Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland: I pleaded with Damien Johnson not to give up, says Nigel Worthington

Nigel Worthington has revealed that he attempted to persuade Damien Johnson not to call time on his international career.

The Northern Ireland manager, however, will take his squad to Slovenia for next week’s opening 2012 European Championship qualifying campaign without the 56-times capped midfielder.

Johnson announced his retirement last month, despite being only 31, citing difficulties with managing long-standing back and hamstring injuries while on international duty.

“Damien didn’t think he could do the travelling around Europe and play with his club and prolong his club career,” said Worthington.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to a player like that because it’s their body that is going through the rigours and pains of football.

“I tried to talk him into carrying on, but at the end of the day you’ve got to respect someone’s decision.

“I know where Damien has been at with knocks and injuries over the last few years and he’s the only one who really knows what his body is feeling.

“It would be nice for me to have his experience and quality there, but the last thing I would want is for in years to come someone say that I pushed and made someone play. I respected Damien’s decision, although I would have liked him to carry on.”

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