Friday, 7 October 2011
I publish this one hour since Northern Ireland's 2-1 defeat to Estonia in Belfast. One long, lonely, depressingly quiet hour (improved marginally by Montenegro's equaliser against England) to let the result at Windsor Park sink in.
The Green and White Army are in complete disarray. (Michael O'Neill of Shamrock Rovers - are you watching?)
Whilst 2 wins in 22 may tell it's own tale, there have many contributing factors in Northern Ireland's spiralling fortunes of late. For example, take in the apparent increase in defections form the Northern pool of talent to the South. Take in the cry-off's from the likes of Kyle Lafferty who conveniently withdraws from the NI squad to play Serbia and Estonia, yet only to net the winner three days later for his club Rangers. Barring Lawrie's spat with George McCartney, our former expectation-less manager had it easy.
I myself, saw this belly-flop finale from Nigel Worthington's lads coming since the Faroe Islands back in October 2010. It was that abysmal 1-1 result against Brian Kerr's minnows that highlighted all that is wrong with Northern Ireland under Nigel's leadership. A defensive display in Italy or Spain can be excused, but to go to the mighty Faroe's with such tactics is nothing short of international footballing suicide.
At that moment Nigel's intentions were clear... "Should we score then, defend what we have." It was an idea based on the great Arsenal sides of the 80's and 90's. "One-nil to the Ar-sen-il" was the frequent chant at Highbury. The difference being though, Arsenal had the quality to back this footballing philosophy up. Northern Ireland simply don't.
As one of Northern Ireland's greatest ever left-backs, Nigel Worthington will go down as one of his country's most decorated players to wear the green and white shirt. As the country's 9th most capped player with 66 appearances he can quite rightly be proud of his record. It was unfortunate to listen to some of the home support calling out for the return of former manager Lawrie Sanchez to the fold. A cry for help, and some people turn to our greatest ever turncoat, second only to Darron Gibson. These so called fans were quick to forget Sanchez's loyalty to his country whenever Fulham FC came calling. From that perspective, Nigel's loyalty to Northern Ireland has been impeccable. Yet, the Ballymena man has found it almost impossible to follow up on the days of Lawrie's legends doing a David versus Goliath job on the international giants of Spain, Sweden and England.
The placards of "Nigel Out" being waved around Windsor Park following the final whistle in the 2-1 dedeat to minnow Estonia however come as no surprise. The fans frustration was always going to boil over into something a little more than a rant on the Nolan Show. Yet, whilst this "Nigel Out" mentality resonates throughout large numbers of the green and white army, I do note the strong support for Nigel within large sections of the fan base. It's an approval however that doesn't shout Nigel's approval, but instead nod's.
The problem for Nigel is, no-one can hear the nods.