Following the appointment of Ian Baraclough as the new manager of Northern Ireland, supporters of the Green and White Army have been keen to find out more about the man chosen to take over the reigns from the highly-thought-of Michael O’Neill.
The Irish FA announced at the start of the weekend that the 49-year-old would take control of the side competing for a place in the upcoming Euros.
Baraclough was part of a five-man shortlist who were interviewed over the last few days, beating the likes of Stephen Robinson and Tommy Wright to the job.
He has signed an 18-month contract which will see him take control of the Euro play-offs, as well as the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.
Is Ian Baraclough the Right Man to Lead Northern Ireland Forward?
The Englishman has become only the second-ever non-Northern Irishman to be named manager of the country, and the first since the turn of the century – after former boss Lawrie McMenemy departed in 1999.
However, the newly appointed gaffer is no stranger to the Northern Ireland national team set-up, having spent the past three years in charge of the U21 side.
He’s also managed in England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, and led Sligo Rovers to success in the League of Ireland back in 2012, as well as lifting an FAI Cup and Setanta Cup during his stint with the club.
Baraclough has also been in the dugout at Scunthorpe United and Motherwell, and spent a year as assistant manager at Oldham Athletic, before accepting his first role with Northern Ireland.
Despite playing his trade as a manager in four separate countries, the former defender spent his whole playing career in his native England, making over 100 appearances for Notts County, Queens Park Rangers and Scunthorpe United.
In total, the journeyman was employed by no less than eight clubs during his playing career, and made over 600 appearances in English football.
Right Man for the Job?
It was a tough blow for Northern Ireland fans to take when Michael O’Neill decided to step down as manager of the national side, bringing an end to his eight-year stay in charge, in favour of a move to Championship side Stoke City.
The departing O’Neill proved a popular figure among the GAWA, having led the nation to the last-16 of the 2016 Euros.
It will no doubt be a tough job for his successor to fill the mighty shoes left behind, but there is certainly reason for optimism among supporters following the appointment of Baraclough.
The man worked wonders with the U21 squad and only narrowly missed out on a place in the 2019 Euro U21 Championships.
However, despite the heartache of falling short, the young guns certainly impressed along the way, beating the likes of Iceland and Slovakia, as well as defeating heavyweights Spain in their own backyard.
Former player Gareth McAuley has also tipped Baraclough to be a success, stating that he believes the NI players “feel comfortable” with the new boss.
When Will We See Him in the Dugout?
Both players and supporters of Northern Ireland will get their first taste of life under the new manager’s stewardship in the Nations League on September 4. Ian Baraclough will make his bow with a trip to Romania, before returning to Windsor Park three days later to take on Norway.
The highly anticipated Euro play-off tie away to Bosnia-Herzegovina takes place the following month, and a win there could set up a potential decider against neighbours Republic of Ireland, as the country looks to book their place in a second successive Euros competition.