Northern Ireland v Faroe Islands: Win or bust for Worthy’s men as boss calls for patience
It's a phrase that smacks of arrogance and disrespect.
And it’s been used to describe the Faroe Islands ahead of tonight’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifier at Windsor Park.
‘Whipping boys’ is a term often attached to so-called international ‘minnows’ but they are words that should never be in Northern Ireland’s vocabulary.
Already, Luxembourg have been dubbed ‘whipping boys’ in Northern Ireland’s World Cup 2014 qualifying group.
The harsh reality is that the way Northern Ireland are playing at the moment, most international sides would relish the chance to face them in qualifiers.
Teams are getting stronger across Europe and beyond while Northern Ireland are even involved in a fight to stop players pledging allegiance to their neighbours.
The Faroe Islands, who held Northern Ireland 1-1 in Toftir and beat Estonia 2-0 as recently as June, aren’t ‘whipping boys’ and if Nigel Worthington’s players think they are, tonight could be a humbling experience.
“Fulham, a Premier League team, went out to the Faroes a few weeks ago in the Europa League and were held to a 0-0 draw,” said Worthington. “Make no mistake, there are people there with energy, ability and desire to play football and win games.
“Whipping boys is a terrible term that people use and I think it’s disrespectful. I would never be like that to any manager or any team.
“Until the final whistle goes and you have the game in the bag, the game of football can bring you down to earth if you aren’t focused on the job.
“I respect any manager in what they do.
“I appreciate the job and Brian’s (Kerr) done a very good job with the Faroes.”
It’s win or bust for Northern Ireland this evening with their Euro 2012 qualifying hopes resting on a knife-edge.
There’s an old saying ‘winning ugly’ and it’s one of those occasions when the result is all that matters.
“Patience, discipline and keeping our shape will be important,” said Worthington. “We have got 90 to 95 minutes to score and win the game.
“You’d love to score in the first minute but you also don’t want to concede so it’s got to be a controlled, disciplined performance.”
Worthington refused to acknowledge that the 1-1 draw in the Faroe Islands was his lowest moment as Northern Ireland boss.
“No, not at all,” he said. “To be honest when you’re managing your country you don’t have low moments because it’s a real pleasure and honour to do so.
“When you’re 1-0 down in the Faroes but manage to get an equaliser while pushing for the winner, yet it doesn’t come you are grateful for your point.”
Worthington was very reluctant yesterday to talk about the James McClean issue or Gerry Armstrong’s new role as an international player liaison, referring to the topics as “a distraction”.
“The IFA have put out a statement on the issue and I’m only interested in talking about this important game,” said Worthington.
The former Norwich City manager is keeping everyone guessing regarding his starting 11 but there could be places for Paddy McCourt just behind David Healy and Jamie Ward on the right wing.