Norwich chief: Lambs to the slaughter

David Cuffley Chief executive Neil Doncaster today claimed that Norwich City's players would have been “lambs to the slaughter” had they been sent out to face Barnsley tomorrow with Glenn Roeder still in charge.

David Cuffley

Chief executive Neil Doncaster today claimed that Norwich City's players would have been “lambs to the slaughter” had they been sent out to face Barnsley tomorrow with Glenn Roeder still in charge.

His comments followed last night's startling revelation that the Canaries planned to bring Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington back to Carrow Road, more than two years after sacking him with a �600,000 pay-off.

A statement from the Irish FA confirmed that they had rejected an approach from City to talk to 47-year-old Worthington, the man who took the club into the Premiership and out again during nearly six years in charge.

Doncaster insisted today there had been only informal discussions, but no approaches for managers.

He said: “I can categorically confirm we have made no formal offer or approach to anyone at this stage.

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“We have spoken to a huge number of different teams and individuals, but at this stage it is about finding out what the possible options are and whether individuals might be available on a caretaker or permanent basis.

“It is about finding out all options so we can put them before the board and they can make a decision.

“At this stage we have not ruled out anyone. We have to put all the options in front of the board and any manager who has had success in the Championship has to be among the candidates.

“But to suggest any one individual has been identified would be erroneous.”

After more than 24 hours' silence from Carrow Road following Roeder's dismissal on Wednesday, Doncaster revealed last night that they had not ruled out an interim appointment - though it was not clear whether City wanted Worthington on that kind of short-term basis, as initially reported yesterday, or in a permanent role.

On the decision to axe Roeder, Doncaster drew parallels with the end of Worthington's period in charge, when a defeat at Plymouth was followed by the 4-1 capitulation at home to Burnley, a match which brought down the curtain on the manager's reign.

He said: “Our view was the performance at Charlton showed the situation had become untenable. It would have been wrong to send the team and the management out on Saturday - it would have been a bit like lambs to the slaughter. We did not see any signs that there would have been an improvement on Saturday.”

As for Worthington, his current employers, the Irish FA, issued a public “hands off” warning with last night's statement.

It read: “On Thursday evening the Irish FA turned down a request from Norwich City FC to speak to the Northern Ireland manager with regards to their vacant managerial position.

“Nigel is currently making preparations for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers and is fully focused and committed to his job as the Northern Ireland international manager.”

Worthington, who had one previous short-term role when he guided Leicester to Championship safety in the final five matches of the 2006-07 season as caretaker boss, appeared to rule out a return to Norwich after pledging his immediate future to helping plot Northern Ireland's World Cup campaign.

“I am happy to focus on a job I am enjoying,” he said. “I spoke to the president about the situation and we are both happy that it was in the best interests of the association and myself that any offer from Norwich be rejected.

“I had a successful time at Norwich although the last six months were a bit hairy when tough times hit.

“I still live in North Norfolk but I have done the Norwich job and have now moved on and am really enjoying my role with Northern Ireland.”

Earlier in the day, Irish FA president Raymond Kennedy said: “We don't want another situation where a manager leaves mid-campaign which happened last time (with Lawrie Sanchez) and had a detrimental impact on our chances. Unlike then, though, there is a compensation clause in Nigel's contract which would help us.”

Kennedy admitted, though, that there is a get-out clause for Worthington. His contract with Northern Ireland is up at the end of the year. The package negotiated with the IFA for that deal was understood to be worth about �450,000 per year.

Kennedy added: “I think Nigel has done fairly well as our manager and has taken great interest in the overall structure of football in Northern Ireland which should help us in the future. We have been unfortunate with our World Cup results so far, but we are not out of the reckoning.”

Northern Ireland's next qualifier is next month away to San Marino.