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Gerry Armstrong: Baraclough would be wise to keep Jimmy Nicholl on his backroom staff

 

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Key figure: Jimmy Nicholl proved a major hit with the Northern Ireland players after joining Michael O’Neill’s backroom staff in 2015

Key figure: Jimmy Nicholl proved a major hit with the Northern Ireland players after joining Michael O’Neill’s backroom staff in 2015

PMAKER

Key figure: Jimmy Nicholl proved a major hit with the Northern Ireland players after joining Michael O’Neill’s backroom staff in 2015

Good luck to new Ian Baraclough, I wish him well in his new role.

I sympathise with him in many ways because he as a massive act to follow in replacing Michael O'Neill.

Ian now faces a hell of a task and an almost impossible job. He really will be thrown in at the deep end with the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia-Herzegovina coming up on October 8.

You could be an international manager for many years and not get an opportunity like that - it's a massive tie.

The one thing in Ian's favour is that he has brought through a lot of the younger players from the Under-21 set-up. Those boys are our players of the future. He'll know them well and they'll know him, so that tells me there is a lot of continuity there.

I also like the fact that he has been working closely with Michael, so he knows the system and he knows the players.

The only downside for me is that he never played for Northern Ireland - and I think that's important.

There is no doubt that results and performances over the next 12 to 18 months will tell us a lot more about Ian Baraclough.

He may look to bring in his own backroom staff, but if he doesn't take Jimmy Nicholl with him, it will be a huge mistake.

Jimmy has been there, done it and worn the T-shirt. He has more experience in international football than anyone. For me, he is the key - Ian simply cannot afford to let him go.

From a coaching point of view and as an ex-player, Stevie Robinson would have been my personal choice for the job, although I don't have an argument with Ian Baraclough.

I don't think the IFA having to pay compensation to Motherwell for his services did Robbo any favours.

Of the other nominees, I was surprised to see Kenny Shiels named as a late runner, but he has managed at a good level and he would have known a lot of the players that have come through, so he had every right to be there.

It was the same with Tommy Wright. He was part of the international set-up for many years and he did a great job at St Johnstone for quite a few years.

Jim Magilton has had experience at Ipswich and QPR, so there were good reasons for him to be there.

But of the group, I always thought that Robinson and Baraclough were the two outstanding candidates.

If Ian takes our wee country to next year's Euros, he'll become an instant hero - no one will want to know whether he played for Northern Ireland or not!

Belfast Telegraph