Belfast Telegraph

Worthington a clear favourite for Sheffield Wednesday job

By Stuart McKinley

Sheffield Wednesday chairman Lee Strafford has revealed that the club’s former manager Howard Wilkinson will be advising the Hillsborough board on the appointment of their next boss.

And that puts Nigel Worthington in the driving seat to take on the challenge of leading the Owls out of the Championship’s relegation zone.

With two weeks remaining on his contract with the Irish Football Association Worthington will fulfil an engagement in Belfast this morning when he will assist with the draw for the fifth round of the JJB Sports Irish Cup.

And with the managerial position at Wednesday now vacant and Worthington installed as the bookie’s favourite, it looks like being his last act as Northern Ireland manager.

Initial talks were held last week and IFA President Raymond Kennedy will use today’s opportunity to go all out to strike a deal with Worthington that will see him lead his country into the qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships. It may, however, already be too late.

Wilkinson is now back working at Wednesday as a technical advisor — a role he has been in since the start of the year.

He is the single biggest influence on Worthington’s career, with the former full-back being given his big break in full-time football when Wilkinson was involved in the move that took him from Ballymena United to Notts County in 1981 and later signed him while in charge of both Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United.

And when Worthington moved into management he worked under Wilkinson with the England under-21 team at the 2000 European Championship finals.

“Having someone of Howard’s calibre at the club means that we have a real expert advising the board and his input will be valuable in our recruitment process,” said Strafford.

“Howard will be able to help us determine the calibre and the characteristics needed for our new manager and our process of recruitment will be as thorough as possible.

“Howard will not make any decisions regarding an appointment, but he is there to advise and we will be listening to his well respected advice.”

It’s a club v country tug-of-war with a difference. When he took the Northern Ireland job in the summer of 2007 Worthington said that when your country comes calling it’s something you don’t turn down.

Now, however, it’s the club where he spent 11 years of his career, with whom he was a Wembley winner in 1991 and fans who voted him the best left-back in the club’s history that is attracting Worthington.

He was a contender when the job was last vacant three years ago — a matter of weeks after he was sacked by Norwich City.

At that time Worthington said it was the ‘right club, but the wrong time’ with Wednesday being in financial turmoil.

The current situation isn’t an awful lot better, but things are much more positive and much more attractive for a prospective manager.

And Worthington’s former full-back partner at Hillsborough, Mel Sterland, is backing the man who played over 300 games in the blue and white stripes as the best man for the job.

“Nigel's name has been shouted about a lot and he would be a great choice as new manager in my view,” said Sterland.

“He's done well for Northern Ireland, did well at Norwich and he knows this football club very well, I think he had 10 years at Wednesday.

“He'd be popular with the fans and if you've got that you've got a chance.

“He had everything as a player at Sheffield Wednesday and has served his apprenticeship as manager.

“He would also work well with Howard Wilkinson, who bought him from Notts County back in the 80s. There's lots of respect there.”

Belfast Telegraph


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