Belfast Telegraph

Nigel to remedy Northern Ireland's travel sickness

By Mark McIntosh

Glasgow may be nothing more than just a quick hop across the Irish Sea, but Nigel Worthington is hoping to banish Northern Ireland’s away day blues.

The international boss is determined to get a formation in place to help his side pick up vital points away from home when the World Cup qualifiers begin in Slovakia on September 6.

Qualification for the Euro 2008 was close but if Worthington’s troops are going to launch a realistic bid for qualification for the World Cup in South Africa in two years, they’ll have to turn their away form around – with only the top nation guaranteed qualification from each group.

“Away from home we have been less than average over a number of years and that is something I have looked at in great detail and it is something we will have to address,” he added.

“We have to try to get something away from home to go with the good home form we’ve built up and we’ll continue that.

“And for that reason, there could possibly be a change of formation against Scotland.

“I know what my team is and we are shaped up and have the personnel in place.

“I think quality-wise Scotland have some very good players and they are ranked 16th now which is a tremendous achievement.

“We’ve had a good spell ourselves after a tough time, but both counties are looking up and enjoying their football and that is what I want to continue and keep the achievements up.”

Worthington last night told his some of his players to use tonight’s friendly against Scotland as a shop window.

David Healy is close to agreeing a move to Sunderland after being frozen out at Fulham, but for team-mate Chris Baird, this could be the best chance to get a move before the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month.

While their club life hasn’t started well this term, Worthington has no issue with throwing them in on the international stage.

“I’m not concerned about the Fulham boys at all,” said Worthington.

“Chris Baird, it has been a frustrating time for him, but he has to remain focused and sharp because the call could come at any time either at Fulham or another club.

“If standards slip then it’s only going to take away from that individual.

“If I was a player who was frozen out for whatever reason I would be using it as a shop window.

“It is a wonderful opportunity and a great stage at Hampden Park and I’m sure it could be the ideal opportunity for players wanting to move on.”

Despite naming players on stand-by, Worthington has deciding against calling them into the squad.

Only Manchester City’s 18-year- old defender Ryan McGivern has joined up with the panel, with five players forced to withdraw.

He added: “Not concerned about withdrawals. I’m comfortable with the group.

“I’m content to have the 16 players available.

“It’s important to have this game ahead of the World Cup qualifiers and especially against our old rivals from the British Championship and it is a great game for both countries.”

Belfast Telegraph


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