Worthington to end N Ireland stay

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Nigel Worthington has announced he will step down as manager of Northern Ireland after their final Euro 2012 qualifier in Italy on Tuesday night.

Northern Ireland's hopes of qualifying for next summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine were extinguished for good following Friday night's 2-1 home defeat to Estonia in Belfast.

Since beating the Faroe Islands 4-0 in August to raise hopes of securing a play-off place, Worthington's side have lost to Serbia at home and suffered back-to-back humblings at the hands of Estonia. A 4-1 mauling in Tallinn was followed up by a 2-1 reverse at Windsor Park last week.

Worthington's contract was due to expire at the end of the year, with Northern Ireland not due to play again after the match in Italy until next February.

He had admitted his frustration at Northern Ireland's failure to qualify for the finals, but refused to be too downbeat in the wake of the Estonia defeat.

Worthington said at the weekend: "Of course there is frustration and yes I am disappointed (by results), but I try to look at the whole picture.

"You see what you have to work with, the numbers you have, the people who aren't there for one reason or another, but that's international football. You can't buy in, sell out or loan someone. You make the most of it and it's as simple as that. No excuses."

Former Northern Ireland international Michael O'Neill, currently steering Shamrock Rovers through a Europa League group stage, has been linked with the job while Lawrie Sanchez - Worthington's immediate predecessor - has said he would be keen to return to the post.

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