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Worthington announces resignation

Nigel Worthington will step down as Northern Ireland manager after Tuesday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Italy.

• The race to Euro 2012: Who can qualify

Northern Ireland's slim hopes of qualifying for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine were crushed when they lost 2-1 to Estonia in Belfast on Friday. That defeat was their third in a row during qualifying and left them fifth in Group C on nine points.

"The situation is that as from (Tuesday night) I will step down as manager of the national team," Worthington said. "Up until three games to go (in Group C) 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. Sometimes when you try to get blood out of a stone there's only so much you can get. I think I've gone as far as I can with the group we've got."

Worthington's contract was due to expire at the end of 2011, with Northern Ireland not due to play until February after the clash with Group C winners Italy.

The former Norwich boss has been the subject of negative chants from fans of late, but claims the supporters had no influence over his decision. "It wasn't difficult. I spoke to the IFA president (on Sunday night) to make him aware of my thoughts.

"It's not through supporter pressure because I can deal with that. It's a football decision that I think is right. The question was asked of me at the outset 'would I turn my back on my country?'. I said no then and I was determined to see it through and that is what I've done."

Shamrock Rovers boss Michael O'Neill, a former Northern Ireland international, has been linked with the job after steering his side into the Europa League group stage, while Lawrie Sanchez has said he would be keen to return to the role.

Former Northern Ireland striker Iain Dowie, meanwhile, would welcome the chance to talk to the Irish Football Association when they start looking for Worthington's successor.

"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 told Sky Sports News.

"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. If I can help I would. It would be a conversation I would have to have. I have played for Northern Ireland and I would never turn my back on them.''

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