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Worthington to end N Ireland stay

Nigel Worthington has announced he will step down as manager of Northern Ireland after their final Euro 2012 qualifier in Italy on Tuesday night.

Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying for next summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine were extinguished for good following Friday night's 2-1 home defeat to Estonia in Belfast.

Worthington revealed the news at a press conference at the team hotel in Pescara, only minutes after informing the players of his decision. He said: "The situation is that as from tomorrow night I will step down as manager of the national team."

He added: "Up until three games to go (in Group C) we were in a very good position but, through no-one's fault, sometimes the game of football throws you a raw hand. I feel the time has come after four and a half years, which have been fantastic for me as an individual.

"Sometimes when you try to get blood out of a stone there's only so much you can get. I think I've gone as far as I can with the group we've got."

Worthington, who has been subjected to some negative chants from the fans in the last two matches - defeats at home and away to Estonia - denied the supporters had influenced his decision.

He said: "It's not through supporter pressure because I can deal with that. It's a football decision that I think is right. The question was asked of me at the outset 'would I turn my back on my country?'. I said no then and I was determined to see it through and that is what I've done."

Former Northern Ireland striker Iain Dowie has said he would welcome the chance to talk to the Irish Football Association when they start looking for Worthington's successor.

He has not managed since a brief and ill-fated attempt to prevent Hull from dropping out of the Barclays Premier League last year, working instead as a media pundit.

Dowie told Sky Sports News: "The proudest moment of my playing career was captaining my country and I'm always happy to help and the most important thing is Northern Ireland being a successful nation. I believe my CV stands up to scrutiny and if the IFA want to have a conversation with me I would be happy to do that."

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