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Ian Baraclough: I'll do everything to deliver more magic memories for brilliant Northern Ireland fans

 

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Ian Baraclough

Ian Baraclough

Corry Evans

Corry Evans

Ian Baraclough

Ian Baraclough says he's fired up to build on Michael O'Neill's legacy and keep the good times rolling for Northern Ireland.

In April, O'Neill stepped down as Northern Ireland boss after eight and a half years in the role and he's earned the title of one of his country's greatest ever managers after steering the team to the Euro 2016 finals in France as well as a World Cup play-off showdown with Switzerland.

An opportunity to qualify for back-to-back European finals can be grasped later this year when Baraclough's boys take on Bosnia-Herzegovina in their delayed Euro 2020 play-off semi-final on October 8, with the winner going on to face either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia in Belfast on November 12.

The 49-year-old has signed an 18-month contract which will run until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign and he will become only the second Englishman - and second non-Northern Irishman - to manage Northern Ireland, the other being Lawrie McMenemy, who was in charge from 1998 to 1999. O'Neill appointed Baraclough as his Under-21 manager in 2017 and now the former Sligo Rovers boss has the opportunity to build on the outstanding work of the Ballymena man who left to focus on his Stoke City role.

"Our supporters are the best in my eyes and we want times like the Euros again. We want to give the Green and White Army those experiences and it won't be for the want of trying," said Baraclough, who is retaining Jimmy Nicholl as Northern Ireland's assistant manager.

"We will try to drive that forward and I've got to thank the IFA board for putting their faith in me and believing I'm the right man to build on the work done under Michael.

"I will give a real good go of making it a success."

Baraclough added: “The senior panel has a real club feel to it and hopefully we carry on the upward trend that Northern Ireland football has been on for the last six or seven years.

“You need a good blend of youth and experience with the players who still have the hunger to achieve more. You look at someone like Davo (Steven Davis), 117 caps and captain of his country more times than anyone, he still has that fight, desire and hunger to get to the Euros again as do all the players.

“They want that on their CV that they have played in two or three major tournaments.

“You can’t give the players that desire, they must have that within and you can see their work rate which is as good as I have seen. I’m excited to come into the group and hope to carry on the good work that has been done.

“We have the play-off semi-final against Bosnia coming up and the international window with three matches is a real tough ask and we must be as prepared as possible for the games by putting the right amount of work in.”

Baraclough beat off competition from Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, former St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright, the IFA’s Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton and Northern Ireland women’s boss Kenny Shiels to land the job.

“I know the qualities of all the men interviewed and they are good people first and foremost and real football men,” he added.

“To be chosen as the preferred candidate is a great honour and I’m very proud. Good relationships with clubs must be maintained and the players will be looked after by the Association.”

Belfast Telegraph