Gary Lineker has led the tributes to his “boyhood hero” Frank Worthington following the former Huddersfield, Leicester and England striker’s death at the age of 72.
The eight-cap forward died peacefully in hospital on Monday evening following a long illness, his family announced in a statement to the PA news agency.
Worthington represented more than 20 clubs in a long playing career that began with the Terriers in 1966.
“Profoundly saddened to hear that Frank Worthington has died,” tweeted former Leicester, Tottenham and England striker Lineker.
“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).”
Worthington’s wife Carol paid tribute to the much-loved football showman, who died in hospital in Huddersfield.
“Frank brought joy to so many people throughout his career and in his private life,” Carol Worthington said.
“He will be greatly missed by everyone who loved him so much.”
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.
Unashamedly non-establishment, Worthington hit the headlines as much for his off-field exploits as his rarefied talents on it.
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, scoring 266 goals in 882 appearances in all competitions.
In 14 of those campaigns 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.
Former Scotland striker Ally McCoist, who partnered Worthington up front at Sunderland in the 1982-83 season, believes his former team-mate should have earned far more than his eight England caps.
“Make no mistake about it, Frank Worthington should have 40, 50 caps,” McCoist told talkSPORT.
“He was talented beyond belief, and for an old-fashioned ball-player of that generation, Frank was up there with the best of them.”
He continued: “I’m gutted, absolutely gutted. I knew big Frank really well, I shared a room with him.
“We beat Man City in the last game of the season to stay up – and two hours later were on a flight to Magaluf.
“He was one of the most talented footballers I ever played with.
“He did me the honour of speaking at my testimonial dinner.
“I knew he wasn’t well but it doesn’t soften the blow. I know for a fact he’s in a better place now, but I’m absolutely gutted.”
Worthington’s former clubs were also quick to pay their respects on social media.
Huddersfield tweeted: “Everyone at #htafc is devastated to hear of the passing of Town legend Frank Worthington. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Leicester posted: “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.”
Bolton tweeted: “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.”
Birmingham posted: “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.”
England also paid tribute, with a message on the national team’s Twitter account reading: “We’re deeply saddened to learn that Frank Worthington, who represented the Three Lions eight times in 1974, has passed away at the age of 72.
“All of our thoughts are with his family and friends.”