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Former Lincoln chief set to become next Northern Ireland Under-21 manager


John Schofield

John Schofield

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John Schofield

Northern Ireland’s new Under-21 manager is set to be Yorkshireman John Schofield.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that the 56-year-old from Barnsley, who was previously boss of Lincoln and coached Doncaster Rovers, will take over the role which Ian Baraclough vacated 13 months ago having been promoted to the senior team.

In between, Andy Crosby was the caretaker manager but he became assistant boss of Port Vale last month. After a recruitment process, the Irish FA have opted for Schofield, who worked with Crosby in the Under-21 set-up, to take charge in time for the Under-21 European Championship qualifying campaign which begins in September.

During his time as Under-21 boss, Baraclough almost took the team to the Euro finals. The new boss faces a difficult task in going close given Northern Ireland are in the same group as Spain, Russia, Slovakia, Lithuania and Malta with only the top team sure to qualify.

In his playing career, Schofield had two spells at Lincoln and also featured in midfield for Doncaster, Mansfield and Hull before moving into coaching. As well as being at the helm for Lincoln, he has had caretaker manager roles at Walsall, Cheltenham and Gillingham.

Schofield had applied for the vacant Northern Ireland Under-17 and Under-19 manager’s job, filled by Gerard Lyttle in February.

Now he is poised to lead the Under-21 side which has been so important in helping developing young players to push on to senior status.

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It is believed ex-Northern Ireland Under-17 and Under-19 boss Stephen Frail and Dundalk manager Vinny Perth were other candidates for the position.

Northern Ireland’s opening encounter in the Euro 2023 qualifiers is scheduled for September 3 in Malta with a home tie against Slovakia four days later. They face a daunting double header in October away to Russia and Spain before ending the year hosting Lithuania and Malta.

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