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Why Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough's inspiration can be found close to home

 

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Ian Baraclough has been appointed as the new manager of Northern Ireland (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ian Baraclough has been appointed as the new manager of Northern Ireland (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ian Baraclough has been appointed as the new manager of Northern Ireland (Danny Lawson/PA)

Ian Baraclough has landed the biggest job of his life. He will not need to look far from home for inspiration.

The role model for the new Northern Ireland manager will always be his dad, who has shown how to lead in the most difficult of circumstances.

When Baraclough, the youngest of five brothers, was a boy, he lost his mum at an early age.

It was a heartbreaking time for the family but, throughout it all, Ian's dad stayed strong for his kids - and, in turn, that shining example has made Michael O'Neill's successor into the man he is today.

"I lost my mum at an early age and my dad had to bring five boys up. The very fact of having kids myself, that task that my dad did was an unbelievable role," said Baraclough earlier this year.

"He has always been a role model for me and someone that I still look up to today.

"If it wasn't for him, I don't think I would have been anywhere near good enough or able to compete at the level I have been lucky enough to.

"With my dad and four brothers, it was an upbringing where we had to work hard, but it was an enjoyable one."

But forget the football for a second. First and foremost, Baraclough is a gentleman. Speaking to other candidates for the job last night, while there was disappointment that they were not appointed, there was also a genuine happiness for the guy who got the gig.

That's the thing about the 49-year-old from Leicester - he is highly respected in and out of the game.

Sure, he has huge shoes to fill and while he is not a household name, Baraclough knows the game, having played over 600 times in the English league with several clubs including QPR, Notts County and Scunthorpe, which he also managed, alongside gigs at Sligo Rovers and Motherwell prior to his impressive stint with the Northern Ireland kids, so let's give him a chance in the biggest football job in the country.

He has signed an 18-month contract with the Irish FA and, with the Euro 2020 play-offs coming up later this year, preparation starts now for the October semi-final in Bosnia and a hoped-for final at Windsor Park against either the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia in November.

If he guides Northern Ireland to the finals, Baraclough will, just like his dad, be a hero for life.

Belfast Telegraph