Belfast Telegraph

Worthington comes full circle

By Graham Luney

NIGEL Worthington’s Northern Ireland reign started as it ended — in disastrous fashion.

The Green and White Army had experienced many extraordinary highs when Lawrie Sanchez was in the driving seat so his successor was always going to have his work cut out.

Worthington was appointed manager of Northern Ireland in June 2007, initially on a short- term contract until the end of the Euro 2008 qualifying tournament.

But in his second and third competitive matches, the Ballymena man made his first significant error when he axed defender Stephen Craigan.

Defeats followed against Latvia and Iceland and the Euro 2008 dream went up in smoke.

From leading their qualifying group when Worthington took charge, the team slipped to third but the Irish FA kept the faith and handed him a two-year deal.

But football is a results-based business and his team won just nine games over the four-and-a-half years he was in charge.

Worthington’s overall record is nine wins, 10 draws and 22 defeats in 41 games in the hotseat.

And his departure was inevitable with those statistics making grim reading. In fact, Northern Ireland had won just two of their last 23 games under Worthington.

His team scored only 12 goals in those 23 fixtures, with four of those in one game against the Faroe Islands.

While fans slammed him for being “negative Nigel”, his team lacked real menace in attack with Chris Brunt continuing his refusal to bring his club form to the international stage while David Healy never reproduced the goalscoring magic he conjured up under Sanchez and Kyle Lafferty played in only 20 of Worthington’s 42 games in charge.

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