New NI boss Ian Baraclough praises senior players' desire

New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has been impressed with what he's seen of senior players.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

THE 2022 World Cup as well as Euro 2021 is in the sights of new Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough and, he trusts, his senior players.

Having stepped up from the U21 job to succeed Michael O’Neill, the 49-year-old praised captain Steven Davis and other experienced men as key to his chances of success:

“Those that have still got the hunger to go on and achieve even more. You look at someone like ‘Davo’, 117 caps, captained his country more than anyone else I think – he’s still got that fight, desire, hunger to go on and achieve more.

“He’ll want to get to the Euros as they experienced in 2016, and players like Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans, Corry Evans, Michael McGovern, I could list more – they want to have on their CV that they played in two, maybe even three, major tournaments.

“To have that desire, you can’t give them that, that has to come from within, and I see that from all the players. When I’ve been around the senior group they’ve got a real hunger and desire – their workrate on the training pitch, day in, day out, is as good as I’ve seen anywhere else.

“There’s an excitement for me coming into the group and hopefully carry on that good work that’s been done previously.”

O’Neill’s assistant Jimmy Nicholl yesterday announced that Baraclough had asked him to continue as part of the management set-up and the 63-year-old happily agreed.

Baraclough, who led Sligo Rovers to their first League of Ireland title in 35 years back in 2012, managed Motherwell and then was assistant manager at Oldham Athletic before being brought into the IFA set-up as U21 boss in 2017.

He effected a remarkable improvement at that level: the U21s went from winning only six of their previous 44 qualifier matches to six victories in 10 games, including a famous victory away to Spain.

Baraclough was chosen ahead of IFA Elite Performance Director Jim Magilton, Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson, NI Women’s boss Kenny Shiels, and former St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright, all of whom were also interviewed last Wednesday.

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