“DECEASED PLAYER OF THE MONTH”
ERIC WORTHINGTON (1949-1951)
After he left Watford, Eric Worthington was a very successful coach.
He died with a guilt for which he has now atoned in Hornet Heaven...
Eric Worthington was a lean, hard-running forward who scored on his debut for Watford in August 1949.
For a while, he became a regular.
This was much to the fury of club legend Taffy Davies who wasn’t getting picked and wanted the manager (former England captain Eddie Hapgood) sacked.
When Hapgood was fired, the next manager wasn’t interested in Eric. Eric left Watford.
He got himself a master’s degree in education and became a senior lecturer in PE at Loughborough College. He became a football academic, with great insight into the technical side of coaching. He worked at a high level within the English game.
In 1973 he was poached by the Australian Soccer Federation to become National Director of Coaching. He emigrated and helped bring about the first national soccer league.
He was also caretaker manager of the Australia national team for four matches in 1975.
In 1999, he was inducted into Australia Football’s Hall of Fame. His legacy was that Australia now produces high-quality professional footballers and has competed at every World Cup finals from 2006.
Eric died in Sydney in November 2006 and entered Hornet Heaven at the age of 80.
In the afterlife he’s great mates with other former Watford players who died in Australia — particularly Freddie Bunce and Tommy Anderson.
But for several years in Hornet Heaven he felt a deep sense of guilt. His conscience was hurting because, when he went off to Australia, he’d recently committed to a different coaching job.
In 1972, he’d become the original manager of the newly-formed England national women’s team.
He managed the Lionesses to a 3-2 win in their first-ever official international match. (This was 100 years after the first men’s international, thanks to the FA having banned women’s football.)
But then, just before his second game, he resigned to go to Australia.
He felt bad at the time. To try to make up for it, he presented the Women’s Football Association with a silver trophy to be played for by England and Scotland.
It became known as the Eric Worthington Cup — but only for a short while. In 1977, the WFA pressed the silverware into service as the Women’s FA Cup trophy when they needed a new one.
It felt to Eric as if his apology was no longer being acknowledged.
Happily, though, in Hornet Heaven, he now feels he’s atoned for his guilt in a small way.
At the start of the 2021/22 season, he discreetly encouraged the new Chief Steward, Daisy Meriden, to find a way to make women’s games accessible in Watford’s afterlife.
Daisy made it happen and now, belatedly, all Hornet Heaven residents can enjoy and support women’s football.
It’s another Eric Worthington legacy that not many people know about.
Eric Worthington was an inaudible presence in the final episode of Series 17 of Hornet Heaven — ‘A Fresh Pair of Eyes’. You can listen to that episode here.
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Find out more about the podcast here.
Read about other ‘Deceased Players of The Month’ here.