Time for another entry into our Wigan Athletic Hall of Fame and the illustrious names of the past keep on coming. In the case of Mickey Worswick, I can offer very little in my role as editor and co-ordinator of the TNS Top 50 as Mickey was wearing the blue and white stripes before I was born.
I have however had the good fortune to meet him at a Latics social event and found him to be charming, honest and above all humble, a million miles away from today’s modern footballer. Yet he still gave a wonderful amount of pleasure and memories to many, many Latics fans over the years.
One such fan is Tony Topping, who four decades on will still tell you that no-one ever compares to Mickey Worswick. So rather than let me blather on, here’s Tony talking about and to Mickey Worswick:
When football fans get together to chat over the odd alcoholic beverage inevitably the same old question is brought up; “Who is your favourite football player of all time?”
More often than not the person asked takes a deep breath and says something along the lines of “Ah favourite player, let me think…” No such problems with me, in a nanosecond I have the answer…”Mickey Worswick”
Me and Mickey go back a long way, he was at my marriage, the birth of my two kids, and he comes away with me on every holiday I take, he has even been washed in my washing machine twice! Well not in person but his picture is in my key ring fob and he travels everywhere with me, who needs St Christopher when I’ve got St Michael?
Why Mickey Worswick? Well Mickey epitomised everything I love about football.
He was a brilliant winger and all football fans like nothing better than to see a winger in full flight, he was a great goal scorer cutting in from the wing with devastating effect, he was fast, extremely skilful and on top of all that he had possessed a temperament that angels would envy. Above all this the guy was cool too!
In his looks and the way he played he reminded me of another player that moved in altogether different circles, to me Mickey Worswick was non leagues George Best and I was immensely proud that he played for my team.
Mickey signed forWiganin the summer of 1972. Wigan Athletic were in a period of transition, the dream team of 1970/71 had largely broken up and Manager Gordon Milne had also departed. Les Rigby a teacher atWiganCollegewas appointed with the task of rebuilding the side. Les had a fine pedigree in non league and was excellent at scouting for players; Mickey was one of the first players Les signed.
In the following six seasons Mickey and the Wigan Athletic supporters saw some of the highest and lowest points in our history culminating in that never to be forgotten day when we were finally accepted into the Football League.
Mickey’s first season proved to be a successful one, Wigan finished 3rd in the N.P.L., reached Wembley for the first time in the F.A. Trophy (lost 1-2 to Scarborough) won the Lancs Floodlit Cup (6-1 v South Liverpool), won N.P.L. Shield (3-0 v Stafford Rangers) and came runners up in the N.P.L. Cup (2-3 v Northwich Vics). We also reached the 1st rnd of the F.A.Cup (1-2 vs Grimsby Town). The following season saw us finish 2nd in the N.P.L., win the Ashworth Trophy (3-1 v Rossendale Utd) and also triumph in the Lancs Challenge Trophy (4-1 v Skelmersdale Utd). In the F.A. Cup we lost 0-2 to Huddersfield Town. 1974/75 season saw a change of manager with Brian Tiler taking over the reins. In a fantastic season we won the N.P.L. with a record number of points and enjoyed a good run in the F.A. Cup beating Kidderminster in the qualifying round then fourth division leaders Shrewsbury Town in the 1st rnd after a replay before losing to Mansfield Town, again after a replay. 75/76 saw Brian Tiler leave the club in February to manage in America and Ian Mc Neil returned to manage the club. Wigan finished a disappointing 6th in the N.P.L. that season; it was the first time they had ever finished outside the top three. Attendances began to suffer and only 730 watched the home game v Great Harwood. We did reach the final of the Lancs Challenge Trophy but lost to a last minute winner from local rivalsChorley (1-2).
We also reached the F.A. Cup 2nd rnd losing 2-0 away to Sheffield Wednesday (MatlockTownhaving been beaten 2-1in the 1st rnd).
The following season was one of the most traumatic inWigan’s history. The club were heavily in debt, sources put the figure at £100,000, a huge sum at that time.
