Belfast Telegraph

Worthy keen on the right deal for him

By Mark McIntosh

Nigel Worthington last night insisted he will never turn his back on Northern Ireland - but he says any new deal will have to be right for both him and the Irish FA.

Worthington took the job on a six-game basis in the summer when Lawrie Sanchez walked out for his dream Premier League job but Worthington and maybe people saw it as a no-win gamble.

But the ex-Norwich boss deified the odds, especially after double defeat to Latvia and Iceland in October, and with 45 minutes remaining last night, his side still had a chance of making it to Euro 2008 before going down 1-0 in Gran Canaria to Spain.

Worthington will now take a week to reflect on the five-month roller-coaster ride then sit down with IFA president Raymond Kennedy and Chief Executive Howard Wells to discuss where both parties go from here.

"I would never turn my back on Northern Ireland or any Northern Ireland team," said Worthington.

"It is never going to be a case of me just walking away from this job.

" Any deal for me to stay on would have to be right for Nigel Worthington and for the Irish Football Association.

"I've enjoyed every minute of the job and the staff and players really did bond and grow together.

"The IFA will go to the World Cup draw on Sunday and after that we will all sit down to see where we go from here for the best and we'll see what happens."

Worthington admits his players did not only him, but the entire country proud in a campaign that will go down in Northern Ireland folklore.

He added: "I am very proud of the team. They fought to the very end and showed outstanding courage, resilience and energy but in the end it wasn't to be.

"Everyone was disappointed in the dressing room but losing to a very, very good Spain side is certainly no disgrace.

"I've told the players to go away and remember what they have achieved and I have no doubt they can go on from here.

" The average age of our squad is something like 24 and that is a lovely age to be working with a developing group the way this squad is.

" They got so close to qualifying this time and now they have the taste for it.

"That can only stand them in good stead for the future and with this experience behind them I expect them to be even better by the time the World Cup qualifiers come around."

While the Green and White Army were texting friends at home to find out how Latvia were doing in Stockholm, Worthington insisted he wasn't interested.

"We knew at half-time it was 1-1 in Sweden and of course that gave us an even bigger chance.

"But that wasn't on my mind. The main thing was that we did our job then we could look to the other game.

" Unfortunately it wasn't to be this time and we are all disappointed but I'm sure this isn't the end of what this squad will do on the big stage."

Belfast Telegraph


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