Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has declared that he wants to stay in the job long after the World Cup qualifying campaign ends later this year.
Appointed just over 12 months ago as Michael O’Neill’s successor, Baraclough told the Belfast Telegraph that he loves the role and is determined to keep doing it, pointing out that the progress England have made under Gareth Southgate is a strong example of what a manager can achieve in international football when given time.
Following O’Neill, who famously took Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals, was always going to be difficult but Baraclough insists he has relished the challenge.
He guided the team into the Euro 2020 play-off final, having won on penalties in Bosnia & Herzegovina last October, but there was agony for the Green and White Army when Northern Ireland delivered a lacklustre display a month later in a 2-1 defeat at home to Slovakia in the decider.
The Nations League series for Baraclough’s side was also a disappointment, finishing bottom of the group, while just one point has been claimed in the opening two World Cup qualifiers, leaving the team playing catch-up to reach Qatar in 2022.
On the upside, the manager won his first match in 90 minutes against Malta in May in an encouraging end-of-season tour and has introduced young talent such as Ali McCann and Daniel Ballard, who will be important figures for the nation for years to come.
With many personnel changes across the Irish FA in recent times, Baraclough is keen to stay put when his 18-month contract finishes at the climax of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in November.
“I want to be in this role for the long haul. I love the job and the group of players and staff I’m working with,” said Baraclough.
“I knew when I took over it wasn’t going to be easy. Managing Northern Ireland is not going to be easy at the best of times but I am enjoying the challenge and it’s something I don’t want to give up in November. Certainly not.”
Promoted to the senior post after a fine spell in charge of the Under- 21s, former Motherwell supremo Baraclough believes that managers require time to develop their teams and vision and makes no bones about his feelings regarding the quick turnaround of bosses in the modern game.
The 50-year-old said: “I get frustrated when I see club managers being ousted from their job within six to eight months or even a year. In my view it’s not long enough. I think in international football managers need time too.”
Baraclough cites the FA staying patient with England boss Southgate when some felt he wasn’t the man for the job. In his time at the helm he has led them to the World Cup semi-finals and Euro 2020 final, which they lost to Italy earlier this month.
“Gareth has gone through periods where he has been criticised with people calling for change but the FA have been strong to stay with him. It could have been so easy for the FA to jump on a bandwagon with people wanting change,” stated Northern Ireland boss Baraclough.
“He went through a similar route to me coming through the Under-21s and I know when you bring young players into the team, like Gareth and I have done, you have to show a certain amount of patience with them.
“England have developed as a team and have gone close to winning a major tournament which shows the excellent job Gareth is doing.”
Meanwhile, the Irish FA are close to announcing their new Under-21 manager. When Baraclough moved up from the role in June 2020, Andy Crosby took over as caretaker boss. After not being made permanent, he became assistant manager at Port Vale last month.
It is understood that interviews for the U21 position have taken place with former Northern Ireland U17 and U 19 manager Stephen Frail and ex-Lincoln boss John Schofield believed to be among the candidates.