Northern Ireland consider options for new manager

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The Independent Online

Nigel Worthington has not yet finished work as Northern Ireland manager but there are already a handful of names being linked to a new regime.

Worthington takes charge of his country for the final time tonight in their Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy, after announcing his decision to step down on the eve of the game.

The Irish Football Association, who do not have another senior fixture pencilled in until the visit of Norway in February, are in no major rush to appoint a successor but will soon have an idea of the field they have to choose from.

Worthington's predecessor Lawrie Sanchez touted himself for a controversial return as long ago as last month, but his criticism of a standing manager was not well received and his popularity among the players is low.

After yesterday's announcement former Northern Ireland striker Iain Dowie became the first of the realistic options to declare an interest in talking to the IFA, telling Sky Sports News: "If I can help, I would."

Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill, and his current assistant Jim Magilton, are also former players and both have their supporters for the top job.

O'Neill's achievement in steering a League of Ireland team to the group stages of the Europa League for the first time has raised his profile significantly and Magilton, who has a Belfast base, has experience managing Ipswich and QPR.

Neither have yet spoken about the vacancy, but another former national manager Sammy McIlroy has stated his desire for another crack at the post.

He endured an unsuccessful period in the job between 2000-2003, coinciding with a lengthy goal drought, but told BBC Radio Ulster: "I think you need someone with experience, someone who's been in the game quite a long time. I would crawl back there if given the opportunity."

Another person interested in joining the IFA coaching staff, albeit not in the top job, is McIlroy's former international team-mate David McCreery.

He played in both the 1982 and 1986 World Cup teams and after spells at Carlisle and Hartlepool in the 1990s, he has spent time coaching in Major League Soccer and in Asia.

He posted on his Twitter feed: "There are some excellent candidates for NI role. Would be honoured to be part of an exciting new back-room set up if given the opportunity.

"(I) would be honoured to be part of the new setup. I have a great deal to offer whether at youth or senior level."

Former Leicester, Aston Villa and Celtic boss Martin O'Neill would be a popular name to replace Worthington, but he is thought to favour a return to club management.

Nevertheless, Northern Ireland legend Mal Donaghy believes the IFA should at least sound out their former captain.

"Martin O'Neill would be the stand-out candidate for me," Donaghy told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I don't know if Martin wants back in at this stage or even if he would prefer a club job over Northern Ireland, but there is an opportunity and I think Martin should be asked the question."

PA

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