Our favourite cabbie, and mate of J&S – conducted this interview with the genius that is Frank Worthington recently for Made in Brum. Gabbie has kindly given us permission to re-publish here.
Joining me today is one of the games most colourful characters, he’s a Brazilian in English form, he was mesmerising, mercurial and charismatic. He could charm the birds from the trees, the pubs and the night clubs. It’s the one and only Frank Worthington.
Gabs: Let’s start at the beginning big man, where are you from?
Frankie: I was born in Self, Halifax Gabs, on the 23rd November 1948 into a foot-balling household. I had a normal upbringing but very much football orientated. In fact, my Dad was a pro and he was on the books of Manchester United. He never quite made the first team, although he did play for Halifax and Lincoln City where he was known as Cannon ball Worthy. His war service saw him at Arnhem amongst other places.
Gabs: Who were your footballing heroes?
Frankie: George Whitelaw of Halifax and Willie Carlin of Derby. George was a bit of a showman. As a kid I used to travel to Old Trafford to watch Man Utd just after the Munich air disaster of 1958.
Gabs: Tell me about your times at Birmingham City Frank?
Frankie: I have many fond memories Gabs. I loved it at the Blues and the fans were fabulous. I loved them and they loved me and it was a great side. The Birmingham music scene was magnificent as well, with ELO, Jeff, Bev and Roy Wood. I believe they changed the face of music. They were halcyon day’s. In fact I meet my wife whilst playing for Blues. Carol Dwyer was her name and she comes from Wolverhampton.
Gabs: Who would you most like to have a 1-2-1 with Frankie?
Frankie: Elvis is the King!! I’m the worlds biggest fan. A mate of mine, Peter Rudge, got me a Elvis neck chain off the main man’s Dad, Vernon. On it is inscribed T.C.B, which is on Elvis’s grave. It stands for ‘Taking Care of Business’.
Gabs: Quite appropriate for you big man, coz you always’ did! Frankie breaks into a chorus of ‘It’s now or never’; that’s Elvis’ favourite he tells me. If you could jump into anyone’s body and be him for a game, whose would it be, and in what match?
Frankie: The great man, Pele. I have had the pleasure of meeting him. He is such a nice guy and a humble man. In fact, I once had an opportunity to play in Brazil myself, Gabs.
Gabs: Frank, you were made for that style, how come you didn’t?
Frankie: Let’s just say ‘The Bald Eagle’ was rather persuasive.
Gabs: Frank, going back to Pele, would it be fair to say you would have loved to have scored his goal in the 1958 World Cup Final against Sweden, when he flicked the ball over his opponent and smashed it home?
Frankie: No, not at all. I’ve scored better myself. Remember my goal for Bolton against Ipswich. I turned to Terry Butcher afterwards and told him ‘if he had been standing on the terracing with the supporters, he might have had a better view of it.
Gabs: It was a goal only a few could have scored Frank. In fact, Alan Brazil got a right rollocking off Sir Bobby Robson for shaking your hand & congratulating you on your wonder strike.
Frankie: Yes, so I believe, and I scored an even better one against QPR, Gabs. If you ever see Ian Gillard just ask him about it, sadly it wasn’t televised.
Gabs: If you could choose a player past or present, to play up front with, who would it be?
Frankie: I was lucky to play with some quality players. Tony Evans (Evo) at Birmingham was tremendous, a great lad and a great finisher. I played with Kevin Keegan for England and we struck up a good partnership. So much so, that Bill Shankly tried to sign me for Liverpool, but I failed my medical due to high blood pressure.
Gabs: That’s one of footballs great urban myth’s. Was it really high blood pressure Frank?
Frankie: That’s what I said Gabs. It’s all in my Autobiography, One Hump or Two. That’s said, in answer to your original question. I’d have liked to have played alongside Bestie or Pele.
Gabs: Frank, your Mum was a big football fan and she played a bit didn’t she?
