Nations Cup: It is Worth having a go
Modest Nigel Worthington has never been one to gloat about his achievements as a player.
The mild mannered Northern Ireland manager made 66 appearances for his country at left back, played at a World Cup finals in Mexico and performed over 400 times in England’s top flight.
But one of his proudest moments came in 1984 on his international debut when Northern Ireland drew with Wales 1-1 to clinch the Home International Championship.
As the tournament was discontinued that year, Northern Ireland have been the holders ever since.
So with the inaugral Carling Nations Cup — a tournament that sees Northern Ireland tackle Scotland, the Republic and Wales in a round-robin format — starting next week in Dublin, Worthington wants his current crop of players to emulate the stars of 27 years ago.
“It’s a proud moment in Northern Ireland history,” says Worthington.
“I won my first cap and a medal so that was nice for me personally.
“I’m not going to make a big deal about that to the players before this tournament but I do, just like the other managers, want to win this competition.
“I’m delighted that the organisers have been able to put this competition together — I think the players would prefer this to maybe some of the friendlies that are organised for them over the years.
“I expect there to be a real competitive edge to the game, players will know each other from either playing at the same club or in the same league — nobody will want to lose.”
Scotland are ranked nine places below Northern Ireland in the FIFA listings but with players such as Kenny Miller, Kris Commons, Darren Fletcher and Charlie Adams in Craig Levein’s squad, they will pose a huge threat.
But that’s exactly what Worthington wants ahead of vital Euro 2012 qualifying games coming up next month.
“We have big games against Serbia and Slovenia in the Euro qualifiers at the end of March so this game is vital preparation,” admits Worthington.
“I want to play my strongest possible team against a formidable Scotland outfit and it should be a great game just like it was a couple of years ago at Hampden Park.
“We’ll know all about Scotland and likewise they will about us, but I want our focus to be entirely on ourselves. We must give a good account of ourselves and I’ll be looking for a strong start to the competition.”
Worthington has a few injury concerns ahead of the game on February 9 at the Aviva Stadium, with goalkeeper Maik Taylor likely to be out while midfielder Sammy Clingan and striker Warren Feeney are struggling to make it.
Inverness goalkeeper Johnny Tuffey is expected to deputise for Taylor while West Brom’s attacking midfielder Chris Brunt could be pushed forward to play just off Kyle Lafferty although Worthington may decide to recall Rangers new boy David Healy.