Chairman Ken Cowap and director Graham Gorner resigned and a cash appeal was made to the Springfield Park faithful, an ever decreasing faithful as only 647 turned up to see one game. Players had to be moved out to save money and others asked for transfers, it is indicative of Mickey Worswick’s character that he stayed loyal to the club in this difficult period when he was one of the clubs main assets and could have had his pick of teams to move on to. The team that had won the N.P.L. with a record points total only two years earlier was at one point bottom of the league. The turning point came when former chairman Arthur Horrocks rejoined the club and at last stability was resumed and we managed to recover to attain a final league position of 14th. In fact we ended the season strongly winning the Lancs Junior Cup Final by beating Chorley 1-0 atVictoryPark. The following season proved to be our last in non league football as the rejuvenated, strengthened Wigan Athletic once more regained their pride of place as one of the strongest clubs outside the league.
1977/78 saw us finish 2nd in a tight finish, at that time the Champions of the N.P.L. were automatically put forward as candidates for election to the Football League but the league committee had already decided that Boston’s ground failed to meet their approval so Wigan Athletic were entered into the Football League race and the rest as they say is history. Sadly this all came to late for my hero Mickey and after agreeing to sign a part time contract and after finally making his Football League debut as a substitute, Mickey decided to return to non league with Chorley. That summer of 78 things changed forever, my youthful innocence disappeared along with my football team’s innocence, I wouldn’t change a thing though and it’s been a great journey from the Northern Premier League to the Premier League. This summer I caught up with Mickey and he kindly agreed to be interviewed by me, here is Mickey’s story.
How did you get started in football Mickey?
At the age of 14 a Blackburn Rovers scout saw me playing for my school team,PrestonCatholicCollege, and invited me toEwoodParkfor trials. I played there for three seasons as an amateur but unfortunately was not offered a professional contract. I then had trials at Bury and Queen of the South but they both came to nothing so I then finished up playing for my home town club Preston North End as an amateur. During my two seasons there I played mainly in the youth team but also played around half a dozen games for the reserves in a side that contained Alan Kelly, Alex Dawson and George Ross, who all went on to become North End legends. A pro contract was not forthcoming so I decided to try my luck in non league football and joined Burscough. The following season Mickey Burns who I had grown up with in the Moor Nook area ofPrestonasked me to join him playing at Skelmersdale Utd. He had signed for them the previous season whilst studying atLiverpoolUniversity.
Skelmersdale made it to Wembley with you in the side, what was that like?
Playing in the Amateur Cup final againstEnfieldat the age of 21 in front of 75,000 people was an incredible experience although watching our right back Alan Bermingham miss a penalty in the last minute of extra time was heartbreaking. We lost the replay 3-0 the following Saturday atMaine Roadin fron
t of 55,000. That same day Manchester United played Aston Villa and they kicked off at the same time as us, they also drew a crowd of 55,000. The traffic was so bad in the city that my Mum & Dad and Mickey Burns’s parents who had leftPrestonat lunchtime, only arrived at the ground with 20 minutes left to play.
You also gained International recognition, winning caps for England Amateurs
The proudest moment of my career was playing for England Amateurs againstItalyand receiving my cap, tassels and all! And playing forEnglandalso supplied me with my lowest moment in football when a few months later I was in theEnglandsquad that needed to beatSpainto qualify for the 1968 Olympic Games inMexico. We had all been told that we would be on the plane if we won. Sadly we drew the game 1-1.
Your next club was Chorley were you became a big favourite with the fans
I signed part time professional forms withChorleyin what was the first season of the Northern Premier League; the Latics of course were also founder members. I had four happy seasons there and struck up a great understanding with centre forward Joe Fletcher who I rated as probably the best striker I have ever seen in non league football. I also have vivid memories of some titanic clashes we had againstWigan. It was atChorleythat I first met the legendary Harry McNally; he was coaching there at the time. Years later when I retired from playing Harry gave me a job scouting for him when he was Wigan manager and I also worked for him atChesterCity. He was a wonderful person to work for and also to socialise with; I think that everyone who worked or played for him will have their own Harry Mac tale to tell, probably involving the odd bottle of red wine!
I was very sad to hear of his death a few months ago, they don’t make them like that anymore.
Next stop of course was Wigan Athletic and another Wembley visit
Yes the late Les Rigby made me and Mickey Taylor his first signings after taking over from Gordon Milne. My most vivid memory of the Wembley game is missing a header early on that I really should have scored from. I also remember the terrific welcome home we had after the final with fans lining the route from the motorway junction toSpringfieldPark.
