Dowie wants to head North as Worthington quits

NIGEL WORTHINGTON will step down as Northern Ireland manager after tonight’s match against Italy after admitting recent results had left him no option.

Worthington, who has been in charge since Lawrie Sanchez walked away in 2007 to take over Fulham, has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks after a home defeat to Serbia was followed by back-to-back losses against Estonia.

Yesterday he bowed to the inevitable. Worthington said: “The situation is that as from tomorrow night I will step down as manager of the national team.

“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.

“I feel the time has come after four-and-a-half years, which have been fantastic for me as an individual.

“I think I’ve gone as far as I can with the group we’ve got.’’

Attention will now turn to Worthington’s successor with Iain Dowie revealing he would welcome the chance to talk to the Irish Football Association.

“The proudest moment of my playing career was captaining my country and I’m always happy to help and the most important thing is Northern Ireland being a successful nation,” he said.

“I believe my CV stands up to scrutiny and if the IFA want to have a conversation with me I would be happy to do that.’’

It is understood the IFA would welcome his application, while they are also likely to run the rule over Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O’Neill and his caretaker assistant Jim Magilton.

Meanwhile Scotland manager Craig Levein believes the key to success in tonight’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Spain in Alicante could be in his players’ heads.

The Scots are one point ahead of the Czech Republic going into their final Group I fixture and need to match the Czechs’ result in Lithuania if they are to secure a play-off spot.

However, Scotland’s task is immeasurably tougher against the world and European champions who are already qualified and looking to finish the section with maximum points.

Levein stressed the importance of the mental side of the game when playing against the star-studded Spaniards.

“Concentration will be important,” he said. “We will have to concentrate for 90 minutes and however more than 90 minutes we have to play.

“That means players not switching off for a second and allowing the ability of the Spanish to hurt us.’’

Elsewhere, Wayne Rooney will discover the length of his Euro 2012 suspension on Thursday, UEFA has announced.

The striker, 25, will definitely miss England’s first game in the tournament after kicking Miodrag Dzudovic in the 2-2 draw with Montenegro but the UEFA’s disciplinary panel will meet on Thursday to decide whether to increase that ban.

In the Premier League, the punishment for violent conduct is an automatic three-match ban but UEFA’s policy is to suspend the player for one game, with a panel deciding on a case-by-case basis what, if any, additional punishment there should be.

A spokesman for UEFA said: “There are lots of possible sanctions going from a warning, to a big fine and three-game ban.’’

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