Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland players quick to defend Nigel Worthington

By Keith Bailie

The Northern Ireland players shared the pain felt by the large travelling support after last night’s humiliating 4-1 defeat at the hands of Estonia.

But unlike the fans, the players defended under-fire boss Nigel Worthington.

Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes was devastated to see his team’s Euro 2012 hopes disappear in Tallinn.

“It's a massive disappointment,” he admitted.

“At the start of the week we were looking forward to two massive games with a chance of qualifying. Unfortunately it hasn't panned out that way.”

Hughes defended his side against some of the criticism that rained down from the travelling Northern Ireland fans.

“Personally I think the criticism can be unfair — we don't set out to be negative.

“At times I actually thought we were the better team. We got the ball down and passed it about well on occasions, but mistakes cost us and we all have to take responsibility for that,” he said.

As Worthington climbed on to the team bus after last night’s game, he was verbally attacked by a small number of angry fans who called for the former international left-back to quit.

But Hughes tried to deflect blame from his boss. “The manager will get the criticism from the fans but it was ultimately the players who made the mistakes that gave away the goals,” Hughes stressed.

Record goalscorer David Healy also defended Worthington.

“Ultimately what goes on with the manager is not my decision,” he said. “I just try and concentrate on my own game, and don't worry about the situation with the manager.

“The manager picks the team — it's the players who have to go onto the pitch and perform,” added the Rangers striker, who had an effort disallowed last night.

While the players may refuse to blame the manager, most of the fans in Estonia were furious at the result and performance which leaves Northern Ireland’s Euro 2012 hopes in tatters.

Worthington is likely to receive a hostile reception at Windsor Park from the supporters for the return match against Estonia on Friday, October 7.

Belfast Telegraph

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