Friday, 11 January 2008

Worthington set to stay until 2010

Nigel Worthington will be manager of Northern Ireland for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign. A two year contract will elapse after the finals in South Africa in 2010.

From the outset of Worthington’s tenure as manager, I have been sceptical about his capacity to being the best out of a team constructed and inspired by Lawrie Sanchez. I’ve disagreed with his tactics, questioned his motivational qualities and been alarmed by a laxness in discipline which seemed to accompany his succession.

Worthington has secured this contract on the basis of improved performances in the final three games of the group after a disastrous opening to his reign. In particular a win against good Danish opposition and a point away against Sweden suggest that the team has not lost entirely the qualities which brought them such success under Lawrie with Worthington’s ascent to the helm.

I acknowledge that the new manager has effected a marked improvement after his first three games in charge. Although his first match was a 3-1 win against Lichtenstein I felt Northern Ireland played poorly and were ponderous on the ball. Defeats against Iceland and Latvia were disastrous. Better performances were forthcoming when Worthington brought Steven Craigan back into the heart of the defence and allowed the team to resume the tighter brand of football to which our personnel are suited.

I am still far from convinced that Nigel Worthington is the best man for the job, but the IFA have now made their decision and for better or for worse he is the manager for at least two years. My hope is that the wilfulness and desire to differentiate his style from that of Sanchez which characterised his first three matches, remains secondary to putting out a team suited to achieving good results.

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