Belfast Telegraph

O’Neill front-runner to succeed Worthington as Northern Ireland boss

By Steven Beacom

Michael O’Neill has emerged as the stronglyfavoured candidate for the soon-to-be-vacant post of Northern Ireland manager.

It could well be a case of one Ballymena man replacing another as the Irish FA ponder the fall-out from the failed Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Nigel Worthington is almost certain to go following Tuesday’s abysmal performance from the national team, which ended in an error-strewn 4-1 defeat by Estonia in Tallinn.

And 42-year-old O’Neill, who has worked wonders with Shamrock Rovers in League of Ireland football, has the backing of a large number of Northern Ireland fans who have made it clear that Worthington’s four-year reign must end now.

Other candidates include fellow ex-internationals Jim Magilton and Iain Dowie.

Worthington’s fate was effectively sealed courtesy of a far-from-ringing endorsement from IFA president Jim Shaw yesterday morning.

“Our expectations are way beyond fifth place in the group,” he said.

“We saw ourselves up in third and challenging for second and a play-off place.”

He added: “At the end of the campaign we'll discuss the manager's situation and analyse how the tournament went for us and make a decision after that.”

‘How the tournament went’ is clear, as is the identity of the person who will ultimately carry the can.

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