Nigel Worthington will not stand in the way of players' plans

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington would be happy for any of his players to participate in the London 2012 Olympics and does not believe their international careers should suffer in any way if they do.

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 Irish Football Association to join its Scottish and Welsh counterparts in registering its condemnation of such plans.

Worthington, though, appreciates the lure of the Olympics and believes any player who opted to go forward for selection should not be tainted by that decision.

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"The players will have their own views on whether they want to be involved in a GB team at the Olympics and whatever their view is should have no impact on their international careers," Worthington said. "I can understand players wanting to play in an Olympics and they should not be criticised for that but I also understand the position taken by the Irish FA. 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. As an international manager I would have no problem with players wanting to be involved."

The three home associations have long opposed an all-British team at the London Games, fearing it could affect their separate identities in world football, and saying the team should be made up of English players only.

Meanwhile, Sports minister Hugh Robertson has urged fans and football associations to put politics behind them and support a Great Britain football team, despite the outrage this week's announcement generated among the football associations of the Celtic nations.

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

"I would be very disappointed if there was any backlash from the fans because most sports fans understand that young men and women want to represent their country.

"They are sophisticated enough to know that, when they are playing ordinary football, they turn out for Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland or England but, when we have an Olympics, we compete on a Team GB basis."