Worthington opens Northern Ireland door to Jamie
As Nigel Worthington named his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Poland and Slovenia, the sound of doors opening and closing could be heard.
A welcome mat has been rolled out for Sheffield United striker Jamie Ward but the international door remains closed to 86 times capped Keith Gillespie and goalkeeper Roy Carroll.
The former Manchester United winger has a career to resurrect, though Worthington repeated his view that Gillespie’s international adventure was not yet over.
The 34-year-old’s problem is that he has been starved of competitive football — but you would think he would feel right at home in the Northern Ireland squad!
But 22-year-old Ward is one for the future and now he can bask in the glory of his first senior call-up.
The Birmingham lad, who qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandfather, was previously a hungry goalgetter at Chesterfield.
“Young Jamie’s in,” said Worthington. “He moved to Sheffield United just over a month ago. He has been on the bench recently and got half an hour last weekend.
“I spoke to staff at he club and he’s been doing very nicely so with Kyle (Lafferty) suspended for the first game I wanted to have four strikers in the group.
“Jamie will now have the experience of being with the group and senior set-up. He was at Chesterfield before and scored a wealth of goals there.”
But once again there is no place for Gillespie, who has just signed for Bradford City, or Derby County shot-stopper Roy Carroll.
“Roy is on the bench every week with Derby County but I am keeping faith with the three goalkeepers that have journeyed all over Europe the last year,” added Worthington. “That will remain until something changes there.
“I will monitor Keith’s fitness and development at Bradford over the next few weeks. I don’t think beggars can be choosers if that is the right statement — Keith needs to play football.
“His last competitive outing was on December 20 for Charlton against Norwich and he got eight minutes in that game. When the games come around it is almost three months since he has kicked a ball in anger which is a long, long time for a professional footballer. You can train all you want but you need to be playing games.
“He is a great lad and footballer and the door is open — he is not left out on a permanent basis. I have a high regard for Keith as a player and individual.
“Even the staunchest Keith Gillespie supporter will note that it’s a long time since he was involved in competitive action.”
Northern Ireland face Poland on Saturday, March 28 and Slovenia four days later.
Northern Ireland squad (v Poland): Goalkeepers: Taylor (Birmingham City), Mannus (Linfield), Tuffey (Partick Thistle); Defenders: Craigan (Motherwell), Hughes (Fulham), McAuley (Ipswich Town), McGivern (Manchester City), Baird (Fulham), Evans (Manchester United); Midfielders: McCann (Scunthorpe United), Brunt (West Brom), McGinn (Celtic), Clingan (Norwich City), Johnson (Birmingham City), McCourt (Celtic), Shiels (Doncaster Rovers); Strikers: Healy (Sunderland), Feeney (Dundee United on loan), Paterson (Burnley), Ward (Sheffield United); Added for game v Slovenia: McCartney (Sunderland), Lafferty (Rangers), Davis (Rangers).