Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland players may be next to call it quits, warns Nigel Worthington

By Paul Ferguson

Outgoing boss Nigel Worthington fears some Northern Ireland players may decide to retire early with a bleak international future predicted.

During the last two months, the squad has lost Stephen Craigan, Aaron Hughes and, after tonight, Maik Taylor to retirement.

Striker David Healy insists he will stay on for next year’s World Cup qualifiers but it is understood certain senior players who are still only in their mid twenties have been thinking about ending their international careers so they can focus solely on club football.

With a tough World Cup group starting next September and the squad lacking strength in depth, there is a real worry Northern Ireland may really struggle to compete over the new few years.

Worthington has called on the Northern Ireland supporters to play their part in making sure players don’t become disillusioned with playing for their country.

“The one thing I think supporters and the press have to be very careful of is that negativity, if they're not careful, will switch some of our players off and they will pack it in,” he said.

“Representing your country is a fantastic honour but some people deal with situations better than others.

“Some might think ‘I don’t want to be around this mood, this feeling.'

“You wouldn’t like those players to step away from honouring their country through those circumstances.

“When Windsor Park is bouncing it's a fantastic place to be, but please do remember as the song goes, ‘We’re not Brazil we're Northern Ireland’ and that can be easily forgotten.”

Worthington, who managed Blackpool, Norwich City and Leicester City before taking up the Northern Ireland job in June 2007, will attempt to return to club football.

He says: “I’ll look to go back into club management whenever that may be.

“I'm a football person, I enjoy the hassle — you have to in this game because it’s never far away.”

Belfast Telegraph


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