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Former Northern Ireland manager explains his view on club v country

Nigel Worthington explains to HITC Sport that a player's desire to play for his country is the main factor when deciding whether to take to the field.

The international break is often a difficult time for both club and international managers, with players leaving their clubs to represent their respective countries in friendlies and qualifiers.

The danger of picking up injuries is very real and can disrupt a team’s season as well as the individual, and that it is why it can become a tug of war between club and country.

During an interview with HITC Sport, Nigel Worthington, who has experience on both sides of the debate, spoke about the difficulties faced by club and international managers, and how most of the decision comes down to the commitment of the player.

“I think it’s down to the individual and how much pride they have in representing their country,” said Worthington.

“If you have the opportunity to receive an international cap at any time through your career it’s a wonderful achievement, so I don’t think anyone should look to retire from international football, turn their back on their country or take time off to be with their club. The aim has to be to get as many caps as possible and take real pride in it.”

While a player’s commitment can come into question, there is also a relationship to be made between both sets of managers, something that Worthington worked on during his four-year spell in charge of Northern Ireland.

He said: “As a club manager, when there is a friendly date, the last thing you want is your players being away and disrupt the training that’s going on at the club, but with the qualifiers the players have to attend, which is fair.

“When you’re an international manager, to get the players together as much as you can is very important, so being on both sides of the fence I appreciate the views that everybody has.

“But you have to try and accommodate yourself as much as you can and work with the club managers or international managers, and that’s how I tried to do it when I was Northern Ireland manager.

“I tried to work with club managers so if and when we did need players for the qualifiers, they were there.”

Current Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neil will need all of his players available if they are to qualify for Euro 2016 in France, and their journey towards the Championships continues on Sunday against Finland, after their friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park.

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