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I'm game for anything if it helps ease the pressure on my players, claims Baraclough

 

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New boss Ian Baraclough is hoping to relieve the pressure on his players

New boss Ian Baraclough is hoping to relieve the pressure on his players

New boss Ian Baraclough is hoping to relieve the pressure on his players

Balderdash was the game of choice amongst some of the Northern Ireland players ahead of the Euro 2016 Finals in France.

With Ian Baraclough now in charge, a session of human hungry hippos might just be introduced on the eve of Northern Ireland's crucial Euro Play-Off Semi-Final against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica on October 8.

After taking over as Northern Ireland boss last week, Baraclough has been keen to stress the importance of September's Nations League matches against Romania in Bucharest and Norway at Windsor Park. But, in reality, all the focus is on Bosnia.

A huge amount of the preparation for that tie has been done. When Michael O'Neill joined Stoke last November, Baraclough was asked to step into the breach and do all the ground work necessary for what had been proposed to be a March clash.

Obviously that match was postponed, but the prep Baraclough put in now stands him and his team in good stead with a date now set for October.

And if Baraclough thinks it might give his senior players the edge, he may just introduce a few novelty games.

That's what he did when he was Under-21 boss and it certainly worked a treat - especially in Albacete, when Northern Ireland recorded their greatest ever Under-21 result by beating the young Spanish superstars 2-1.

Baraclough says: "It's about keeping the group together, tight knit. Everyone has a role to play and, yeah, we did a couple of things that people may have seen as wacky such as human hungry hippos. I can't really see Josh Magennis doing that to be honest!

"But we did something 48 hours before the game against Spain, we just felt that you could feel the tension a little bit and I had something in mind to do with them regards around the hotel to relax them a little bit.

"It was a set of 30 challenges that they had to do within two hours. We split them up into groups and it gave them two hours away from the environment where they were just thinking about the game. It took their mind totally off that and we saw players in a different light and it certainly bonded them together a bit more as well.

"There's certain things you can do and I think all businesses do things, like quizzes, but I think to be a little bit more inventive as well is something off the cuff.

"I'm prepared to take chances like that. You try to push the boundaries to try and improve things and it might be the stuff we do off the pitch as well as on it."

Belfast Telegraph