Worthington wants more from Healy

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington has encouraged striker David Healy ahead of Wednesday's international friendly away to Albania.

Last Updated: 02/03/10 at 16:37

Healy: Encouraged by Worthington

Healy: Encouraged by Worthington

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Healy, 30, has been stuck on 35 goals for longer than he cares to remember and failed to find the target in international matches last year.

He also suffered the disappointment of finding himself named as substitute against Serbia at Windsor Park in November.

Since then he has joined Ipswich on loan from Sunderland, where he struggled to get a game and found the net in the recent draw with Scunthorpe.

Worthington, however, is not convinced Healy is anywhere near his best yet and the striker could find himself back on the bench against Albania in a friendly in Tirana on Wednesday night.

Worthington said: "I have watched David recently and you can tell he has not played football for a long time on a regular basis.

"It shows the effect it has in physical sharpness and the mental sharpness. That's a fact. The more minutes David can get with Ipswich, Sunderland, wherever he's at, the better for him and the better for us.

"He's got a long way to go. When you have not started for your club side in the league for near on a year that is a hell of a long time.

"When you get five minutes here, 20 minutes there and 60 minutes in a cup game, it is not enough.

"Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, that's where you get your sharpness. We have a number of players in that situation. That is one of the unfortunate things with our squad at the moment."

The squad trained on an artificial pitch on Tuesday as the surface at the riverside Qemal Stafa Stadium was waterlogged.

Conditions are not expected to improve overnight but Worthington told his players to face the challenge - or else.

He added: "I am not concerned about the pitch at all. I have been through the situation on many occasions. It has never been a problem.

"I won't have it as an excuse for an inept performance or an indifferent performance. It is not the best pitch as there has been a lot of rain and it is very heavy in the middle.

"What it is going to show me is the mental strength of some of our players. That is what trips are all about, dealing with these situations and not being distracted.

"I have told the players you are not going to be playing on Premier League pitches when you come abroad. So you have got to be adaptable and perform to get the result you want."

With Jonny Evans returning to Manchester United because of a knee problem, Worthington has his back line sorted out as he has only four defenders left.

Andrew Little comes in at right back, although he has played as a striker, Stephen Craigan and George McCartney make up the central defensive partnership with Ryan McGivern on the left.

For Little there is every chance to make the spot his own as Worthington explained.

"The right back situation has never been nailed down, " said the Northern Ireland boss.

"Rangers have started converting Andrew to a right back in the last 12 months. So it is an ideal opportunity for him to play in that role for us and for me to see what he can do."

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