How often do we see a manager take over a team that is doing well? Not often. This is exactly what new Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has to do, and I can only feel sympathy for him with the amount of pressure he will be under.
In my opinion, it is a solid appointment for the Green and White Army, contingency is needed when your third game in charge will be a Euro 2020 Playoff Semi-Final. The Nations League being played at the same time will give him an opportunity to develop the squad into the style he wants to see, with the Nations League matches being ‘competitive’ but won’t necessarily stop you from getting to a major tournament. Northern Ireland reached the playoffs despite finishing bottom of their group last time around.
Speaking about his appointment, Baraclough said, “I was delighted to be linked to the job. To ultimately accept the role as the new Northern Ireland manager is an honour and a privilege. I couldn’t be more energised and excited to get going.”
He is stepping up from the under-21 squad and this will be a huge benefit to him. He knows the level of the young players in the Northern Ireland squad more than anyone, and with the likes of Davis, McGovern, and Lafferty not going to be around forever, he knows what players are ready to make the step up to the full International squad as replacements.
Many Northern Ireland fans just see Baraclough as an inexperienced manager that has spent his time as a youth coach, but he actually has managed at a decent level before. He led Sligo Rovers to the league title in his first season at the club, as well as claiming the FAI Cup, and the Setanta Sports Cup over his two years at the west of Ireland side.
He has got huge boots to fill and if the Coronavirus pandemic didn’t happen, then Northern Ireland would hopefully be enjoying playing in the Euros, but hopefully, that can happen next season instead. If the Green and White Army can get behind Baraclough and support him all the way, then there is no reason why the team can’t just pick up from where they left off.
His first game in charge will be against Romania away on the 4th September, followed by Norway at home on the 7th September. There is no guarantee that fans will be allowed into the stadium by that stage, which would make it even more difficult for Barraclough in his opening few matches, but he is experienced, he knows the players, and I’m sure Michael is only a phone call away if he needs any advice.