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Frank Worthington - The man, the myth, 'that' goal

On the 40th anniversary of that goal against Ipswich, Ed looks back at one of the greatest strikers to play for Bolton

Frank Worthington Photo by Allsport/Getty Images

The ‘I was there when..’ moment.

Nothing can beat the feeling of witnessing something you know will stand the test of time. A singular piece of finesse that will be talked about forever. When you go to watch your team week in, week out, you go in the hope that you’ll see that extraordinary moment.

Depending on the generation you grew up in, this moment differs.

If you were around in the 70s during the Ian Greaves era, your defining moment is almost certainly Frank Worthington’s stunning solo goal against Ipswich Town in 1979.

With his back to goal, Worthington flicked the ball over his head, running around two defenders before slamming the ball on the volley into the corner of the goal. A sensational goal in a less than sensational game.

In fact, today marks 40 years since that iconic moment.

At the time, the man behind the goal was as infamous for his lifestyle off the pitch as he was for the skillfull player he was on it.

Luckily for myself & others who were born well after that game against Ipswich, the goal was captured on film, a rarity for the era.

You see, before football was invented in 1992, not everything was captured on camera, to be preserved and rewatched for eternity.

Thankfully, the Big Match cameras were there to witness the goal which is widely considered to be the greatest scored in the clubs’ history.

Multiple fans & also Peter Reid and Worthington himself have proclaimed that the Ipswich goal wasn’t the best one he scored for Wanderers. Though those other goals are forever lost in time, only living on in the stories of fans who were there to witness them.

It only adds to the mystique of Worthington as a player.

Frank Worthington’s arrival at Bolton couldn’t have come at a better time, for the club & the player.

Ian Greaves, Worthington’s manager at Huddersfield, had taken over at Bolton in 1974 from Jimmy Armfield.

Greaves inherited a core squad of talented youngsters, including Sam Allardyce, Paul Jones, Peter Reid & Neil Whatmore.

Having almost guided Wanderers to promotion three years in a row, Greaves knew he needed that extra spark to make the jump to the First Division.

So in came Frank Worthington for a club record fee of £90,000 in 1977.

Worthington stated at the time: “I’d been in desperate need of a lifeline and this was it. From being down in the dumps I was suddenly feeling on top of the world.”

Worthy made an instant impact and rightly justified his price tag, scoring the winning goal against Blackburn Rovers to seal promotion back to the First Division.

The Championship was secured a week later, though Worthington’s preparations for the game were interrupted with a night in prison before the game.

Worthington then wrote his name into Bolton folklore forever the season after, scoring a very impressive 24 goals as Wanderers finished 17th in the top flight.

His 24 goals ensured he won the Golden Boot, beating the likes of Kenny Dalglish to the award.

Frank Worthington became just the 5th Bolton player to be the Golden Boot winner in the top flight & will probably be the last.

He may have only been a Wanderer for two years, but he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players to wear the white shirt. For many, he is the ultimate Wanderer. A true maverick of a player.

Worthy lived his life exactly how he wanted. From handing half eaten meat pies to fans to his renditions of Elvis songs, Frank Worthington was a one of a kind.

He could have played for Liverpool at one time, but thankfully he didn’t and ended up at Bolton.

40 years ago today, Bolton Wanderers lost 3-2 to Ipswich Town. Nobody remembers that.

Nobody remembers the fact that Alan Brazil scored a brace.

They remember Julian Darby leaping for joy behind the goal.

They remember the referee applauding.

They remember Frank Worthington and his sensational goal.