Ian Baraclough set to lead Northern Ireland until 2024

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Northern Ireland will be hopeful that Ian Baraclough’s future will be resolved long before the final World Cup qualifiers next month after the Irish FA board approved new contract talks with the manager.

Baraclough, 50, is nearing the end of the 18-month deal he signed last summer to replace Michael O’Neill, with his future a topic of conversation in the last two international windows.

A contract extension that seemed like a formality in September has been called into question after defeats to Switzerland and Bulgaria this month ended Qatar’s World Cup qualifying hopes, but Baraclough retain a solid support for Windsor Park and should now stay for qualifying for Euro 2024. campaign.

In a meeting on Thursday evening, the board voted to keep the former Under-21 coach and it is now hoped that a deal can be finalized quickly, with Lithuania and Italy due to come together. make it to Windsor Park for the final Group C games in the middle. next month.

A statement read: “The Irish FA’s board has unanimously agreed to extend the contract of senior male international manager, Ian Baraclough. Contract negotiations are underway.

The former Motherwell and Scunthorpe manager has enjoyed varying fortunes during his tenure to date, often facing key injuries in difficult times, but can indicate that much progress has been made in terms of refreshing the l ‘team, an important part of the tenure that it was. given when he took up his post.

Baraclough have won just four of their 18 games in charge, suffering an early disappointment during their reign when their hopes of reaching Euro 2020 were dashed by Slovakia in a 2-1 overtime loss to Windsor Park during the qualifying play-offs.

Although Northern Ireland subsequently suffered relegation to the Nations League, optimism grew with positive performances in the summer friendlies against Malta and Ukraine.

Baraclough enjoyed their best international window in charge last month, with a 4-1 qualifying win away from Lithuania followed by a 1-0 friendly win in Estonia before an exhausted team battled for a 0-0 draw with Switzerland to keep World Cup hopes alive.

But the attempt to reach Qatar effectively ended in a controversial loss to Switzerland in Geneva earlier this month, and the alarm bells rang when Northern Ireland took the lead to lose 2- 1 against Bulgaria in Sofia a few days later.

Despite these setbacks, Baraclough has received praise for successfully integrating a number of young players into the first team, including Daniel Ballard, Ali McCann, Conor Bradley and Shayne Lavery who have made significant progress.

Baraclough had made it clear that he wanted to stay in office, believing he had only just started the work of introducing a new generation of talent, while several players came out in favor of the manager in the last two international windows.

The Irish FA showed similar patience with O’Neill early in his reign, with the current Stoke boss having won just one of his first 18 games with Northern Ireland.

However, he would secure a very first qualification for the European Championships at Euro 2016 and end his tenure at the helm of the national team with 26 wins and 18 draws from his 72 matches at the head.

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