You scored a lot of goals at Wigan especially for a winger; one of the greatest goals I saw you score was at Lancaster City when you ran the length of the field.
The goal against Lancastercertainly rates as one of my favourites and another one that sticks in my mind was against ManchesterCityin a friendly at SpringfieldParkwhen Joe Corrigan was in goal for them. Although it was from close range it was my 100th goal for the Latics, a milestone I was very proud to have achieved for the best club in non league football.
One of your team-mates was the legendary Johnny King, what was he like and do you recall the famous tunnel incident when he laid out an opposing player at half time?
What was Johnny King like? I wondered when that question would crop up! He was certainly like no one else I had ever played with or against. He was a great inspiration to have in your midfield, a hard tackler, a great motivator with the most cultured left foot I have ever seen. He also possessed a wicked sense of humour along with his mate JR, Johnny Rogers. I remember us playing atScarboroughonce and we had an overnight stay in a big hotel. At that time we had a club chaplain named Dennis and he travelled with us. Somehow Dennis’s pyjamas finished up at the top of the hotel flag pole and were visible for miles along the East Coast. No marks for guessing who the culprits were! Now to the famous tunnel incident, all I can say about that one is yes I certainly remember it, I was so close that I finished up with blood on my shirt.
I think we better leave that one there!
With so many characters in the team you must have some great memories.
They were great times, one story that sticks in my mind concerned our old manager Ian McNeil. Ian arranged for us to have a four day trip toEdinburghto play a couple of pre season friendlies. On the way up in the coach we asked him about the accommodation he had booked us into, “The players are in fourteen singles” he told us which we thought was wonderful, especially the younger members of the squad who excitedly informed us senior players that they were going “Out on the pull” on the first night. We duly arrived at our hotel and it looked a bit dodgy from the outside but sure enough we had 14 singles alright, trouble was they were all in the same room. Ian had booked us into some kind of hostel! The canny wee Scot had a great sense of humour to go along with his ancestral thriftiness.
Ian McNeil was one of several managers you played under at Wigan, fond memories of them?
Yes very fond memories of them all for different reasons. The first one being Les Rigby whose knowledge of non league football & non league footballers was phenomenal and of course he led us to the 73 final at Wembley. He was a hard taskmaster but he had a very funny sense of humour. After Les came Brian Tiler who was an ex pro with Aston Villa, he was a great motivator and was immensely popular with the players. He made you feel really special and under Brian we won the N.P.L. with a record number of points. Sadly Brian died in a car crash during the World Cup tournament inItaly, his good friend Harry Redknapp was a passenger in the car.
Then along came Ian McNeil who will always be remembered as the manager who led us into the Football League. I will always be grateful to him and the club for offering me a full time contract in 1978 even though I was 32 at the time. Sadly it had come too late for me though I did stay for half a season playing as a semi pro. My claim to fame came when I made my one and only Football League appearance againstNewportCounty! After a short spell atChorleythe next manager I want to mention is my ex team-mate Mickey Taylor who signed me for Barrow and got me as fit as any time I had been throughout my career. His great motivational skills helped us to have two very good seasons in the newly formed Alliance Premier League which is now today’s Conference League. Mickey and I still remain great friends and he is currently scouting for NorthwichVictoria. Finally I must mention Fred Eyre who ranWigan’s reserve side during that first Football League season. I am convinced Fred would have made a very good league manager but he turned his hand to writing and has written a couple of books and done extensive media work and after dinner speaking which I’m sure you will have heard about.
Finally Mickey your temperament was exemplary and I think you only lost your cool once when a spectator threw a cup of coffee over you, remember that?
God yes of course I remember the incident. We were playing atMacclesfieldTown, I was close to the touchline on halfway and in front of the main stand when a middle aged woman threw it over me. I am pretty sure it was tea though and not coffee!
Thanks to Mickey Worswick for taking the time to do this interview and supplying the photos. Mickey was a gentleman on the field and he has proven to be the same off it. Sometimes your idols turn out to have feet of clay, in this case I am glad to say that the opposite is true. Mickey is definitely solid gold.
Keep the faith boys & girls
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