I’ve been a proud Northern Ireland supporter all my life and, hand on heart, I can honestly say I can’t remember hearing the Green and White Army actually booing a manager.
I have had the pleasure of watching some great international teams and Lord knows I’ve also watched my fair share of poor ones. Nevertheless, throughout all of those lean times when we had a below average squad of players to choose from, and wins were as scarce as hen’s teeth, never can I recall the manager being so loudly jeered.
But that all changed last Sunday when I heard at first hand Ian Baraclough on the receiving end of a considerable amount of booing from a sizeable section of the Northern Ireland fans both during and immediately after a scrambled home draw with Cyprus, and I must admit I found all of that a bit strange.
That’s probably because even though we’ve had several spells of mediocrity in the past, the Northern Ireland fans have always been extremely generous and supportive of the players and management.
However, despite a growing number of fans seeking a change of manager, I personally don’t think Baraclough has done himself any favours with the manner in which he has responded to the criticism directed at him.
In fact, I have actually heard the words ‘arrogance’ and even ‘ignorance’ being levelled at Ian in some quarters over how he practically dismissed those boos of discontent amid supporter concerns that he is not the man for the job — arrogance in how he answered some of the searching post-match questions with regards to his immediate future and ignorance to the fact that after 14 Nations League games, we still haven’t won one.
Three draws and 11 defeats doesn’t make for good reading, particularly, with all due respect, now that we are in a League comprising of much lesser nations in football terms.
I think many of the fans would be much more appreciative if Ian would be more realistic and upfront by admitting and accepting that stat — it’s not hearsay, it’s fact.
I can also remember former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez being somewhat dismissive, arrogant and indeed ignorant, particularly towards the end of his reign, but at the time his saving grace was the fact that he had been reasonably successful, and for that the fans continued to support him.
However, with Baraclough the scenario is somewhat different — his tenure as Northern Ireland manager has yet to properly ignite and you can shove that far too familiar ‘transition’ phrase where the sun don’t shine; we’ve long gone past that stage.
There is also the added fact that Baraclough has no practical identity as a former Northern Ireland player and at times like this, that also helps shorten the tolerance levels which some fans are prepared to afford others.
I might add that it doesn’t help when some people in suits, and with influence, choose to circle the wagons and cuddle up to the manager by preferring to view the situation through rose-tinted glasses. That doesn’t wear well with the supporters either.
A manager under pressure is never something I particularly like to see but, for what it’s worth, my advice to Ian if he wishes to continue in his role is to never underestimate the power and the feelings of the Green and White Army.
The people on the terraces are not stupid. Treat them with respect and not with contempt because always remember they will still be here when you’re long gone.
In saying all of that, I genuinely hope he turns it around.
With the Danske Bank Premiership fixtures now released and the transfer market buoyant, you can begin to feel the buzz among all Irish League fans with the new season just around the corner.
I have been particularly impressed by the comings and goings so far and it’s proof, if needed, that managers never really switch off.
No sooner had the final whistle blown to bring the previous season to a conclusion than the work for the new one began, and that inevitably involves addressing the quality and strength in depth — or lack of it — in each team’s squad.
Obviously it’s the manager’s job to look after the strengths and weaknesses of his team, and the summer transfer window is the ideal time to make those crucial signings you hope and pray will take you to the promised land.
The budget determines where you can shop — it might be in Harrods, or then again it might be in the bargain bucket at Poundland — and it’s always important to cut your cloth according to your means, and all managers deserve credit for doing the business to the best of their ability.
Some of the players on the move have been well-established, and none more so than Leroy Millar to Larne, David McDaid to Ballymena United, Lee Lynch to Coleraine and Joel Cooper to Linfield to name but a few, with all teams attempting to consolidate and improve from the season just past.
As is always the case, there will be other less high-profile examples who will prove to be shrewd pieces of business by their clubs and it’s they who the managers will take great satisfaction from as it shows their ability to spot potential ahead of anyone else.
All in all, and with the clock ticking down, it’s exciting times around all the various clubs in the Irish League and, just like all of you other football fans, I cannot wait for the season to start.