Ian Baraclough to step up as new Northern Ireland boss

Ian Baraclough will succeed Michael O'Neill as manager of the NI senior men's team. Credit: INPHO

Northern Ireland Under-21s boss Ian Baraclough is to step up to succeed Michael O’Neill as manager of the senior international team.

Baraclough was being considered for the role alongside the likes of Stephen Robinson, Jim Magilton, Tommy Wright and Kenny Shiels.

He has now signed an 18-month contract running until the end of the next World Cup qualifying campaign.

His first games in charges with be in the Nations League in September.

However, Northern Ireland’s main focus will be on the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying play-off away to Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for 8 October after being delayed due to the coronavirus.

Baraclough, 49, becomes only the second Englishman to take charge of Northern Ireland, but the IFA will hope the former Scunthorpe and Motherwell boss offers some continuity following the success of O’Neill.

O’Neill had been juggling the demands of club and country after being named Stoke manager in November, but stepped down as Northern Ireland boss in April after it was confirmed the qualifying play-offs would not take place until the autumn.

He leaves big shoes to fill after guiding Northern Ireland to qualification for Euro 2016 and narrowly missing out on a place at the 2018 World Cup.

But Baraclough had already been due to travel with the seniors to Bosnia - a sign of the increasing role he had been taking in the senior set-up in recent months as he emerged as a potential successor.

IFA Chief Executive Patrick Nelson said he was delighted to welcome Baraclough to the role.

“He will help us build on recent success, but also kick-start an exciting new era for the men’s senior team and the association,” he added.

“We hope to hit the ground running in his first competitive fixture this September versus Romania in the UEFA Nations League.”

Outgoing NI manager Michael O'Neill with captain Steven Davis. Credit: INPHO

Baraclough began his management career at Scunthorpe before guiding Sligo Rovers to a league title, FAI Cup and Setanta Cup during a two-year spell in charge.

He has been in charge of the Under-21s since 2017, working with Jamal Lewis, Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Liam Donnelly, Jordan Thompson, Gavin Whyte and Shayne Lavery, who are now all part of the senior set-up.

His Under-21s narrowly missed out on the play-offs in qualifying for the 2019 Euro Under-21 Championships, having recorded wins over Spain and Iceland on their way to second place in their group.

His first match in charge of the senior side will now be away to Romania on 4 September, the first match of their Nations League campaign, while his first Windsor Park date will come three days later against Norway.