NI manager Worthington happy for stars to play for GB

Nigel Worthington understands the lure of playing at the Olympics
Nigel Worthington understands the lure of playing at the Olympics

Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington would be happy for his players to make themselves available for a Great Britain team at the 2012 Olympics.

This is despite the Irish Football Association's opposition to the side.

He said: "I understand players wanting to play in an Olympics and they shouldn't be criticised for that but I also understand the Irish FA position.

"As an international manager I would have no problem with players wanting to be involved."

The British Olympic Association released a statement saying players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be eligible to represent Team GB at the Games, only for the IFA to join with their Scottish and Welsh counterparts in registering their condemnation of such plans.

The IFA has long held the belief that their involvement in any GB team would threaten Northern Ireland's independence withing Fifa.

"It is not an issue that I am really involved in as it's a matter for the associations and they have made their positions clear," Worthington told the Belfast Telegraph.

Meanwhile, Sports minister Hugh Robertson has urged fans and football associations to put politics behind them and support a Great Britain team at London 2012.

"If I am honest, I wasn't particularly surprised by the furore because it has been a contentious issue for a while now," he said.

"My message to everybody is really a very simple one in all of this.

"I understand the politics, I understand the sensibilities, but please, please, please let's put the politics aside and concentrate on the athletes.

"For any young man or woman, whether they are English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish, what this is about is the ability to represent their country in a home Olympics.

"Whatever our worries or our fears, we all ought to put the politics aside and get behind our athletes who through this have the opportunity of a lifetime."

Rangers youngsters Kyle Hutton and Gregg Wylde have both indicated they would be willing to play for Great Britain.

Wylde, 20, said: "I wouldn't mind to be honest. If I do get called up to Team GB team it would be good for me and my career ahead."

Hutton, also 20, added: "I feel the same. Obviously if the chance came along to be picked for Team GB it would be a great achievement for me."

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