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Fans are what football is all about: Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough hopes for quick return of supporters



Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough

Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough

Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough

Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough says football means very little without supporters as matches continue to go ahead behind closed doors.

The former Sligo Rovers manager has a crucial Euro 2020 play-off in Bosnia in October, as well as six Nations League matches to contend with in a busy autumn schedule that he's not sure the Green and White Army will be permitted to be part of.

Northern Ireland will begin their Nations League campaign on September 4 in Romania, where the number of coronavirus infections has been rising.

"I went to the Stoke City game against Brentford when I wasn't sure whether I should go and Jordan Thompson, who plays for Stoke, didn't come off the bench but it was nice to be at a live game," said Baraclough.

"I don't want to be playing behind closed doors too often but hopefully we can get on top of this virus and the crowds can return, but only when it is safe.

"Fans are what the game is all about. From the days when we played in the parks, our families and friends came to watch us and then as professionals you got the buzz of a big crowd.

"It must have felt weird for Liverpool to be lifting the Premier League trophy in an empty stadium. You want to share those moments with the supporters, even if it was still of huge significance.

"It makes a difference when the crowds are there and that's why football the biggest sport in the world."

Belfast Telegraph