Outgoing Worthy calls for patience
Nigel Worthington used his final match in charge of Northern Ireland to give fans a taste of what the future might look like, but warned that they would have to be patient with the next generation.
Shorn of a staggering 10 players from his original 23-man squad, through a variety of injuries and a suspension for striker Kyle Lafferty, the departing Worthington sent out a handful of youngsters against a classy Italy outfit, who triumphed 3-0 in Pescara.
He said: "We had many youngsters out there, against a quality side like Italy and I'm really proud of them. Every one of them put a shift in. But at the age they are, they're a long way from maturing into international footballers. Patience has to be the name of the game."
Ryan McGivern was called in at left-back, with Jonny Gorman, Oliver Norwood and Andrew Little in midfield and Conor McLaughlin earning a debut from the bench. Little is the oldest of the five at 22, with Gorman just 18.
Worthington believes they are promising players for his eventual successor but cautioned against over-burdening them with expectation.
"The fact we had six or seven senior players out, that hit was a massive loss," he said after his side were downed by two fine finishes from Antonio Cassano and a Gareth McAuley own goal.
Worthington stressed that some older heads would be needed to nurse those promising players through the next campaign and he made a plea to the likes of Jonny Evans, Chris Brunt and Lafferty - all missing against Italy - to continue giving their all for the cause.
"I'll reiterate something big Maik Taylor said the other day: it's important for the people who represent Northern Ireland to turn up on a regular basis," he said.
"I've been very fortunate in qualifying games where players have, nine times out of 10, turned up and we've finished up getting good results.
"I hope that continues for Northern Ireland."