PETALING JAYA: Although he was born an Englishman, the late Ken Worden (pic) was a Malaysian at heart.
Worden, who made his name as a player and coach in Australia, had spent most of his life on our shores since 1991.
However, he did not lose his warped Aussie sense of humour. For instance, the former Malaysia and Selangor coach did the occasional Shoey (drinking from shoes), which is a popular form of celebration Down Under.
Former national player Dollah Salleh said that during training, the former Preston North End player always demanded 100% and was stern with his tactics and instructions.
But off the field, he was always cracking jokes and was a friend to each and every player in the national team when he coached them from 1992 to 1993.
“I remember when we competed in Indonesia in the Jakartaraya Cup in 1992. We played Australia in the final, and he told us that he would drink from his shoes if we won... and we did. He fulfilled his promise although we thought he wouldn’t do it, but he did it,” said Dollah.
“His face always looked serious, but he had a soft heart. He was always cracking jokes, always talking to us, always doing something that would make us feel better.
“Whenever training gets tense, he is there to calm us down. He was like a friend to us.
“I have a lot of stories with Ken, and I will surely miss him. He once told me and Zainal (Abidin Hassan) that we have what it takes to play overseas at the highest level.
“Those words mean a lot to me. Even after I retired, I kept in touch with him and we always had good chats.”
Worden passed away at the age of 78 at the Townsville General Hospital in Queensland on Sunday morning.
Kenneth Joseph Worden, was born on Feb 2, 1943, in Preston, England, but excelled in his career as a player and coach in Australia before migrating to Malaysia in 1991 to coach Selangor, who emerged FA Cup champions and Malaysia Cup runners-up under his charge.
He was then appointed national coach for two years, replacing Rahim Abdullah from January 1992 until the end of 1993. During that period, Malaysia won the 1992 Vietnam Invitational Championship and Jakartaraya Cup, as well as the 1993 Merdeka Tournament.
After that, Worden took up the challenge to be the Singapore coach for a few months before returning to Selangor, lifting the 1995 and 1996 Malaysia Cups, followed by assignments with Sabah, Terengganu and KL SPA.
In 2002, Worden returned to Selangor and the Red Giants lifted the Malaysia Cup.
One of his former players from Selangor, K. Gunalan, said Worden was the catalyst behind his rise as a centreback as it was Worden who changed his position from a rightback in 1991.
“He came to Selangor when we had a rough time. He changed my position and trusted me to play in a tough game against Pahang at the Merdeka Stadium in 1991. Since then, I never looked back and he was always there to guide me,” said Gunalan.
“He is a great character and always provided the skills needed for us to be better players. In 1991, we won the FA Cup. We also won the Malaysia Cup three times under him. He is well respected and will be remembered for a long time.
“I was also part of the coaching staff when he won the Malaysia Cup in 2002. I last met him five years ago in Petaling Jaya, and he was always that same chirpy character. I learnt a lot from him and have used some of his training drills for my coaching sessions with players.”
Former national and Selangor striker Azman Adnan conveyed his condolences on social media by posting a picture of him with Worden during a national team training session in 1992.