21 October 2022

Who could replace Ian Baraclough as Northern Ireland manager?

21 October 2022

Northern Ireland are in need of a new manager after Ian Baraclough was sacked on Friday, paying the price for a dismal Nations League campaign which saw fans lose faith in him.

With no fixtures planned until March next year, the Irish FA has time to consider its options before the start of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

Here the PA news agency looks at some of the names that will be on their shortlist.

Michael O’Neill

It would be the dream choice for the Green and White Army. Baraclough took over in June 2020 when O’Neill departed for Stoke, but the man who led Northern Ireland to Euro 2016 is available again after the Potters showed him the door in August. Under O’Neill Northern Ireland enjoyed their best years since the late, great Billy Bingham was in charge and fans would love to see him return to Windsor Park. They say never go back, but given the favourable draw thrown up for Euro 2024 qualifying, could O’Neill be tempted to return?

Neil Lennon

Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon would be a controversial choice, but not an unviable one. The Lurgan-born Lennon earned 40 caps for Northern Ireland before a death threat in 2002 led to his international retirement. That is a clear indication of the baggage the 51-year-old would bring with him, but his loyalty to Northern Ireland has remained and his two trophy-laden spells with Celtic speak to his calibre. Lennon is a free agent after leaving Cypriot club Omonia Nicosia only this month and should certainly be given due consideration by the IFA.

David Healy

Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer moved into management in 2015 when he took charge of Linfield – the club that shares Windsor Park with the national team. The 43-year-old has been a big hit with five Irish League titles, two Irish Cups and a Football League Cup helping claim the honour of Northern Ireland manager of the year four times. He would be a popular choice, but the question mark over him is whether a man yet to manage outside the Irish League has the required experience to take on the national team.

Stephen Robinson

Robinson, who earned seven Northern Ireland caps between 1997 and 2007, was interviewed by the IFA the last time around. Back then, he was riding high with Motherwell, having qualified for European football with a third-placed finish in the Covid-19 shortened season. After missing out on the job to Baraclough, Robinson resigned as Motherwell boss following a poor start to the following season, then moved to League One Morecambe before St Mirren came calling with an offer to return to the Scottish Premiership in February this year. His side sit fifth in the table, one point behind third-placed Hibernian, going into the weekend’s fixtures.

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