Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough no concerns over Stuart Dallas’ form

Ian Baraclough has no concerns over the form of Stuart Dallas as he welcomes the Leeds man back into his Northern Ireland squad.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 5:54 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 11:58 pm

Dallas was missed last month as he sat out World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Switzerland for personal reasons, but he is back in the group for the return fixture in Geneva on Saturday and next week’s trip to Bulgaria.

Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa recently said the versatile 30-year-old was short of his best, and he was guilty of missing chances to make Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Watford more comfortable.

However, Baraclough said Dallas had never let his country down.

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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough. Pic by PressEye Ltd.

“All players go through peaks and troughs in their careers and Stuart has had to deal with many ups and downs, whether it is as a Northern Irish player in the Irish League or when he first came over to England, going out on loan to Northampton,” he said. “The journey he’s been on, it’s been well documented. We’ve spoken about it so many times. He has the strength of character to get through tough periods.

“It will be great once he joins up with the group again and gets amongst his mates. Whenever he has been called upon for Northern Ireland, he’s not been found wanting, so I have no doubts about him.”

Dallas is one of several senior players back in the squad after missing out last month, with Jonny Evans, Corry Evans and Josh Magennis also returning, while Paddy McNair is back from suspension.

Those reinforcements will be warmly welcomed back but the news has not all been positive for Baraclough with five players forced to withdraw from the initial 26-man squad through illness or injury on Monday.

Dundee United goalkeeper Trevor Carson, Hearts defender Michael Smith, Preston midfielder Ali McCann, Oxford winger Gavin Whyte and Blackpool striker Shayne Lavery will all miss the matches in Geneva and Sofia.

Liverpool goalkeeper Liam Hughes, Leyton Orient striker Paul Smyth, Sunderland midfielder Carl Winchester and Morecambe defender Ryan McLaughlin have been called up as replacements.

Lavery and McCann had been among the youngsters to have shone under Baraclough in recent months as results have improved.

Conor Bradley is another, with the 18-year-old making his Liverpool debut last month after making two appearances for Northern Ireland.

“I think we are playing a part, we’re giving him a pathway, we’re giving him chances, certainly with the senior group in the summer,” Baraclough said of the 18-year-old’s development. “We’re bringing him on and he was a different player in September. He seemed like he had grown a couple of inches, he seemed stronger, more confident, he was great around the group.

“We all saw how confident he was in the game and how he dealt with situations which, with other people, they might have played on their minds. It’s all part of his education and we’re playing our little part.”

Jurgen Klopp called Bradley’s Liverpool debut last month “super” despite him conceding a penalty in a 3-0 EFL Cup win over Norwich – an incident Baraclough said was just part of his development.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” he said. “I gave away penalties when I was in my 30s. Whether you’re experienced or inexperienced it’s about how you deal with it, how you move on from that.

“You could see the disappointment on his face, the disbelief… He moved on and quickly got rid of that. I thought he was great during the game, it was brilliant to watch him. To see him growing visibly during the game was superb.”

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