Ken Worden – no nonsense on the field, a real gentleman off the pitch

Thomas Samuel last met Kenneth Joseph Worden, popularly known as Ken Worden, in Kuala Lumpur, some five years ago.

Never did he expect that it would be his last meeting with the Englishman.

Worden, best known for coaching Selangor and the Malaysian team in the 1990s, passed away in Australia today. He was 78.

“We were close, good friends. He even attended my wedding in 1992,” recalled Samuel, who last played for Public Bank in 1989.

“When Worden was in town five years ago, we managed to catch up, as we had a lot in common, especially regarding football.”

Samuel, who is the Ex State & Ex National Footballers’ Association Malaysia honorary secretary, said Worden was never about status, but all about merit and friendship.

“A man of his calibre need not be friends with me. Yet, we remained tight. Even after he left his coaching career in Malaysia, we still organised matches among former professional footballers and he would be part of it.”

Worden (jersey No. 2) with the Western Australia Ex-International team who faced the Malaysian Ex-International team in a friendly match at Wisma FAM in 2017. Image courtesy of Thomas Samuel

Samuel recalled Worden’s stint with Selangor in 1991 before serving as the national team coach from 1992 to 1993.

“He was known to have injected professionalism within Selangor and the national team. Every player on the field was there based on merit.

“Along the way, he made many good friends among the locals. He was down to earth and approachable. He was a true gentleman.”

Born on Feb 2, 1943 in Preston, England, Worden first played for Burnley FC, and later, Preston North End FC in Lancashire during his younger days.  Worden later found success in Australia as both player and coach.

He also enjoyed a short stint as Singapore’s national coach.

Worden coached Sabah in 1999 before returning to Selangor in 2002.

Under his watch, the Red Giants won the Malaysia Cup three times (1995, 1996 and 2002).

He also coached Terengganu in 2009 and served as KL SPA FC head coach in 2015. before being named Perak technical director later that year.

In 2017, he traded his boots and whistle for a pan, as he ran a food stall in Kuala Terengganu.

Social media started buzzing with tributes to Worden after word of his passing got out. Those who conveyed their condolences included former national coach Datuk K. Rajagobal, former hockey international, Maninderjit Singh and the FA of Malaysia.