Ex-Northern Ireland manager expects tough game at Hampden Park

Scotland Football

Ex-Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington is expecting a difficult task for Northern Ireland in their friendly against Scotland.

Former Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington spoke to HITC Sport in the build-up to Scotland’s friendly against Northern Ireland on Wednesday night.

The game will be the first at Hampden Park since the Commonwealth Games, and presents both teams with the opportunity to make a return to winning ways after both teams suffered defeats in their last outings.

Worthington was in charge for the previous two meetings between the sides, drawing 0-0 at Hampden in 2008, while he tasted defeat in 2011 when Scotland came out 3-0 victors in the Carling Cup of Nations at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The former York City and Norwich City manager is expecting a competitive game when the two home nations face off, but expects the main focus of managers Gordon Strachan and Michael O'Neil will be on the important qualifiers both teams have at the weekend, as they look towards the European Championships in France.

“It’s a home international game, a bit of a local derby,” explained Worthington.

“But there’s no doubt that both countries will have their eye on the qualifying game at the weekend and it will be a very competitive friendly game, if there such a thing as a friendly.

“I think both managers will be looking at different things and different players, bearing in mind that they might be looking to protect one or two players towards the qualifying games. Regardless of who either manager puts out it will still be a very good game.”

Worthington knows better than most who makes the country he once managed tick, and is looking to Northern Ireland’s Premier League players to play a major role against Scotland and Finland.

He said: “I think Steve Davis is a big player for Northern Ireland in the centre of midfield, he’s got great energy between the two penalty boxes, he’s capable of getting into the box and making a goal every now and again, so he is a key figure."

Scotland have their own clutch of Premier League players to choose from and pose a significant threat going forward with the pace of Ikechi Anya troubling the likes of Germany in previous games, but there is one player in particular that Worthington thinks Northern Ireland need to be wary of.

“Naismith,” he said without skipping a beat.

“You’ve always got to watch him because he is very capable of scoring goals and does a great job for the team.

“Thereafter it’s a bit like Northern Ireland where it’s about the team, not the individuals. They work very hard for each other and compete hard and fair, and that’s the way they represent the manager that’s in charge, that’s what he likes and that’s how he played as a player.”

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