Football: McMenemy to be offered new Northern Ireland deal

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The Independent Online
LAWRIE McMENEMY is to be offered an extended contract by the Irish Football Association to stay as Northern Ireland's manager for the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign.

McMenemy's deal expires at the end of the qualifying for Euro 2000 and pressure was mounting on him following Saturday's 3-0 home defeat by Turkey, which ended their hopes of reaching the finals. The IFA's 10-man international committee, however, had already unanimously decided at a meeting on 25 August to keep faith with McMenemy and his coaching team of Joe Jordan and Pat Jennings.

Although Northern Ireland have recorded one competitive win during McMenemy's 12-match reign the IFA believes "sufficient progress" has been made, and its general secretary David Bowen said: "In respect of the great progress which has been made over the past year and a half, particularly with the advent of the Under-21 side and the new professionalism and organisation, the international committee decided unanimously to inform the team manager and his staff that they very much wish them to continue into the next World Cup campaign.

The IFA has made the announcement now to end the speculation surrounding McMenemy's future following the defeat by Turkey. Its president, Jim Boyce, believes McMenemy's record bears scrutiny.

"The team manager has been in charge now for 12 matches," he said. "In that period he has won four, he has lost five and the five he has lost were against Turkey twice, who were the second seeds in our group, Spain, the European champions Germany, and 1-0 to France, who are the world champions. The international committee felt it was not the right time for chopping and changing for the sake of chopping and changing."

Some fans had called for McMenemy to go following the defeat to Turkey, but Boyce said the majority were behind him.

"There are certain sections of the fans who have voiced their disapproval and fans pay their money and they have a right to express their disappointment," he said. "There are an awful lot of other fans and people connected with Northern Ireland who didn't voice their disapproval."

The IFA will sit down with McMenemy following tomorrow's qualifier in Germany to finalise the details of what is expected to be a two-year contract.