Trio commit to Northern Ireland
Captain Aaron Hughes (Fulham), goalkeeper Maik Taylor (Birmingham) and defender Stephen Craigan (Motherwell) have all agreed to continue their international careers after talks with manager Nigel Worthington. Worthington said: "I went to them to see what their feelings were, what they felt in themselves and to be honest I don't think I had the question fully out before the answer came back. "All three would like to continue. Each of them said, 'If you want me, I'm available'. "With regards what happens to me in the next couple of months, that's fantastic news for the football association and for the international squad as a whole. "To have those professional people in and around is a must for our squad. "I am excited about the future as long as we have got the elder statesmen here. We need them to be the rudder on the boat. They are a huge link between the manager and the group and set the standards." With his two-year contract about to expire, Worthington is due to hold talks at the end of the campaign with the Irish Football Association about a possible new deal. He is relaxed about his situation and said: "I agreed with the president (Raymond Kennedy) and chief executive (Patrick Nelson) three months ago that there would be no distractions, no excuses. "It is all about the players, the performances and results first and foremost. "The president has been first class in leaving it that way so we've got the last game tomorrow night and then we'll go from there." Hughes, who is set to win his 70th cap in Prague (kick-off 7.30pm), wants Worthington to stay at the helm. "It would be really good for us," said the 29-year-old Fulham defender. "It is all about consistency, not just having the same players but the same staff too. "We know each other now and been in each other's company the last two years. We were halfway through a campaign when Nigel came in so it was a transitional period. "But now he has had a full campaign and there has been a lot of improvements. If we can keep the majority of the lads together and keep the management in place then we have a chance of further progress." Hughes had no hesitation in agreeing to Worthington's wish to stay around alongside 38-year-old Taylor (80 caps) and 32-year-old Craigan (43 caps). He said: "It was an easy decision to make as I have an ambition to qualify for a major championships. I have a big desire to do that. "As long as I am fit and able and the manager sees me in his plans I will give it a go as long as I can. "I am still enthusiastic. We have come close twice now to qualifying, so something has got to give. We have a real good squad with good experience." Northern Ireland's chances of making the play-offs are all but over as Slovenia only need a point against San Marino to finally dash their hopes. The home defeat by Slovakia cost the province dear but Worthington is determined to finish on a high note. He added: "We will have 2000 supporters and we owe them a performance after what happened at Windsor Park." Czech Rep. v Northern Ireland. Click here to bet.
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