Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Worthington has got the message

Nigel Worthington shook hands with all his players at Gatwick Airport yesterday before they headed back to their respective clubs.

For the footballers they have weekend matches to focus on.

For the international manager he must reflect on the humiliating 4-1 defeat in Estonia which ended dreams of Euro 2012 qualification and any hope the Ballymena man had of landing a new contract with the Irish FA.

He will also consider the unsavoury post match scenes with angry fans calling for his head.

And maybe, just maybe, even though he wants to stay in the job, he'll feel he's better off without it.

No-one needs that abuse. He wore the look of a haunted man on Tuesday and while he managed a few smiles as he travelled back from Estonia, you could sense his deep disappointment with how his reign as boss — a role he once described as his dream job — is ending.

And end it will when the IFA decide not to renew his contract, which runs until December, after the final two Euro qualifiers next month at home to Estonia and in Italy.

It is still mathematically possible to finish second in Group C and make the play-offs, but, face it, the best we can do is finish one spot higher than the depressing fifth place we occupy at present.

Going fourth won't be good enough for the IFA.

President Jim Shaw said as much, stating: “I fully understand the frustrations of the fans because I still am a big supporter in my role as IFA President.

“Our expectations are way beyond fifth place in the group. We saw ourselves up in third and challenging for second and a play-off place.

“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.”

The IFA bigwigs will have taken heed of the fan outrage, knowing that history has shown for Northern Ireland to have any chance of success, everyone needs to be in it together.

Worthington has lost the fans and once you do that it is virtually impossible to win them back.

In any case I've long believed that in modern day international football a manager, unless he can't stop winning, has a shelf life of two campaigns.

Nigel has had two-and-a-half.

The half came when Lawrie Sanchez walked out to become Fulham boss midway through the Euro 2008 qualifiers, doing what he promised he would never do, leave before his contract ended.

It didn't take Sanchez long to put his name forward for a return, did it?

It was as early as the morning after the desperate night before, insisting on Radio Ulster yesterday that it was time for Nigel to go and that he was the man to replace him.

Crass, insensitive and ill-timed. Lawrie has no shame.

It's one thing a journalist like me saying that Worthy's reign should end, but isn't there an unwritten rule between managers that they don't kick a colleague when he is down? And certainly you don't go offering yourself on a plate, while someone is already in the job.

Sanchez said: “He is not doing an exceptional job. It has got worse rather than better. Nigel has had enough cracks at it. Everybody sees the writing is on the wall.”

He added that he wanted to finish what he started. Why, Lawrie? So, you could walk out on us all over again when something better came along!

Despite the manner of his departure in 2007, many fans tell me they would have him back in a heartbeat, pointing to those famous victories over England, Spain and Sweden.

Instead of looking back though, now is the time to look to the future and there are impressive candidates out there, who would jump at the job, especially if the salary remains at £450,000.

Former Ipswich boss Jim Magilton should be in contention, along with his former international team-mate and buddy Michael O'Neill who, despite relative inexperience in the management game has worked wonders with Shamrock Rovers.

Magilton acts as number two to O'Neill in Dublin.

Get them as a package for Northern Ireland? Another to consider is Iain Dowie, while Steve Lomas and Michael Hughes would definitely fancy it. Watch this space...

Belfast Telegraph


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