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Burnden Park perhaps never saw a better strike than the one captured by the Match of the Day cameras in April 1979 as Bolton’s maverick striker juggled the ball on the edge of the box then drilled a shot into the bottom corner past Paul Cooper.
Worthington would later joke that it was the best goal ever scored – and ITV’s On the Ball programme certainly agreed it was the finest of the 1978/79 campaign, which saw Frank finish ahead of Liverpool’s Kenny Dalglish as the First Division’s top goal-scorer.
Alan Gowling, the man who would partner Worthington in Ian Greaves’s attack for much of a fondly-remembered season, laughed that his flicked header from Sam Allardyce’s long throw had made the wonder-goal possible.
“I’ll take some pride in that – I laid it on for him,” he told The Bolton News. “And let’s face it, he didn’t have a lot to do from there.
“I flicked on the long throw, which was the hard bit. All he had to do was a bit of keepy-uppy, flick it over his head and then volley it into he back of the net – that’s not a lot really, is it?”
Worthington, 70, now lives near Halifax with his family and has retired from public life amid reports of poor health.
Gowling – whose voice is still very familiar to Bolton fans listening to BBC Radio Manchester – recalls his former team-mate was one of a kind.
“He was a really great player Frank and had a fantastic left peg,” he said.
“He loved the Elvis bit, the extra-curricular stuff let’s say, but as a player he was extremely good. He was right up there.
“It saddens me to think he’s struggled with his health. Time moves on and changes your life. I didn’t stay in football and went into business, so I didn’t mix in those circles.
“I certainly haven’t spoken to Frank for some time and it has been very difficult reading and hearing of his health issues, so I wish him very well because he is in a difficult place.”
Despite scoring what is widely regarded to be the best goal ever seen at Burnden, Worthington did not make a big issue out of it at the time.
“I don’t think he bragged about goals he scored, maybe other stuff but not goals,” said Gowling.
“He scored enough that he didn’t need to brag. It was the sheer number and I was happy to say we had a great partnership.”
Wanderers’ return to the top flight at the end of the seventies proved to be relatively short-lived but their first of two seasons in the First Division had highlights still discussed to this day.
A double over Manchester United is particularly fondly remembered. Worthington scored in both games, of course, cementing his legendary status, and Gowling also netted against his former employers on an icy December night in front of nearly 50,000 Burnden fans.
“I think the team was quite special,” Gowling said. “There were some great players in there with the likes of Peter Reid, Mike Walsh, Jim McDonagh in goal, and Neil Whatmore. It was a good side.
“We probably did the best we possibly could in that year.
“It was a great time at Burnden. I’ll not forget beating Manchester United in a hurry.
“It was soaking wet, I know that. I remember walking off the pitch absolutely drenched and celebrating a great win.
“Having been at United, to beat them in the way we did was really fantastic, it brought me a great amount of pleasure.”
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