Ian Baraclough has been named as Northern Ireland’s new manager as the 49-year-old steps up from the Under-21s role to succeed Michael O’Neill.
Baraclough has signed an 18-month contract running until the end of the next World Cup qualifying campaign after emerging ahead of rivals Stephen Robinson, Jim Magilton, Tommy Wright and Kenny Shiels during an interview process conducted this week.
Although Baraclough’s first games in charge in September will be in the Nations League, Northern Ireland’s main focus is on the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying play-off away to Bosnia and Herzegovina, now scheduled for October 8 after being delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 49-year-old Baraclough becomes only the second Englishman to take charge of Northern Ireland, but the Irish Football Association will hope the former Scunthorpe and Motherwell boss offers some continuity following the success of O’Neill.
Baraclough said: “I was delighted to be linked to the job. To ultimately accept the role as the new Northern Ireland manager is an honour and a privilege. I couldn’t be more energised and excited to get going.”
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 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.
Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson added: “I’m delighted to welcome Ian as our senior men’s team manager. He will help us build on recent success but also kickstart an exciting new era for the men’s senior team and the association.
“We hope to hit the ground running in his first competitive fixture this September versus Romania in the UEFA Nations League.”
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 of the west of Ireland club.
Baraclough 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.
Baraclough’s 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 be away to Romania on September 4, the first match of their Nations League campaign, while his first Windsor Park date will come three days later against Norway.