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By ESPN Staff

Worthington signs new N.Ireland contract

Nigel Worthington has been given a two-year contract as Northern Ireland manager.

Former international defender Worthington took over as caretaker boss from Lawrie Sanchez in the second half of the ultimately unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign but impressed by pushing Spain and Sweden all the way.

He was rewarded today with a long-term contract during which he will oversee the province's 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Former Norwich boss Worthington, 46, revealed his joy at hearing he would be carrying on in the role.

'I'm delighted to be manager of my own country,' he told said. 'It's something to be very proud of and a great challenge, so I'm looking forward to it.'

He added: 'The conversations have been going for the last month or so, we've been discussing things and getting everything right on both sides. That's all sorted and we're just looking forward to the next two years.

'The situation was that I went in for six games at the tail end of the European qualifiers and I was very pleased with the way things went on the whole there, and both parties were quite happy to continue thereafter.'

The Ulstermen have been pitted against Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and San Marino in their 2010 qualifying group.

'It's a hard group but you can always get harder, and you can always get easier,' said Worthington. 'It's a good group, it will be a very competitive pool and Czech Republic are obviously the big boys and favourites for qualification.

'But we like a fight, we'll meet the challenge head on and look forward to it.'

And after a couple of positive campaigns for the province, Worthington has set his sights on qualifying for the finals in South Africa.

'That's what you want to do, go out and win as many games as you can, and one of the reasons I've taken the job is that we've got good players at the moment,' he continued.

'There's a nice blend of experience and young players in the team and there's a good spirit, and that's the way I like to manage and long may it continue.'