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Healy - I want to play on

David Healy saluted outgoing Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington for his dignity and honesty before pledging to continue playing for his successor.

Healy, Northern Ireland's record goalscorer, has not always had a straightforward relationship with Worthington, losing his place as undisputed first choice to Rangers team-mate Kyle Lafferty and being left out of the Carling Nations Cup squad when he was desperate to play last year.

Speaking after the former Norwich boss signed off with a 3-0 defeat to a strong Italy side, Healy said: "We played as Nigel wanted and as he has always wanted us to, but we would have needed luck against Italy and we needed it for the last Euro campaign, but it wasn't meant to be."

He added: "Lady luck just wasn't shining on Nigel for his four and a half years.

"Nigel and I have had our differences, but what I will say is that he's been honest. While some players might not appreciate managers who are quite that honest, it's been good for me and he's given me chances, kept me in the squad.

"It's frustrating when you hear or read about the flak he gets from the media or the fans, even though they're frustrated too.

"Nigel is a very dignified man, has kept himself quiet and I have so much respect for him. Nigel wanted us to play for pride and that's what we did."

Healy, who has not added to his 35 international goals in more than three years, equalled Northern Ireland legend Mal Donaghy's outfield record of 91 caps in Pescara.

With Aaron Hughes and Stephen Craigan retiring during the current campaign and others thought to be considering their future, Healy has vowed to continue being available for his country as he eyes the prospect of becoming only the second man after Pat Jennings to make 100 international appearances for Northern Ireland.

"Whoever takes over I will want to play for," Healy said. "I am sure that the fans will now look forward to whoever is taking over and hopefully we, as young and experienced players, whoever is going to stay will stick together because we are a good, strong group."

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