The new manager of Northern Ireland’s senior men’s international team has a busy schedule lined up for his first month in charge.
Ian Baraclough, who was appointed to the role at the end of June, has been spending hours on the phone already, chatting with members of his backroom team, Irish FA staff and players, and next week he is heading to Scotland from his base in England for some face to face meetings.
He is planning to meet up with senior team assistant manager Jimmy Nicholl and coach Austin MacPhee as well as U17s and U19s manager Stephen Frail, who are all based in Scotland. And there’s also a possibility he will meet with team captain Steven Davis.
The manager revealed he has already done plenty of homework on Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland’s opponents in the UEFA Euros Path B play-off semi-final which is due to be staged in Zenica in October.
In his short time in charge Baraclough has been dealing with staff issues, including confirming the arrival of new coach Damien Johnson and the retention of team doctor David White and the existing team of physios, as well as putting processes in place.
More phone calls to senior players and staff are in the mix, however he says his main focus for the remainder of this month will be the two UEFA Nations League matches in September – away to Romania and home to Norway.
“We need to get back to winning ways after not registering a competitive win for a while, albeit we did come up against two of the heavyweights of world football (Germany and Netherlands) last autumn,” he said.
“The Nations League is very important in terms of ranking points towards the World Cup 2022 qualifiers, and the first two matches are important for preparation for the Bosnia game.”
He further revealed he will not be trying out new players during the two matches in September.
“It’s not a time to be experimental. We can’t waste these games and we will be playing to win. They are dress rehearsals for the Bosnia game,” he insisted.
Just like Northern Ireland, Romania have elevated their U21s boss to the senior team manager role.
And Baraclough is looking forward to crossing swords with Mirel Radoi once again on 4 September in Romania.
Back in the autumn when the two men were in charge of their respective U21 teams Radoi’s charges won 3-0 in Romania and drew 0-0 at Ballymena Showgrounds.
“Radoi preferred a 4-3-3 system when he managed Romania U21s so it will be interesting to see if he deploys the same system with the seniors,” said the Northern Ireland manager.
Baraclough is also looking forward to facing the Norwegians in Belfast on 7 September.
“They have a good squad, including the likes of Sander Berge, who is now at Sheffield United, and of course Erling Haaland, the exciting young Borussia Dortmund striker,” he pointed out.
The new boss also revealed he and his staff will be undertaking “scouting missions” in the coming weeks to take a closer look at players who represent Romania and Norway as well as members of the Austria squad - Northern Ireland are due to face the Austrians in the Nations League in October - and players who are key operators for potential Euros Play-Off Path B Final opponents Slovakia and Republic of Ireland.
“I have plenty to get my teeth into, however I’m relishing it,” he added.