Worthington to lead NI for final time

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Nigel WORTHINGTON will take charge of his country for the final time tonight after conceding Northern Ireland need a change of direction.

Worthington, whose contract was up at the end of the year, made the decision after three successive defeats – two of those to lowly Estonia – extinguished his team’s prospects of a Euro 2012 play-off place.

Worthington had come under pressure recent weeks, with a section of the Windsor Park crowd calling for his head after Friday’s 2-1 defeat by Estonia, but he will hope for a better send-off from supporters who have travelled to see the side take on Group C winners Italy in the final qualifier.

“I will step down as manager of the national team after the Italy game,” said Worthington, who took over from Lawrie Sanchez in 2007. Sometimes when you try to get blood out of a stone there’s only so much . . . I think I’ve gone as far as I can with the group we’ve got.

“Up until three games to go we were in a very good position but, through no-one’s fault, sometimes the game of football throws you a raw hand.

“It’s not through supporter pressure because I can deal with that. It’s a football decision that I think is right.”