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'Not meant to be': Stephen Robinson reacts to missed Northern Ireland chance as beaten candidates back Ian Baraclough

 

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Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson

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Shake on it: Tommy Wright and Stephen Robinson missed out on the NI job

Shake on it: Tommy Wright and Stephen Robinson missed out on the NI job

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Kenny Shiels

Kenny Shiels

Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson has insisted he is "desperate" for Northern Ireland to qualify for the Euro 2020 finals despite missing out on the manager's job.

Speaking for the first time since Ian Baraclough was appointed boss last month, Robinson added that he was content to still be at Motherwell while Tommy Wright, who was also interviewed by the Irish FA in June, has said that it wasn't "meant to be" for him to take over from Michael O'Neill.

Robinson and Wright entered the process with strong credentials thanks to their outstanding work in Scotland.

Wright consistently ensured that St Johnstone punched above their weight in the top flight and even led the Perth outfit to the first major trophy in their history when they beat Dundee United 2-0 in the 2014 Scottish Cup final.

He exited the club a hero in May after seven years in charge, having been assistant manager to ex-Northern Ireland team-mate Steve Lomas prior to that.

Many felt with his experience, 56-year-old Wright had a big chance to take charge of his national side and it was the same for Robinson, who in recent times has worked wonders with Motherwell, leading them to two cup finals in the 2017/2018 season and inspiring the Steelmen to finish third in the Premiership last term and qualify for the Europa League.

On the day of the interviews with the IFA, Robinson and Wright met each other in the Windsor Park car park which was an embarrassing moment for the powers that be.

I think out of courtesy I spoke to Northern Ireland, they spoke to me, I'm fully committed to Motherwell and I'm happy with where we are.

Motherwell admitted they did not want Robinson to go to the interview but with the Lisburn man's pride in the country, he felt it was an opportunity he could not turn down.

As it turned out, the IFA chose Under-21 boss Baraclough, who had previously worked with Robinson at Motherwell and Oldham.

"I think everybody understood that you go and speak to your country, it wasn't for me at this stage, they appointed Ian and I wish him the very best of luck," Robinson told Sky Sports.

"I'm a Northern Ireland fan, desperate to see them qualify for the Euros and I'll be right behind everything they've done."

With the Scottish Premiership fixtures announced yesterday and Motherwell starting away to Ross County on August 3, Robinson added that he is fully committed to the Fir Park club, who travel to Celtic on August 29 and are at home to Rangers on September 26.

"Club football is for me at this moment in time," he explained.

"Hopefully I've got too much energy to only have five or six games a year! I said all along it's something you aspire to at some stage in your career.

"I think out of courtesy I spoke to Northern Ireland, they spoke to me, I'm fully committed to Motherwell and I'm happy with where we are.

"But it's something you have to explore out of respect to your country and it was all done with Motherwell's blessing and everybody conducted themselves properly."

Former goalkeeper Wright felt he did well during the interview but admitted that with Baraclough asked by the IFA to help prepare for the Euro 2020 play-off against Bosnia when O'Neill was focusing on his job at Stoke City, it was going to be difficult to land the role.

"I came out with no regrets. I was pleased how the interview went," said Wright.

"Ian has been working since January almost doing Michael's day-to-day part of the job so I think all the candidates thought Ian was going to be the favourite. Some things aren't meant to be."

There is every chance, however, that Wright could return to football management in future.

In an interview with BBC Scotland's Scottish Football Podcast, the ex-Newcastle United ace stated: "Scotland would be my preferred choice because I know the league and the players.

"I enjoy Scottish football. There's never a dull moment.

"I could use all that experience to go to another league and that wouldn't be a problem but I think, based on what I've done over the last seven years, that hopefully would give me the best opportunity of going back into football.

"I've lost a lot of weight and I feel refreshed. I'm ready to get back into work."

Meanwhile the other two men in the frame for the Northern Ireland job, Jim Magilton and Kenny Shiels, have wished Baraclough well.

Irish FA Elite Performance Director Magilton said: "I am pleased for Ian who is a fantastic guy and obviously I hope he is a success in the job and does really well for Northern Ireland.

"Any support that I can give Ian he has it, no question about that."

Ex-Kilmarnock boss Shiels, the Northern Ireland women's team manager, said: "Ian is a good man and, like everyone connected to Northern Ireland football, I wish him the very best in the role."

Lying fourth in their group, Shiels is scheduled to lead his side in European Championship qualifiers versus Belarus and the Faroe Islands later this year and has high hopes that they can rise up the table.

Belfast Telegraph