Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland have no big time boys, says Nigel Worthington

By Graham Luney

Nigel Worthington has made a passionate defence of his Northern Ireland players even though results have failed to raise expectations ahead of another qualifying campaign.

The players are under fire for failing to win in 10 games or score a goal in seven outings, but the manager is still hungry to pour praise on his troops.

And ahead of the showdown against Slovenia in Maribor on Friday, Worthington is keen to highlight the positive contribution to the Northern Ireland cause from the Evans brothers.

The Manchester United duo bring a touch of class to the travelling party and the former Norwich City boss is hoping they can sprinkle their magic dust on Slovenia.

“I don’t think there are too many big time Charlies in this set up,” said Worthington.

“When I played for Northern Ireland we had some top class players, but they were down to earth people and that is the way we are.

“It’s not about any individual, it’s about the team and that’s important. In Jonny and Corry we have brothers who just love playing football.

“I think Jonny’s number one position is centre-half — that’s straight forward but it’s a nice option for me knowing he can play anywhere across the back four and do a good job.

“To be fair, he’s a young player who accepts he will be asked to play outside his favourite position, knowing that Northern Ireland isn’t blessed with a big number of players to select from.

“Corry is a great level-headed kid. Jonny is the same and they both have their feet on the ground. He fits in with everyone, gets on with everybody and just loves the game.

“He’s pleasant to have around. When I’m talking about the young ones, it’s coming along nicely and hopefully they can be successful.”

The serious business is now under way with the qualifying campaign up and running on Friday night and Worthington will not tolerate any indiscipline.

“There’s work and there’s play and there’s a fine line between the two,” he added.

“When we’re working, we’re focused and we concentrate. The players also need fun time, but within the straights of being professional.”

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