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Gareth McAuley

Northern Ireland players will be delighted to have Baraclough in place for Euro playoff

Gareth McAuley



New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough

New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough

Philip Magowan

New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough

The Northern Ireland players will be happy this morning.

Ian Baraclough is very well respected within the camp and they'll be fully supportive of the decision to select him as the man to succeed Michael O'Neill as their manager.

Over the last couple of months, I have championed both Baraclough and Stephen Robinson for the position - two men I felt the players would like to see as boss, had the attributes to succeed and ticked the box for continuity, which the Irish FA desired.

I'm sure Robbo will be gutted at missing out on the international gig, but he has the consolation of taking his club Motherwell into Europe next season and that is an exciting prospect.

His time will hopefully come again in the future.

I always felt that Jim Magilton, who was also interviewed, was going to be an outsider for the post, simply because I don't think the IFA wanted to take him away from his role with Club NI and the Academy. In a way, he is the victim of his own success with the rising stars of Northern Ireland football.

Baraclough has a great relationship with Michael O'Neill, he was appointed Under-21 manager by him and, when Stoke came calling, it was Bara who undertook all the work in terms of preparation for the proposed play-off match against Bosnia and Herzegovina in March.

Bara formed a good relationship with the players, keeping in contact with them and informing them of all the plans and procedures in place for Bosnia.

Having nurtured a number of Under-21 players who have made it through to the senior squad, they must be ecstatic that their old boss is now their manager again and they will think, 'He knows me and if I can do well with my club and in training, then I have a chance of playing'.

I was in a number of squads when Michael brought Bara along with the senior team and I was impressed with him as a coach.

As someone who has played in the Premier League, with some of the top coaches in the game, I can be critical of training routines, but I must say I was impressed with how Bara conducted the sessions he was put in charge of.

The good thing is there is no ego with Bara. The last thing the players need is someone coming in and wanting to stamp their authority and change methods that worked so well for Michael.

Bara will not do that. He doesn't need to change much and, indeed, a big thing for me is that the backroom staff - so important to Northern Ireland's success over the years- will be able to stay on.

A manager from outside the IFA family may have wanted to bring in their own people. But the players are used to the current staff, are comfortable with them and, in turn, the staff know every fine detail about the players and that can be passed on to the manager.

The Nations League games, starting in September, will be tough, but everything will be geared towards the Bosnia play-off clash in October and making sure Northern Ireland give themselves a shot of reaching their second successive Euro finals.

The groundwork was done by Bara in the lead-up to the last game, but that was when he was just a stand-in for Michael.

Now he has been given the leading role, there will be no dress rehearsal and Bara must deliver the performance of lifetime as the new manager of Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph