coveted First Division Golden Boot award as top scorer, ahead of Kenny Dalglish. He also writes of the thrill of scoring in an England shirt during one of his all too rare full international appearances.

The lows include many dressing room dramas and boot room bust ups at the 11 Football League clubs he played for and he also reveals the agony of being turned down by Liverpool following problems over his Medical. the signing was all but complete when tests showed Frank was suffering form high blood pressure and the deal was off.

Frank Worthington will always be remembered as a flair player and he saves some of his most savage comments for the managers who refuse to find a place for the most talented performers.

"I've no time for England managers like Don Revie and Graham Taylor. They just seemed determined to squeeze out individual flair. I hope England can find a role for players like Matthew Le Tissier."

Worthington has a pop at the lack of humour in the modern game.

"There just don't seem to be the characters about today. In my day there were big personalities at every club. I think back to people like Tony Currie, Alan Birchenall, Rodney Marsh, Mike Summerbee and Alan Hudson. The list is endless. I think there is too much money in the game now as well. I know it's a short career but the superstars are greedy," he tells us. One Hump or Two is an entertaining read co-written by journalists Nick Cooper and Steve Wells. Cartoon lovers can also see Frank demonstrate his pre-match training routine in a series of flick cartoons. These days Frank is in demand on the after-dinner speaking circuit and if you read his autobiography you can see why. He was quite a player and he can certainly tell a tale.

FACT FILE

Born: November 23, 1948
Leeds League & Cup apps: 35
Leeds goals: 15
Other Clubs: Huddersfield, Leicester, Bolton, Birmingham, Sunderland, Southampton, Brighton, Tranmere, Preston, Stockport
International: England, 8 caps