Born and bred in England he may be, but Ian Baraclough has admitted that he ‘feels Northern Irish’ now and has had no emotional attachment to the Three Lions during the European Championships.
Baraclough has been Northern Ireland manager since June last year.
Before that, he had a successful run in charge of the Under-21 side after managing Scunthorpe United, Sligo Rovers and Motherwell following on from a playing career that included periods with Lincoln City, Mansfield Town, Notts County and Queens Park Rangers.
From Leicester, once upon a time Baraclough (50) was like other England fans roaring the team on but, while he wishes Gareth Southgate’s side well in tonight’s Euro Final against Italy, he says his allegiances have changed.
“I want England to do well as I wanted all the home nations to do well in the tournament,” states Baraclough.
“For Scotland to have been knocked out of the group stage and to see Wales not get through their round of 16, I was disappointed for both of them.
“I am from England and have all my family there but it has been strange watching them, really strange because I have had no emotional attachment to it. I’ve not felt stressed watching the games or got frustrated at certain decisions that haven’t gone England’s way.
“I was watching the semi-final win over Denmark on Wednesday with my brother and his family and they were all out of their chairs jumping around when England scored and I didn’t feel any emotion to do that. Strange, really.”
He asserts: “I feel Northern Irish and that’s where my allegiances lie.”
Over the weeks and months ahead with Covid-19 restrictions set to ease, Baraclough is keen to travel around Northern Ireland and meet supporters and the grassroots football community. He surprised guests on a recent tour of the Irish FA’s Education Heritage Centre at Windsor Park by taking part in an impromptu mock press conference before visiting a McDonald’s Fun Football Centre in Strabane later that day.
On the much talked about topic of England players and fans using the Green and White Army anthem ‘Sweet Caroline’ as their theme song during the Euros, Baraclough adds with a smile: “I’m outraged. Everyone is jumping on the Sweet Caroline bandwagon!
“We know in Northern Ireland that it’s our song and we sing it best and it sounds best at the national stadium at Windsor Park.
“I can’t wait to hear it again in a packed stadium in Belfast.”