New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough is convinced he will show between now and the end of next year that he is worth an extension to his contract.
Baraclough was appointed as Michael O’Neill’s successor last month but some eyebrows were raised when the Irish FA announced they had only given him an 18-month deal.
The 49-year-old insists he was happy with the length of agreement and is determined to prove what he can do in what will be a busy period with Nations League games, Euro 2020 play-offs and possibly the finals next year plus World Cup qualifiers.
Baraclough also made the point that O’Neill’s first IFA deal as boss in December 2011 was for two years taking in one qualifying campaign and he ended up staying until 2020.
“I think Michael’s first contract gave him one campaign, in a World Cup. I’ve got an 18-month period where there are a lot of games in that time,” stated Baraclough.
“We’ve got the Nations League, the Euro play-offs to look forward to and then we’ve got a World Cup campaign. I could also include Euro finals, if that is the case.
“I think it’s the way it has fallen, I think it’s a realistic time and it’s up to me to prove that I’m worth a new contract at the end of it, if not before.”
Asked if he felt he would land an extension, Baraclough said: “If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be here.”
Having been promoted from the Under-21s, Baraclough will kick-off his reign as Northern Ireland boss in September against Romania and Norway in the Nations League before the Euro 2020 play-off-semi-final away to Bosnia & Herzegovina on October 8. Win that and a November 12 decider awaits at Windsor Park versus the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.
It is all of our jobs to speak to players, clubs and agents to find out if their clients have eligibility to play for Northern Ireland.
When O'Neill was still in charge of his country but focusing largely on Stoke City, Baraclough was brought in to oversee preparations for the Bosnia game which was originally scheduled to be played in March but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former Scunthorpe United, Sligo Rovers and Motherwell manager says: "We've done a lot of work on Bosnia because we were planning to play them in March. I was part of that process and had discussions with Michael and the staff.
"I went out to Bosnia to have a look at the facilities and see what we had available to us. We know it is not going to be easy but we can go there with confidence and get a result and make sure we are playing at the National Stadium in November.
"We'll be ready for that but let us not get ahead of ourselves in respect of Romania and Norway. They are going to be two tough games. Once we get those done and dusted, then we move on to Bosnia but a lot of preparation has been done for that game."
Baraclough says he likes to be surrounded by good people. There are few better than the legendary Jimmy Nicholl, who he has kept on in his backroom staff, and the same goes for another former international Damien Johnson, who he has brought into his team.
Another big decision sees Austin MacPhee moving to a different role in the set-up with the 40-year-old watching games from the stands and relaying information to the bench.
O'Neill took Northern Ireland's Head Scout Andy Cousins with him to Stoke. Cousins was a key figure for the IFA, in particular identifying English born players like Jamal Lewis and Bailey Peacock-Farrell who were eligible to play for Northern Ireland.
"With the work Andy did behind the scenes and certainly playing his part in bringing the eligibility players through, it is key we continue that and it is something we have placed great emphasis on," adds Baraclough.
"It is all of our jobs to speak to players, clubs and agents to find out if their clients have eligibility to play for Northern Ireland. It is something I have done from day one and it is important we all play our part in that and try to find those little gems we didn't think would be available to us."