Over the years Northern Ireland has had some of the best goalkeepers about, Harry Gregg, Pat Jennings and more recently Maik Taylor and Michael McGovern. But despite having a solid number of goalkeepers for Baraclough to call up to the squad, there is one problem with them all, they are not getting game time at club level.
With Baraclough only recently been given the managerial job at Windsor Park, he hasn’t had to choose his first squad yet. If we take a look at Michael O’Neill’s recent squads, the goalkeepers that he usually calls up are; Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Michael McGovern, Trevor Carson and Conor Hazard. While all four are excellent shot-stoppers and great to have in the squad, they aren’t getting the game time that they need at club level to bring the confidence in the backline that a team like Northern Ireland need.
Bailey Peacock-Farrell was one of the young players that Michael O’Neill trusted for the Nations League campaign, and while he had a shaky start, his performances in the Euro 2020 Qualifying Campaign were outstanding, keeping Northern Ireland in the hunt for a place right down until the final international break. He is currently at Burnley warming the bench with Nick Pope showing why he should be in the England set-up. He was almost loaned out to a team in Sweden just before he made his Northern Ireland debut, but they turned him down and he went on to claim the No.1 shirt at Leeds before making the move to The Clarets.
Michael McGovern will forever be remembered for his heroics against Germany in Euro 2016, and while that is the game that people instantly think of when they hear the McGovern name, he has always put in a solid performance between the sticks when called upon. After his heroics in Euro 2016, he got a move to Norwich City, joining from Hamilton. He has made 22 appearances so far for Norwich, including two in the Premier League. He is not getting the game time he deserves and is playing second or third choice at Carrow Road.
Trevor Carson and Conor Hazard are usually the two that battle it out for the third goalkeeper’s shirt in the national side. Carson is much older than Hazard but has only really come into the international picture in the past few years. He suffered a horrendous injury that kept him out of football for much of 2019, and he now needs to fight for his place back between the sticks at Fir Park. Hazard has been going from club to club on loan from Celtic. He has been at Dundee most recently and has only made one international appearance so far for his country. He has also struggled for game time at Dundee, like every other goalkeeper I have looked at so far.
It will be interesting to see what Baraclough does in terms of goalkeeping selection. I do believe that currently, the top three goalkeepers are Peacock-Farrell, McGovern and Carson, but with international appearances for goalkeepers quite limited, I would like Baraclough to have the likes of Hazard around the squad to make the step up to being part of more frequent international squads a little easier.
With Peacock-Farrell only being 23, we have him for at least the next ten years and hopefully he can develop as a player and become that legend like figure that we have seen Northern Ireland goalkeepers become over the years.
There are also players like Nathan Gartside, Liam Hughes and Tommy Scott developing into good players that can make the step up to the squad if needed. There is one thing for sure, the future of goalkeepers in Northern Ireland is looking bright, they just need to get a bit more game time at club level.