The future of Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough will be discussed at an Irish FA board meeting on Thursday.
It is the first gathering of the IFA Board since the end of a terrible Nations League campaign which saw Northern Ireland finish third in the League C table behind Greece and the Kosovo with only five points out of 18.
While the Green and White Army were appalled, a favorable draw for Euro 2024 qualifiers gave some hope, although many fans believe the team would have a better chance of reaching the final in Germany if Baraclough was replaced.
The Northern Ireland boss attended last weekend’s draw in Frankfurt as part of an Irish FA delegation that included chief executive Patrick Nelson and chairman Conrad Kirkwood, two key figures in the process decision-making.
As a pot five team, due to the Nations League results, Northern Ireland could have ended up in a nightmarish group but were lucky landing in Denmark, Finland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and San Marino.
The Danes will be the favorites to qualify as top dogs, but automatic second place for Germany is up for grabs.
In December 2021, Baraclough was granted a two-year contract extension, taking him to the end of the Euro 2024 qualifying period, and he firmly believes he should be given the opportunity to see that.
He feels it is a transitional process since taking over from Michael O’Neill in June 2020 and bloodying many young players and mixing them with senior stars with a view to a shot at the European Championships.
Supporters showed throughout the Nations League that they felt he should no longer be in charge with chants of ‘We want Bara out’ coming from sections of the crowd in three matches of the tournament which s is played in June and September.
Ultimately, the decision rests with the IFA Board of Directors.
Asked about Baraclough’s stance by Sunday Life Sport earlier this month, an IFA spokesman said: “Ian retains the support of the Irish FA.”
The comment was not well received by frustrated fans. It is understood that not all IFA board members fully agree with the statement, with some agreeing with supporters that change is needed.
It remains to be seen whether those board members voice those views at Thursday’s meeting and whether they are strong enough to persuade Baraclough supporters to reverse their thinking.
Remember it was Nelson, Kirkwood and IFA President Stephen Martin who were the main players in awarding the manager a new contract last year and if they drop the manager now it will be an acknowledgment that they were wrong.
President Kirkwood is an interesting figure in all of this.
Unlike many of his predecessors, he is not one to do media interviews, as is chief executive Nelson, but he enjoys meeting Northern Ireland fans, whether on trips to the away or on their home turf at supporters club meetings, so they will be well aware of their feelings on the subject of who should or should not lead the national team.
This week the governing body was asked for an update on its stance on Baraclough and the official line has not changed. It “always retains the support of the IFA”. Thursday will determine how much support.