Ian Baraclough: ‘Hectic, manic and enjoyable’ – new NI boss reflects on first week in charge

Baraclough got the Northern Ireland manager’s job after an impressive spell in charge of the Under-21s

New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has described his first week in the job as “hectic and enjoyable”.

The 49-year-old stepped up from his role as Under-21 boss to succeed Michael O’Neill as manager of the senior team.

“I’ve spent a lot of time speaking to the media,” Baraclough told Radio Ulster.

“I’ve also tried to speak to as many of the staff as possible, though they are all busy as well.”

He added: “In terms of the players, I’ve only spoken to captain Steven Davis but that is on the list for over the weekend and next week.

“It has been hectic but it has been really enjoyable as I try to put things in place for Romania and Norway [Baraclough’s first games in charge in September] although little bits have already been done.”

Having previously managed Sligo Rovers in the League of Ireland Premier Division and Scottish side Motherwell, Baraclough was appointed NI U21 manager in May 2017.

The former Queens Park Rangers and Notts County player revealed that it was his managerial partnership with now Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, one of his rivals for the NI job, that helped him get the NI U21 role.

Stephen Robinson was one of five candidates interviewed for the NI manager’s job

“When I was manager of Motherwell I took Stephen Robinson in as my assistant, having watched him manage Northern Ireland Under 21s while I was at Sligo,” Baraclough continued.

“Michael had Stephen on his staff in the build-up to the Euros in 2016 and that is when I first met Michael. Then, strangely, when I went to Oldham Athletic as Robbo’s assistant it was then that the NI U21s job came up.

“I went for it, was fortunate enough to get it and that was how it started for me three years ago.”

While he will open with the Nations League games away to Romania and at home to Norway in September, Baraclough’s main focus is the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina the following month.

He is hopeful of being able to attend matches in England to watch members of his international squad in club action before that, but understands it can only happen if it is safe and healthy to do so.

“I’ve been making enquiries but there are tough protocols in place and I understand that – lives are at stake and we need to make sure people keep safe,” added English-born Barrclough, who says he feels Northern Irish after his time with the Irish FA.

“But I think it is important that you can start getting to games. Hopefully we can do that soon, things are changing day to day.”