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Irish FA under increasing pressure to axe Ian Baraclough after Northern Ireland manager insists he will not resign

Fans demand manager is sacked but boss digs heels in following Cyprus calamity

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Ian Baraclough has overseen a calamitous start to Northern Ireland's Nations League campaign

Ian Baraclough has overseen a calamitous start to Northern Ireland's Nations League campaign

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Ian Baraclough has overseen a calamitous start to Northern Ireland's Nations League campaign

Ian Baraclough has insisted he fully intends to see his contract out until the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, leaving the Irish FA with a huge decision to make amid growing pressure from supporters to sack the Northern Ireland manager.

Baraclough’s team drew 2-2 at home to lowly Cyprus yesterday, giving them a woeful two points from four Nations League games this month when, before the tournament kicked off, the boss said he was aiming for 12 out of 12.

It could have been even worse with Northern Ireland trailing 2-0 at one point and fans in the Kop chanting ‘We want Bara out’ before Paddy McNair netted in the 71st minute and Jonny Evans grabbed an injury-time equaliser.

Despite the late drama, angry and disillusioned spectators jeered at the end for the fourth match in succession following on from defeats to Greece and Kosovo, and another dismal draw in Cyprus.

The Irish FA have a Board meeting on Thursday and the Green and White Army will expect the powers that be to discuss Baraclough’s position and the appalling results of late, with many wanting the 51-year-old to be ditched.

Baraclough was appointed almost two years ago as Michael O’Neill’s successor and in December was given a two-year extension by the IFA, taking him through to the end of 2023.

The governing body would prefer not to have to pay him off but, while Chief Executive Patrick Nelson was a key figure behind the new deal, in his programme notes for the Cyprus game he wrote about his ‘disappointment’ at results in the Nations League, adding that ‘we would have expected significantly more’.

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Baraclough feels he has IFA backing and has no intention of walking, believing that blooding youngsters in this tournament will eventually bear fruit.

Asked by the Belfast Telegraph if he expected to be around for the Nations League games in September, Baraclough said: “That’s not for me to decide. I would like to think so. I have a contract until the end of the Euros, Germany 2024 and that for me is where we’re looking to head.

“We’ve got to go through this pain to find out whether we can make ourselves stronger. I believe we will be stronger and that this group are playing for the nation, playing for me.”

Baraclough refused to say whether he had received any assurances from the IFA about his job but did state: “I have a lot of people speak to me saying ‘we understand what you are doing and what you are trying to do’ and that’s whether it is people in the IFA or people on the outside, supporters or football people with messages saying ‘you’ve got to go through this mate’.

“We have a strategy that is going to develop this nation and make us stronger in the next few years. If you don’t give these young players experience you don’t find out about them and we have found out some really positive stuff in the last fortnight.”

On the supporters calling for him to go, Baraclough stated: “There is going to be frustration because that is not what they have been used to. They have had a settled side with pretty senior players that have gone and achieved something amazing in 2016 (at the Euro finals).

“These fans have been treated pretty well with what they have been seeing and now this is a rebuilding period. With Northern Irish football we have seen it, it goes in cycles.

“I think the majority realise where we are, what we’re trying to do. We are exposing players in order to build for the future. That’s the realisation we’ve got to come to terms with.

“I think the squad in September is going to be strong, I’ll certainly be picking from a bigger group of players. To lose the players we did, we said coming into the window…(Stuart) Dallas, (Craig) Cathcart, (Josh) Magennis, you can’t doubt players of that ilk.

“We came in without a recognised left-back with Jamal Lewis and Shane Ferguson not available to us and losing players along the way, we’ve had to deal with a lot but the lads have stuck together, they’ve grown as a group and we’ve learned a lot.”

IFA Chief Executive Nelson and IFA President Conrad Kirkwood left yesterday’s match when Northern Ireland were losing for a planned trip to Doha for today’s IFAB (International Football Association Board) conference but will be back for this week’s Board meeting.

So how will Baraclough reflect on the last four games?

“I need to go away and have a look in the cold light of day, assess where we were at the start and how we’ve grown as a group,” he said. “We have found players who, if we weren’t in this situation we probably wouldn’t have given that chance to, so for me there’s massive positives to take.”


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