Nigel Worthington and Glynn Snodin have attempted to blow away negativity surrounding the Northern Ireland camp by saying “our boys are flying”.
The management duo are staring at a win or bust scenario in San Marino on February 11 as Northern Ireland’s World Cup hopes rest on a knife edge.
Worthington has had to answer speculation linking him with the Norwich City job while several of his key performers are not benefiting from regular action at their clubs.
Northern Ireland’s leading goalscorer David Healy didn’t hide his frustration when Worthington hinted that the striker should consider a move away from the Stadium of Light.
But there was more encouraging news at the weekend when midfielders Steven Davis, Sammy Clingan, Michael O’Connor and Chris Brunt all scored for their respective clubs and Jonny Evans has slipped seamlessly into the Manchester United backline.
Worthington questioned the fitness of his players after the disappointing 2-0 friendly defeat to Hungary in November, but he is confident his men will do a professional job against the Group Three whipping boys in the Stadio Olimpico Stadium.
“The players that are featuring regularly for their clubs like Aaron Hughes and Steven Davis have been in excellent form and it is wonderful to see Jonny Evans repaying Sir Alex Ferguson’s faith in him,” said Worthington.
“Steven Davis has been in superb form since he’s moved to Rangers and the confidence he has gained will boost the international side.
“Then you have Sammy Clingan who is the shining star in a struggling Norwich City side while Maik Taylor has been performing well at Birmingham City.
“I find it tough as an international manager being away from the players for so long and you miss being involved, but I’m confident our boys are in good shape and ready to do a professional job in San Marino.”
Worthington’s assistant, Snodin, says the players continue to be a credit to themselves and their country.
“The players are great to work with and their behaviour and attitude is impeccable which is very important as well,” he said.
“Ever since we took charge of the team 18 months ago it was stressed how important it was to transform our away form and we must do that.
“The performances of Jonny Evans have been a real delight, but not a huge surprise to us as we already knew what a great player he was going to become.
“He’s a future Northern Ireland captain and we are very fortunate to have a special talent in our squad.”
The former Leeds United player is being linked with a coaching role at Elland Road, but he added: “That’s just speculation.
“I have issues I need to resolve with my former club West Ham, but I am getting itchy feet and I would love to get back coaching at club level again after this frustrating period for me.”