Baraclough in NI talks after board opts to extend contract

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Nations League Group 1, League B match at Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna, Austria.

Ian Baraclough is in talks over a new contract to remain as Northern Ireland manager after the Irish FA board unanimously agreed he should stay in the job.

The 50-year-old is nearing the end of the 18-month deal he signed last summer to replace Michael O'Neill.

A contract extension which had looked a formality in September came into question after defeats to Switzerland and Bulgaria this month ended hopes of qualifying for the Qatar World Cup, but Baraclough retains strong support at Windsor Park.

An Irish FA statement read: "The Irish FA board has unanimously agreed to extend the contract of senior men's international manager, Ian Baraclough.

Contract negotiations are under way."

The former under-21 manager has won only four of his 18 games in charge, suffering early disappointment in his reign when their hopes of reaching Euro 2020 were ended by Slovakia in a 2-1 extra-time defeat at Windsor Park in the qualifying play-offs.

The bid to reach Qatar was effectively ended by a controversial defeat to Switzerland in Geneva earlier this month, but alarm bells rang when that was followed by Northern Ireland blowing a lead to lose 2-1 to Bulgaria in Sofia days later.

Despite those setbacks, Baraclough has earned praise for successfully integrating a number of younger players into the first team while dealing with several injury setbacks.

Baraclough had made it clear he wanted to stay in the job, feeling he had only begun the work of introducing a new generation of talent, while several players spoke up in support of the manager during the last two international windows.

It is expected that Baraclough will be offered a new contract which will cover the qualifying campaign for Euro 2024.

His side are next in action in Belfast next month as they wrap up the qualifying campaign with home matches against Lithuania and Italy.