Thursday, 30 August 2007

Is Nigel Worthy?

This day week I will be in Berlin en route to Riga and Northern Ireland’s crucial European Championship qualifying tie with Latvia. Of course I can barely wait and naturally I believe that we can win the game, but that is not to say that I am yet convinced that Nigel Worthington is the man to continue Lawrie Sanchez’s sterling work at the helm of OWC.

In an early post on this blog, I stressed the need for Worthington to maintain a steady ship for the duration of the qualifiers. I suggested also, that his first task should be to speak to his outgoing counterpart and learn exactly what Sanchez’s thoughts were on the strength of the unit he had created. I hoped that Worthington might have had the humility to consider what had been achieved and to try to build on that foundation.

Unfortunately pride and hubris prevented this approach. In an interview in the IFA’s magazine, Worthington boasted that he hadn’t even spoken once to Sanchez. He immediately began to offer an olive branch to players Lawrie had rejected as insufficiently committed to the cause. Unforgivably he lowered himself to begging Darron Gibson to play for the team.

Even without a ball being kicked it was hard not to believe that the unique characteristics of Sanchez’s team – the spirit, the work-ethic, the togetherness and the self-belief – were being immediately discarded by the new manager. Back came the “we need to take who we can get because we’re a small country and a poor team” mentality.

Of course Worthington’s first game was a victory. The predictable Healy brace and a finish by Lafferty obfuscated some of the less encouraging changes on the park. The team had developed a worrying propensity to loiter on the ball and to indulge in square passes. This could prove a most unwelcome development if it is carried into games against more able opposition. That the very same traits were noticed by Norwich City supporters in the previous two seasons does not bode well.
Worthington still has a glorious opportunity to build on Lawrie Sanchez’s achievements of course and victory in Latvia would be perfect to maintain the brimming confidence in the squad, which he can’t simply have wiped out in one international get together. Healy’s genius deserves the stage of a major championships and it almost appears like he’s intent on getting there by himself. With him in the team it is just possible we could still go all the way.


O'Neill said...

I think you're being a bit harsh, after all, he's had only one game against Liechenstien.

Unforgivably he lowered himself to begging Darron Gibson to play for the team

I wonder if this isn't part of a bigger IFA strategy (hard to credit I know), they're not really that bothered about Gibson, it's more about putting pressure on the FAI regarding further poaching, letting them know they'll have to fight tooth and nail for every player in the future?

BTW I saw Gibson play live twice last season in Belgium, fair enough he was recovering from injury, but still I wasn't at all impressed; of all the Utd players sent out to Antwerp, he's the one who came back with the most still to prove. I suspect he'll be moving on (and downwards) from Utd within a year.
And it's good to see Kane back.

Anyway enjoy Latvia, I've had my alloted away match for this year at Vaduz (following Denmark 07 and Austria 06),so I'll be trying to ratch up something on the internet to follow events.

Chekist said...

I fully recognise that Worthington has only had one game. I'm not drawing on that match for my scepticism particularly O'Neill. I simply believe that the mentality Worthington brings to the job is not a patch on Lawrie Sanchez. I've objected to his occasionally disparaging comments about his own team and his courting of players whose commitment is questionable. I'd love to be proved wrong, but already Worthy has begun to demolish much of what I felt was unique and special about the Sanchez era.

Thanks btw! I'm sure I'll enjoy Latvia as much as previous away trips. Licky was a cracker!

ALAN J said...

"a headed goal by Lafferty" ???
Give Nigel a chance.BUFC boy.Support our boys....and he really is one.I saw him play in the light blue and am glad he's done so well.Its still odds against us qualifying so be reasonable!

Toddrpr said...

Think thats a bit harsh on him. He has to stamp his on authority on the team, regardless of how well Lawrie did. I am however surprised that he apparently hasn't spoken to Sanchez. I'm sure Lawrie will be speaking to the NI lads at Fulham though, (after training) with some words of wisdom.

For what its worth I don't think we will qualify, but it would be harsh to blame Worthington. Even with Lawrie still there, it was still long odds, given our last 3 games

PS: Laffy didnae score wi his heed!!

Chekist said...

Aye. Right enough he turned on a crossed ball and powered it in. Not sure what I was thinking about. Maybe one he'd missed. I was a right few pints to the good that night. As I'm sure you may be yourself Mr Todd.

I acknowledge that Worthington has to stamp his authority on the team, but making discipline more lax and undermining self-belief is not the way to go about it.

That said, I welcome the return of Tony Kane to the fold.