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Statistical breakdown of UCL semis

Five Aside
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By ESPN Staff

Worthington puts contract talk on backburner

Nigel Worthington remains anxious to deflect questions about his future until Northern Ireland's fate is known.

The former Norwich manager's contract expires at the end of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign after he replaced Lawrie Sanchez with six games to go.

However it is understood Worthington will be offered a new deal, no matter what happens against Spain tonight.

Northern Ireland need to beat Spain - who have already qualified - and hope Latvia defeat Sweden if are to to make the finals.

Worthington is not one to talk himself up, instead he applauded the players and the supporters, who have travelled in numbers to Gran Canaria.

He said: 'The next few hours is not about Nigel Worthington. It is about the team and our fans. That's the important thing. I can only speak about the last few games but this group of players have been tremendous.

'They found it hard with a change of manager but whatever I have suggested they have taken it on board. Nothing is too much trouble for the players. They get on with what I ask.'

While David Healy would not go as far as endorsing Worthington for a permanent role, the record scorer has nothing but admiration for the manager after playing for him during a loan spell at Norwich.

'When Nigel took on the job is was a great boost for me as I have worked with him,' said the Fulham striker. 'He has come in and was written off like the players after the defeats in Latvia and Iceland. For whatever reason we did not perform in the two games.

'He had a difficult job replacing Lawrie but he has stuck at it as have the players. Nigel has backed us and hopefully we can deliver a result on Wednesday.'

The rewards are tangible as a well - a bonus of around £1million to be shared among the players and coaching staff remains on the table from the Irish Football Association even though Raymond Kennedy has replaced Jim Boyce as president.

Healy's priority is to add to his 13-goal tally and spark a carnival atmosphere among the 5,000 travelling fans.

'I heard from Howard Wells [chief executive] the bonus is up to £1.5million, I am just waiting for confirmation!,' he said. 'It is not about the bonus, though, it is about the chance to play in a major finals.

'You go away on holiday and watch World Cups and European Championships on television. It would be nice to be there for a change in Austria and Switzerland. That's the aim.'

Worthington is likely to recall Chris Baird and Ivan Sproule as Jonny Evans and Keith Gillespie are both suspended.