Belfast Telegraph

A Worthy dream

Nigel sets sights on South Africa

By Steven Beacom

Nigel Worthington today outlined his dream to take Northern Ireland to the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010.

After weeks of negotiation, Worthington recently agreed a two year deal with the Irish Football Association to continue his reign as Northern Ireland manager after taking over from Lawrie Sanchez on an initial six month contract last year.

The package is the grandest ever agreed by the IFA - around £450,000 per year which includes payment for Worthington and his backroom staff, led by coach Glynn Snodin and goalkeeping coach Fred Barber.

Worthington is understood to have landed over £300,000 per year. It's a great deal for him but should he guide Northern Ireland to the glamour stages of the World Cup, it will represent outstanding business for the IFA as they would make millions by reaching South Africa.

To do that David Healy and co must finish first in a group that contains the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and San Marino or end up in second place and then win a play-off.

"My dream would be to take Northern Ireland to the World Cup finals," said Worthington.

" Obviously looking at the group Poland and the Czechs will be favourites but we are going to give it a real go.

"Certainly our home form is good enough and if we can sort out our away form, then we will be in contention.

"I'm delighted to be staying with Northern Ireland. We have a good group of lads who want to learn and are desperate to do well for their country."

Unlike previous Northern Ireland managers, Worthington will spend a lot of time here - it is written into his contract that he will be in the country for over 70 days of the year in order to help with the process of bringing more youngsters through.

Ultimately though he will be judged on the World Cup qualifiers with many now expecting Northern Ireland to finish in the top two. That won't be easy, but after all the progress that has been made in recent years, it is a Worthy dream that could become a reality.

Northern Ireland's next match is a friendly at Windsor against Bulgaria on February 6.

Belfast Telegraph


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