Belfast Telegraph

Nations Cup: George McCartney quits Northern Ireland via text message

By Steven Beacom

As a player Nigel Worthington was a fantastic servant for his country, fully committed to the cause. It's a pity we can't say the same about another Northern Ireland left-back, George McCartney, who has decided to retire from international football at the grand old age of 29.

No wonder Worthington looked a bit bemused as he informed the press in Dublin yesterday about McCartney's decision.

To the Northern Ireland boss this was alien.

In his world you give every last drop of energy to your place of birth until you can give no more.

Worthington said: “For me being able to represent your country, you go on for as long as you can keep contributing to the set-up and the manager wants you. It's as simple as that.

“There's nothing greater in life apart from your health than being able to represent your country at any level and when you are at the top level it is a wonderful thing.”

It wasn't just the fact that McCartney decided to call it quits — it was the way he did it that left a lot to be desired.

McCartney used that most modern — and impersonal — of methods to confirm his Northern Ireland days were over. He sent a text. Yes, a text. Not even a phone call.

It gets worse because the text wasn't even sent to Worthington, it was sent to Nigel's assistant Glynn Snodin, who just happens to be a coach at Leeds United where McCartney plays.

And to put a red bow on it, the text arrived in Snodin's inbox on Sunday when the rest of the players were preparing to meet up for tonight's Carling Nations Cup match with Scotland, almost a week after the squad had been announced.

Eventually McCartney did the decent thing and called Worthington on Monday, though Nigel could be forgiven for thinking it was too little too late.

At first Worthington wanted to keep things brief when outlining the news.

He said: “I'll make this very short as I don't want to take away from the group of players who are here or our match against Scotland. The situation with George is that he has said that he is retiring from international football and that's all I want to say.”

Of course it couldn't be left at that and when pressed, Worthington revealed: “I was dumbfounded when I found out. I spoke to George on Monday. I asked the question why I wasn't notified shortly after the announcement of the squad. He was in one of the papers on Sunday (our sister paper Sunday Life) saying he was delighted about being in the squad and looking forward to meeting up and lo and behold we have gone full circle.”

“Full circle.” A reminder there that it was Worthington (pictured) who resurrected the international career of McCartney. The former West Ham and Sunderland ace had retired from international football in August 2005 after falling out of favour with previous boss Lawrie Sanchez.

I doubt Northern Ireland fans would put up with another comeback.

He wasn't the only one to have a personality clash with Sanchez, but while others grinned and beared it and beat England and Spain, McCartney decided life under Lawrie wasn't for him which suited the ex-Wimbledon midfielder just fine.

Even when Sammy McIlroy was manager there were problems, with McCartney refusing to fly to Armenia in March 2003 for a Euro qualifier.

The reason McCartney gave was that he felt threatened because when flying to Armenia the plane would be one hour away from the war zone in Iraq.

I know George had a fear of flying, and I sympathise with that, but his “war zone” excuse had the Green and White Army crying tears of laughter into their beers.

McCartney, who scored on his Northern Ireland debut against Iceland at Windsor Park in a 3-0 win 10 years ago and went on to win 33 more caps, can be a fine attacking left-back on his day.

But he was never in Worthington's league as a player and now he has turned his back on his country, good riddance I say.

Northern Ireland have a massive year ahead, starting tonight against Scotland, and hopefully ending with qualification for the 2012 European Championship finals.

Nigel Worthington needs committed players who want to play for the shirt. He does not need George McCartney.

Belfast Telegraph


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