NIGEL WORTHINGTON says that he does not support the concept of a united Ireland football team.
When asked about the idea in Dublin yesterday, the Northern Ireland manager replied: “From my own point of view, the direct answer to the question is no. Northern Ireland is a different country to the Republic of Ireland. You have your own team, you have your own nation. It’s as simple as that. I know that’s not the answer you want to hear.
“I think every nation is entitled to their own team. I feel very strongly that the Republic has their team, we’ve got our team, Scotland and Wales and so on. If it’s the Olympic Games, that’s fine. I’ve no issue with that. But when it comes to the day-to-day stuff, I think everybody is entitled to themselves.”
When it was put to the former Northern Ireland and Sheffield Wednesday full-back that one big pool might be more successful than two small ones, he replied: “I don’t disagree with that. (But) I think there are a lot of principles on either side whereby we want to have recognition for our own country. I think that is only fair.”
Worthington insisted that he had “no gripe” with Northern Ireland-born players declaring for the Republic, despite the IFA taking their protests – unsuccessfully – all the way to the Court Of Arbitration in Sport (CAS), in the light of the high-profile defections of Darron Gibson, Shane Duffy and others.
“My view is very simple,” said Worthington. “I’ve always said that if players want to represent another country then that is entirely up to them. And that’s the way I work. We will continue to produce players for our own country. If they then decide – if they are qualified for a different country – that they want to move on, then so be it. I’ve got no gripe or issue with that. I think people try to make too much of circumstances and situations. If somebody doesn’t want to play for you, then they are better off elsewhere if they qualify for that nation.
“The CAS situation is beyond my control. That’s for the president of the association, and the chief executive, who deal with that side of things.”
Meanwhile, Scotland manager Craig Levein hasn’t ruled James McCarthy out of his plans. The Scottish-born Wigan midfielder has declared for the Ireland and been capped at underage and at senior level in the friendly against Brazil but he still has to play the competitive game under Giovanni Trapattoni which would copper-fasten his eligibility for the Republic.
Speaking, like Nigel Worthington, at the Carling Nations Cup launch in the Aviva Stadium yesterday, Levein said: “Every player who is eligible to play for Scotland is on the radar. I had a conversation with James going back to when I got the job and he indicated he wanted to play for Ireland. I don’t close the door on anything.”
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