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(Friday, 1st June 2007)

FORMER Ballymena United defender Nigel Worthington was named the new manager of the Northern Ireland national side today in Belfast.

Ballymena born, Worthington, takes over from Lawrie Sanchez who resigned from his post to take over at English Premier League side, Fulham, last month. Inheriting Sanchez' side which sits proudly top of their qualifying group for the 2008 European Championships.

Nigel Worthington began his illustrious career at the Ballymena Showgrounds as a fresh-faced teenager in 1979. Playing left full back in what was arguably one of the best post-war Ballymena United teams - he picked up the Ulster Football Writers 'Young Player of the Year' in 1981 (pictured).

Shortly after winning the Irish Cup with the Sky Blues in 1981, after defeating Glenavon 1-0 in the showpiece final - Worthington was transferred to Notts County for a then record Irish League fee of 100,000.

He spent three years at County, before being snapped up by Sheffield Wednesday in 1984 for 125,000. After ten successful years at Hillsbrough he joined Leeds United, and then had spells at Stoke and Blackpool before retiring to take up management.

He managed Blackpool before taking Norwich City back to the English Premier League as First Division champions in 2004. His last managerial post came at Leicester City as a caretaker towards the end of last season.

Added to his career in English football, he served his country with distinction and won 66 caps for the boys in emerald green. "When your country comes knocking there can only be one answer" said Worthington today.

His first game as Northern Ireland boss comes against Liechtenstein at Windsor Park in August.