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Northern Ireland coach Ian Baraclough to sign new contract


Ian Baraclough has confirmed he will sign a new contract as manager of Northern Ireland “in the coming days” after confirming his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Italy in Windsor Park.

The 50-year-old, who is nearing the end of an 18-month contract he signed last summer to replace Michael O’Neill, has already received support from the Irish FA board despite the successive defeats against Switzerland and Bulgaria which placed their Group C campaign in peril.

Baraclough, whose new deal is expected to carry him through to the end of Northern Ireland’s interest in Euro 2024, said: “I expect everything to be done in the coming days. There is no rush – I know this has been talked about for a long time, but everyone has to make sure everything is legally correct.

“I am delighted that I am offered to continue what we are doing, to try to develop what we have already started.

“I think we are at the start of the next cycle and I hope that will lead us to success in a few more qualifying competitions.”

Baraclough made the first calls to 17-year-old Nottingham Forest striker Dale Taylor and Reading goalkeeper Luke Southwood, while his 25-person squad also see the return of Evans brothers Jonny and Corry after injuries.

Baraclough backed inexperienced Taylor, who has appeared at the youth level before, to take his chance, saying, “Dale is here for the experience. He’s certainly the one I watched at the start of the season but he got injured.

“He’s back now and it’s a good time to watch him and see how he fits. If he tries his luck, who knows? He has the capacity, it all depends on his attitude and the way he evolves in his club which gives him this chance.

Jonny Evans continues to struggle with a long-standing foot injury and will be treated with caution despite the obvious talismanic qualities of the seasoned Leicester defender.

Jonny Evans is back in the Northern Ireland squad (Liam McBurney / PA)

“Northern Ireland without Jonny Evans are a smaller team, and we haven’t had him since March,” said Baraclough.

“We all know Jonny Evans’ abilities and what he brings. It’s important that he’s in and around him as soon as possible, but let’s move on to this weekend’s games because we’ve been in this situation before. “

Preston’s Ali McCann, who missed defeats in Switzerland and Bulgaria, is back, as is Manchester United’s Ethan Galbraith who is reaping the benefits of his current loan with Ligue 1 wrestlers Doncaster.

Charlton Athletic vs. Doncaster Rovers - Sky Bet League One - La Vallée
Ethan Galbraith took advantage of his loan to Doncaster (Steven Paston / PA)

Blackpool forward Shayne Lavery is still out with injury while Hearts forward Liam Boyce remains unavailable for personal reasons.

Baraclough insisted he remained confident in his squad despite their recent losses, but recognized the importance of not neglecting the Lithuanians, the only side below them in the squad, who got their first points with a shock victory over Bulgaria last month.

“Lithuania is a huge game for us,” added Baraclough. “We want to try to appease our disappointment in Bulgaria. You watch this game and we had a great 50 first minute and we let it go for 20 minutes and it showed us that we can be punished at that level.

“So we have to make sure we start off well against the Lithuanians and then this game will culminate in the Italian game which will hopefully fend for itself.”



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