Frankie: My Mum loved the game, that’s how she met my Dad. She would get her Blue and White scarf on and go down the Shay to watch Halifax.
Gabs: Birmingham City Ladies have got a decent team mate. In fact, we are in the Champions League next season. Where do you stand on women’s football Frank?
Frankie: Fantastic, fabulous, the girls have watched the game for years on Sky etc, they are knowledgeable about the game, and now they are playing it – Do they need a Physio Gabs?
Gabs: I’ll tell you something Big Man, had you been a Physio in your day to our ladies side, we’d have struggled to field a team nine months later mate!!
Frankie: Fair play Gabs, but seriously. I’d love to come down and watch a game with you next season. I’d love to pass onto them, my experiences. If I can help them in any way just call me.
Gabs: Big Man, I’ll definitely hold you to that. I’ll even dig some Elvis out for ya on the PA…
Gabs: Away from the game, what other sports do you enjoy Frank?
Frankie: I enjoy racing and golf.
Gabs: How do you think you would fit in with the modern game?
Frankie: Great players would always fit in. I do think we lack individualism today, we don’t have many personalities now. Gazza was probably the last.
Gabs: Who was your most difficult opponent Frank?
Frankie: That one’s easy Gabs – my ex-missus!!
Gabs: You also played on the other side of the pond. I hear you put the Fury into Philadelphia and the Rowdies into Tampa Bay?
Frankie: They were enjoyable day’s, having said that, everywhere I went, I enjoyed it. I’m still playing a bit now, feel those abs, go on Gabs give me your best punch!
Gabs: Brace yourself big man….
Frankie: I said punch?
Gabs: It was always you mate that packed one of those!
Gabs: Managers Frank. Hit or Miss?
Frankie: Jimmy Bloomfield – great bloke. Jim Smith – Brilliant, a bit crazy but a smashing bloke. Ron Saunders – did well at Villa but at the Blues he was to football what King Herod was to babysitting!
Gabs: Any regrets Big Man?
Frankie: No, not really. I was a bit upset when I didn’t play for Blues against Notts County, Revie being the England manager and getting beaten in three Cup semi-finals.
Gabs: Finally Big Man, urban myths: true or false? You, the Bald Eagle and a bottle of Scotch when you signed for Birmingham City?
Gabs: You and the Chambermaid in the hotel before an important Leicester City game?
Gabs: And did Jimmy Bloomfield sleep with his door and one eye open opposite your room that night?
Frankie: That’s taking it a bit too far Gabs.
Gabs: Finally Frank, are you still available on the after dinner speaking circuit?
Frankie: I certainly am Gabs. In fact you can be my Midlands agent mate.
Contact us here at J&S and we’ll get you in touch.
Gabs: Well, one Frankie went to Hollywood, glad to say this one came to Brum. Thanks for your time and memories Big Man – he’s still as large as life. That was the legend that is Frank Worthington “The King has just left the building” Genius!!
To finish, here is one of Gabbie’s famous poems about “Handsome Frank!”
“FUNTIME” FRANKIE WORTHINGTON”
Frankie is a one off, he comes from Halifax,
Lived life in the fast lane, he took it to the max,
Frankie had it all, in every single way,
It was poetry in motion, watching Frankie play.
Frankie was a genius, he could make that leather talk,
He brought the ball to life, Frankie walked the walk,
He had an Aurora about him, he stood out from the crowd,
Adored by his loyal legions, who sang his name out load.
Played for Huddersfield, Leicester, Bolton, Birmingham & Leeds,
Sunderland, Saints & Brighton all saw Frank succeed,
Tranmere, Preston, Stockport plus Phily & Tampa Bay,
24 clubs in total all saw Frankie play.
He was a Brazilian in English form, looks & silky skill,
Bird’s, fast cars, drink & drugs life was such a thrill
If football is a religion, Frank’s a prophet of that I have no doubt,
For God gave Frank his gifts, to make Worthington stand out!!