Nations League: New Northern Ireland manager Baraclough senses ‘hunger’ in squad

Ian Baraclough and his NI squad train
Ian Baraclough and his squad trained at Windsor Park this week before their departure to Bucharest

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says he senses “a hunger” within his squad before their Nations League opener against Romania on Friday.

Baraclough begins his reign as NI boss with the game in Bucharest, followed by Monday’s home match against Norway.

“There is a liveliness around the place, a lot of energy, and hopefully that comes out in our performance,” said the former NI Under-21 manager.

“We want a solid display and hopefully the result then takes care of itself.”

He added: “I’m excited about it but it’s all about the players getting back into international football after 10 months.”

The former Motherwell manager has only had a few days to get his message across to the squad he inherited from previous boss Michael O’Neill but indicated he was looking for “a performance of consistency”.

“We’ve got a solid squad full of experience who have amassed many caps between them,” he said.

“That’s invaluable to the group and if you can blood one or two of the youngsters along the way, that’s great.

“If they get a chance, they know they are surrounded by good people on the pitch who will help them along.”

Baraclough’s plans for his first game at the helm have been hampered by the loss of hugely influential defender Jonny Evans “for personal reasons”.

“Someone else will have an opportunity to come into the team and show what they can do,” he said.

“It’s what international football is all about – taking your chances when they come along and putting yourself into the frame in the longer term.

“Romania have good technical players who will be a threat so we have to deprive them of space to work in.

“We hope to impose ourselves and create plenty of chances of our own.”