Lawrie Sanchez says Worthington furore behind NI job decision

Lawrie Sanchez has said that he opted out of the race for the Northern Ireland manager's job because of the furore caused by his criticism of then boss Nigel Worthington in September.

Former manager Sanchez was thought be in contention for a return to the Irish job but the Barnet boss has insisted that he did not apply for the role.

Sanchez also said that he had written a letter of apology to Worthington.

"It has made it inappropriate for me to apply for the job," added Sanchez.

The Barnet manager's decision to opt out of the race appears to leave Jim Magilton, Michael O'Neill and Iain Dowie as the main contenders for the role.

Gerry Armstrong is also expected to be interviewed for the job but the prospects of former Cardiff City manager Dave Jones succeeding Worthington appear to have receded.

In terms of who should be appointed, Sanchez said that he believed O'Neill, who will step down as Shamrock Rovers manager later this week, "is one of the leading candidates".

Sanchez had a successful spell as Northern Ireland boss from 2004 to 2007 before leaving to take over at Fulham.

He is currently in charge of the League Two outfit.

Sanchez took Northern Ireland from 124th in the world rankings to an all-time high of 27th during his reign but then quit the role in May 2007 just as his team appeared on the brink of qualification for Euro 2008.

Worthington was unable to guide the Northern Irish to the finals and Sanchez went on to criticise his successor's efforts on a number of occasions.

The ex-Wimbledon striker appeared to make a very public intervention against Worthington in September when he claimed that the "writing was on the wall" for the then Northern Ireland manager after the 4-1 Euro qualifier defeat by Estonia.

On Tuesday, Sanchez told the BBC News channel that the contents of the live BBC Radio Ulster interview back in September had led to "a lot of unrest".

"It caused me a lot of embarrassment and I'm sure it caused Nigel a lot of embarrassment as well and on the back of that, some ill-informed comments came from managers and players.

"The fuss caused by that interview has made it inappropriate for me to apply at this time.

"I've since written to Nigel apologising for any embarrassment that was caused.

"I was surprised on Friday when I saw my name was on the shortlist because I hadn't applied for the [Northern Ireland] job.

"I'm happy in my job at Barnet and want Barnet fans to know that."

However, Sanchez did add that he would be keen to return to the Northern Ireland job at some stage in the future.

"I said from the moment I left Northern Ireland that one day I would like to return. I just don't think at this moment in time, it is appropriate."