Belfast Telegraph

Iain Dowie backs Worthington to take Northern Ireland to finals

By Steven Beacom

Iain Dowie believes Nigel Worthington has what it takes to lead Northern Ireland to the European Championship finals.

Dowie was a huge favourite with the Green and White Army, winning 59 caps in a decade from 1990.

He may have been born in England, but after qualifying to play for Northern Ireland through his dad, there is no question where his allegiances lie. Indeed Iain has an oil painting in his house of a goal he scored against the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road.

Some fans would like to see Dowie become Northern Ireland manager one day, but the big man, who scored 12 international goals, feels the current incumbent is doing a fine job.

“We have a very good manager in Nigel Worthington. I am a big admirer of his. And I have a feeling that he is getting something going again,” says Dowie.

“Apart from the tried and trusted players like Aaron Hughes, we have bright lads like Sammy Clingan and Niall McGinn and Chris Brunt who is having a wonderful season. I also like Gareth McAuley as a defender and think Jonny Evans is great. He has bounced back at Manchester United from a difficult period earlier in the season, so there is a lot of talent in the squad.

“I would love to see us reach the European Championship finals for the fans. The Northern Ireland support is something else.

“With what Nigel is doing I think we have a chance. Our home form will be crucial for the rest of the campaign.

“If we could qualify, it would be a huge boost to Northern Ireland football in the future because you would then see more kids coming through the ranks. We need to keep that conveyor belt moving.”

Northern Ireland’s biggest modern day football hero remains David Healy. He was left out of the last international squad — the first time that has happened since he made his debut in 2000 — and now there are questions marks about his future.

This, even though he has scored a record breaking 35 goals and remains Northern Ireland’s most feared performer on the international scene.

“David Healy has re-wriiten Northern Irish football history with his goals and he still has that ability,” says Dowie.

“I know he has had a tough time on the international front recently but my advice to David would be don’t retire.

“Sammy McIlroy retired me and rightly so, but I would never have retired myself because I loved playing for Northern Ireland. It was the biggest thrill of my life and David feels the same way.

“If and when a manager, be it Nigel or someone else, taps him on the shoulder and says your time is up, then fine, but I would’t retire because he has had the greatest ability Northern Ireland has ever seen in putting the ball in the net and I’m sure he still has that in his locker.”

Belfast Telegraph


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