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Absentees let Nigel Worthington down, sayd Taylor

It was an emotional response on a highly charged day.

Only minutes after hearing Nigel Worthington had decided to step down as Northern Ireland boss, veteran goalkeeper Maik Taylor — a strong ally of the manager — launched into a tirade against some of his international team-mates.

Taylor, who will captain Northern Ireland tonight in what will be 88th and final appearance for his adopted country, hit out at those players who have let Worthington down with their regular non-appearances when selected in squads.

The former Birmingham City goalkeeper didn’t want to name names but, reading between the lines, it was obvious his fury was directed at Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty and Manchester United defender Jonny Evans.

He says he’s disgusted with their nonchalant attitudes towards playing for their country and the fact they seem to avoid the backlash after a defeat while the players who turn up are heavily criticised.

Taylor may be German born but there has never been a prouder man to represent Northern Ireland.

“It's an honour to put on the green jersey and it's a privilege too and should be the only motivation you need to represent your country,” fumed Taylor, who turned 40 last month. “I really can’t get my head round players thinking any other way.

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“It’s beyond belief and it has hurt me that there are some players who deliberately make themselves unavailable. I just don’t get it because, when I made the decision 12 years ago to play for Northern Ireland, I was 100 per cent committed.

“Players who turn up game after game put themselves on the line for criticism but those who don’t turn up should be questioned. Instead they are always absolved from blame — that’s not right.

“We have the same players here all the time and we know the players who are not available who would definitely strengthen the side.

“As for players quitting the international scene in their mid twenties, they should ask themselves a few questions and remember how proud a feeling it is to play for Northern Ireland.”

Taylor was saddened but not surprised when Worthington informed the squad yesterday lunchtime that the game against Italy would be his final match in charge of the team.

He believes Worthington was totally focussed on being successful with Northern Ireland but the players just did not achieve the results that were needed.

“We’re all very sorry to hear that he’s made this decision. He’s a very proud man and has been very proud to manage his country but he obviously thinks it’s the right thing to do,” adds Taylor.

“From my point of view, I can only thank him too, he’s done a great job and has been very unfortunate in a lot of aspects that a couple of results just didn’t go our way.

“He gave it his very best shot and I honestly believe he couldn’t have done much more. He really did the best he could have done with the players available to him.”

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