Sanchez stresses dedication to Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland manager, Lawrie Sanchez, has reiterated his commitment to running the team.

Sanchez was speaking to the press yesterday for the first time since the unexpected victory against Spain last month. Preparing the team to face Denmark on Saturday, he said it was time to move on after speculation in the wake of the Spain match that he would resign because of dissatisfaction with media coverage.

"I am committed to this job," he said. "I love it and also the people of Northern Ireland. I visit the place regularly and have been there twice within the last week.

"I am now looking forward to the match on Saturday as are the fans and my staff. It is time to move on. It is almost a month since the game against Spain. It is old news."

Northern Ireland have climbed to 58th in the world rankings - four places above Wales - under Sanchez's stewardship, beating both England and Spain in competitive games. He is proud of what his team has achieved in the past two years.

"My players have certainly demonstrated they are committed to this campaign," Sanchez said. "I sometimes wonder why some people can doubt the team. We have reached our highest position in the Fifa rankings in years yet at times the team do not get the credit they deserve.."

The Southampton defender Chris Baird is expected to join the squad today as he has been suffering from a stomach virus.

Elsewhere, the Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle has been forced to endure the chill of the Irish Sea in an attempt to be fit for Saturday's qualifier against Cyprus. The Reading forward sustained an ankle strain in Sunday's win at West Ham, making him a doubt to face Cyprus in Nicosia.

To hasten his recovery, Doyle took a dip in the icy water off the coast at Malahide on Tuesday and again yesterday. He later joined the rest of the squad on the flight to Cyprus.

If Doyle fails to make it, it is likely that the Ireland captain, Robbie Keane, will be partnered up front by Crystal Palace's Clinton Morrison. Morrison sat out most of Tuesday's training session as a precaution with a tight calf muscle, but showed no ill effects during yesterday's work-out.

* Andriy Shevchenko is suffering from a high temperature and may miss Ukraine's qualifier against Italy on Saturday, their coach, Oleg Blokhin, said yesterday. "Last night his temperature rose sharply to 38.6. The doctors believe it is possible he has a viral infection," Blokhin said. "If it continues for another day or two, he will not be in proper condition to play."

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