Ian Baraclough: New Northern Ireland boss targets positive continuity

Baraclough was appointed Northern Ireland Under-21s manager in May 2017

New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says he does not plan on making any dramatic changes to the system that was put in place by predecessor Michael O’Neill.

The former under-21s boss was speaking for the first time since being appointed manager after O’Neill’s successful eight-year reign came to an end.

“Continuity was important for the players certainly, not too much upheaval and change,” Baraclough said.

“I’m following a very good manager but he’s left a good legacy and a good team, we’re trying to build on that.

“I’ve had experience of taking over from managers that have been successful, and I have also been successful in doing that role.

“I have no fears. Everybody knows how successful the past six years have been but it’s a great challenge, and I love challenges.”

Baraclough served as the under-21s boss since May 2017, delivering impressive results including a memorable away win against Spain as Northern Ireland came close to reaching the 2019 European Championships.

His understanding of the current set-up was one of the main factors behind his status as front-runner for the vacant post, with the former Sligo Rovers and Motherwell boss saying he will not seek to reinvent the wheel.

Much of the coaching staff, including assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl and goalkeeping coach Steve Harper, will remain in their roles while O’Neill’s long-time assistant Austin MacPhee is also set to play a part under the new boss.

“I’ve spoken to him about his role and how I see that,” revealed Baraclough.

“It will be slightly different but again he wants to be part of the group and taking that forward.

“There are a couple (of new faces) that I’m looking at, but there’s no big upheavals.”

‘It would be wrong of me not to make that phone call’ – Baraclough on Norwood future

Baraclough hoping for Norwood U-turn

Baraclough takes over a side whose identity has been well-established under O’Neill, with player selection remaining largely consistent throughout his time in charge.

The squad was rocked last year when midfielder Oliver Norwood announced his international retirement aged just 28 after making 57 appearances.

The Sheffield United vice-captain has been an impressive figure in the Blades’ first season back in the Premier League, and Baraclough has indicated that he will reach out to him in the coming weeks.

“It would be wrong of me not to make that phone call and to speak to Ollie,” he said.

“I know his mind was made up and I know that he’d made that decision and was sticking to it, but it would be wrong of me not to make that call.”

Oliver Norwood retired from international duty last August

‘You have to listen to your players’

Baraclough’s first game will be an away Nations League fixture against Romania in September, before turning out in front of home support at Windsor Park for the first time four days later against Norway.

The following month Northern Ireland will meet Bosnia-Herzegovina in their rescheduled Euro 2020 play-off semi-final.

With a huge challenge on the not-too-distant horizon, Baraclough is confident that he will be able to swiftly build a rapport with the players, having spent some time around the senior squad in the past.

“I like to be organised, I like to be approachable and I want people to give me their opinions, I want the players to give me their opinions,” he said.

“I want them to be open in what they see and what they feel, they’re the ones that play the game.

“If you can’t listen to them and if you don’t listen to their advice at times then I think it’s something that you’re missing out on.

“We’ve all got to be together. It’s not just my team, it’s everyone’s team.

“I want to make it enjoyable for players to come in, they’ve got to look forward to coming to play international football, which they do.”

BBC News