Ian Baraclough: Northern Ireland Under-21 manager signs new two-year contract

Ian Baraclough's side won seven of their 10 Euro 2019 qualifiers
Ian Baraclough's side won seven of their 10 Euro 2019 qualifiers

Northern Ireland Under-21 manager Ian Baraclough has signed a new two-year contract with the Irish Football Association.

The former Motherwell and Sligo Rovers boss had been linked with the vacant manager's role at Derry City.

Appointed in May 2017, the 47-year-old led NI to a historic win away to Spain in September as they finished second in their Euro 2019 qualifying group.

"I have loved it," Baraclough said.

"When I took over I knew it would be a challenge and I thought it would possibly be a slow burner.

"However, the players, staff and everybody involved have come together and it has just ignited."

Northern Ireland narrowly missed out on a play-off for the Euro 2019 finals in Italy, having amassed 20 points during their qualification campaign, which ended with a 1-0 win over Slovakia at Windsor Park earlier in October.

Paul Smyth is chased by Slovakia's Michal Siprak
Northern Ireland's win over Slovakia at Windsor Park rounded off an impressive Euro qualifying campaign

Baraclough is looking forward to the next next campaign - the qualifiers for the 2021 U21 Euros - with 11 of his current squad eligible to play in those games.

"This is the first time I have managed a team with a younger element and I have really enjoyed it," he added.

"There is a challenge with a constant turnover of players, however we introduced quite a few younger players during our last campaign and that will be invaluable going forward."

Baraclough, whose 20-year playing career included spells at Queens Park Rangers, Notts County and Scunthorpe United, was assistant manager at Oldham Athletic before taking on the international job.

He led Sligo Rovers to the League of Ireland Premier Division title in his first season at the club in 2012, their first in 35 years, and also lifted the FAI Cup and Setanta Cup during his two years at the Showgrounds.

Northern Ireland senior team manager Michael O'Neill welcomed the announcement.

"Ian has proved to be a great addition to our international coaching team," he said.

"The Under-21s have made excellent progress under his watch and I am delighted he is on board for another two years. He has been invaluable in helping us to develop future senior internationals."