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Ian Baraclough: Michael O'Neill was my mentor but I'll be my own man as Northern Ireland boss



Raring to go: Ian Baraclough at Windsor Park yesterday

Raring to go: Ian Baraclough at Windsor Park yesterday

Raring to go: Ian Baraclough at Windsor Park yesterday

Ian Baraclough says Michael O'Neill will always be his mentor but the new Northern Ireland boss will bring his own personality and authority to the role.

Baraclough's boys take on Bosnia and Herzegovina in their 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.

Before leaving to focus on the Stoke City job, O'Neill steered the team to the Euro 2016 finals in France as well as a World Cup play-off showdown with Switzerland.

"Michael was organised, tactically astute, very good at reading the game and he will always be a mentor for me," said the Englishman during his first press conference as Northern Ireland boss yesterday.

"He said to me you've got to be your own man and I've never tried to imitate someone."

Baraclough added: “I have taken little bits from the managers I have worked with, both as a player and coach, and it would be wrong of me not to take elements of Michael’s work and try to fit it around what I am doing.

“But it will be my personality and way of working. It won’t be too dissimilar to Michael, I like detail and I like players understanding their roles. If they are not sure, they can ask me and everyone has a voice.

“If you have a valid point it should be heard and respected. I’ll make the final decisions but I will listen to other opinions. When everyone plays a part that can breed success.

“Michael was meticulous in his preparation and I am also someone who wants to get that knowledge of the opposition across to the players in a simple way so they can execute the job.

“He built good relationships and it’s important to build on them. We are all fighting for the common cause of making Northern Ireland successful.”

Baraclough earned considerable praise for his record with the Under-21 side and now he has the opportunity to deliver on the senior stage. The fixture heavy autumn schedule is a baptism of fire for the former Sligo Rovers chief but he will become an instant hero if he can guide the squad through two play-off battles and into a second consecutive Euro finals.

“I think we are still on an upward curve and it’s my time to take over the reins and continue with that upward curve,” added the 49-year-old, who has signed an 18-month contract which will run until the end of the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

“That can mean little tweaks, and the continuity is important because we need to keep doing the things we do well but also build on them. We have players with experience and knowledge of how to win games at this level. The players are used to going into pressure cooker situations and the young players have to learn how to do that. Every team needs to evolve and push the boundaries. Every team has to try new things when it’s right.

“This team isn’t broken, it has been working very well despite some tough games against Germany and Holland.”

Baraclough, who will be retaining assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl, goalkeeping coach Steve Harper and Austin MacPhee as part of his backroom team, will also reach out to midfielder Oliver Norwood, who retired from international football last year.

Belfast Telegraph