Belfast Telegraph

Nigel Worthington deal done at last for IFA

By Graham Luney and Stuart McKinley

Nigel Worthington and Irish FA president Raymond Kennedy confirmed last night that a deal is in place that will see the former Norwich City supremo remain in charge of Northern Ireland for the next two years.

After prolonged talks on a new deal, agreement has finally been reached and it just needs to be “rubber-stamped” by the IFA Board next week.

The new contract that will incorporate the 2012 European Championship campaign will net Worthington around £450,000 per annum.

Some fans may wonder how the Irish FA can afford to pay out such a bumper salary in the light of a £400,000 out of court settlement paid to its former chief executive Howard Wells.

But Kennedy has defended the new figures that will boost Worthington’s bank account.

“For Nigel and his backroom staff we had to agree separate contracts,” said Kennedy.

“The £450,000 is not far off the mark but managers come with a cost. Managers can cost anything from £350,000 to £500,000.”

News of the agreement with Worthington came shortly after Championship side Sheffield Wednesday appointed former Preston boss Alan Irvine as their new manager.

Former Wednesday player Worthington had expressed an interest in the vacant position, but now he will quickly turn his attention to keeping Northern Ireland on the right road.

It may appear that Worthington has rushed to strike a deal with the IFA when the Hillsborough post was given to someone else, but the contract has been agreed and would have been completed this week only for the current extreme winter conditions to have their say.

Worthington was free to talk to Wednesday after his contract with the Irish FA expired on December 31, but the Ballymena man insisted last night that he hadn’t talked to any clubs.

“There is an agreement and that needs to be ratified so the job isn’t quite finished,” added Kennedy.

“Hopefully it can be rubber-stamped by the IFA Board. That perhaps could have been done earlier, but the weather intervened.

“But there has been a verbal agreement in place and that’s to be welcomed. I can feel a bit relieved when matters are finished but of course I don’t expect to get credit for anything!

“Two years ago talks to agree a new deal went on for some time and that’s just the nature of these things.”

Worthington is the highest paid manager in the IFA’s history and the challenge for him is to prove that he is worth the salary.

Yes, he has taken things forward since being appointed in June 2007 and victories over higher ranked nations are no longer a shock.

The fans are looking for the team to take that final step though, they crave the excitement that a major finals would bring.

Worthington has just missed out twice after still carrying qualifying hopes going into the last game — albeit very slim ones last time out — on both occasions.

He, the players and the 14,000 fans who regularly fill Windsor Park will now hope it’s third time lucky and that the Green and White Army will march into Poland and Ukraine in the summer of 2012.

“I am happy with the deal and happy that everything has been concluded,” said Worthington.

“Jobs were there, but I never spoke to anyone else. I just kept talking with the Irish FA. Raymond Kennedy has been very good all the way through, but these things take time and contract negotiations can’t be rushed.

“I’m expecting things to be rubber-stamped next to allow me to move things forward and get on with the job.

“I had hoped it would have been done by now, but it’s not a major problem.”

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland may take on Wales in Swansea on March 3 after a planned friendly in Belgium came to nothing.

The teams last met in a Windsor Park friendly in February 2007, playing out a 0-0 draw.

Prior to that there were two meetings in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.

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