Gareth McAuley: Former NI defender tips Baraclough and Robinson for Northern Ireland job

Gareth McAuley celebrates scoring against Ukraine at Euro 2016 in France
Gareth McAuley celebrates scoring against Ukraine at Euro 2016 in France

Gareth McAuley says Ian Baraclough and Stephen Robinson "tick a lot of boxes" as possible successors to Michael O'Neil as Northern Ireland manager.

Former NI defender McAuley, who retired last September after winning 80 caps, worked with both men in the international set-up.

"I like how they work, their enthusiasm on the training pitch and how they get their message across," said McAuley.

"They are the two that spring to mind but they may not be for everyone."

Former Leicester and West Brom player McAuley scored against Ukraine when O'Neill took Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals.

O'Neill departed in April to focus on his job with Stoke City, and after Northern Ireland's Euro 2021 play-off semi-final with Bosnia-Herzegovina was pushed back to the autumn because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the frame

Northern Ireland U21 boss Baraclough and Motherwell manager Robinson are in the running for the top job along with Tommy Wright, David Healy, Jim Magilton and Austin McPhee.

"Having worked with the two guys up close, talking tactics and their knowledge, they tick a lot boxes for me," McAuley told Sportsound Extra Time.

"It's maybe not what the Irish FA feel, they may want a name - you are two games away from a major championship so there are going to be a lot of applicants for the position."

Ian Barraclough and Stephen Robinson
Ian Baraclough and Stephen Robinson are candidates to become the new Northern Ireland boss

McAuley kept busy after hanging his boots up by scouting for clubs, coaching and media work, but that all changed with the coronavirus lockdown.

It was a shock to the system for the 40-year-old, who has a clear plan for his future amid many job offers.

"In the first couple of weeks into lockdown my head was all over the place a little bit - I was still going out to games and was still involved but the lockdown happened and everything ground to a halt," he added.

"That's when all the emotions and thoughts came into my head like you see with players when they talk about football being taken away from them, all the structure.

"It was tough for a couple of weeks but then I threw myself into trying to keep the kids active and trying to keep a routine myself by doing gym work, really to take my mind off it.

"I've got too many options going forward but I see myself on the grass, with coaching and helping kids. That's my long-term aim - it's just when the opportunity to throw myself into that comes along."

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