Ian Baraclough confident Derry City's Nathan Gartside will relish Northern Ireland call-up

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says he had no hesitation drafting Nathan Gartside into the Northern Ireland senior squad for the first time.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 6:47 pm
Derry City goalkeeper Nathan Gartside and goalkeeping coach Declan McIntyre. Picture courtesy George Sweeney

Baraclough selected the Derry City No. 1 for this month’s World Cup 2022 qualifier’s against Italy and Bulgaria and despite the 23-year-old making only six first team appearances in two years for the Candy Stripes, Baraclough, who handed Gartside his NI U21 debut in 2019, feels the young keeper will not be overawed.

Gartside will act as back-up to Burnley’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Celtic’s Conor Hazard, but Baraclough says the Derry shot-stopper is ready for the step up.

“Nathan, yes, the call up is unexpected for him but I wouldn’t have brought him into the squad if I didn’t think he could deal with it,” stated Baraclough.

“He’ll be number one goalkeeper at Derry City this season. He has got the attributes and the game to kick-on from Derry at some stage and he’ll be relishing this call-up and hopefully he comes in, knowing that he’s good enough to be there.

“With the goalkeepers he has been with and worked with previously, in Conor Hazard and Bailey, I think it’s a young exciting group of goalkeepers to have with us at this moment in time.

“Yes, we have three goalkeepers who are young in age and young in experience, but I have seen them all play and they have all stepped up when they have needed to.

“I have worked with all three of them and I think it bodes well for the future for Northern Ireland goalkeepers going forward for the next few years.”

With both Michael McGovern and Trevor Carson injured, the ex-Sligo Rovers boss admitted he was happy to go down the route of giving a young keeper some valuable experience training with the senior squad.

“As soon as I knew Michael (McGovern) and Trevor (Carson) were going to be struggling, it was a case of whether I went for youth to give someone a bit experience and Nathan is someone that knows that he’s coming in for experience,” he said.

“But he’s certainly up for it mentally because I brought him in at the late stage of my U21 tenure and he had to go straight into the team and play against Romania. I know this is very different but he’ll relish the call-up and relish being part of the group.

“It will add to his experience and I think that when we get the chance to do that, then it’s something I want to do to give these kids the chance. He’ll be back up to Conor (Hazard) whom he knows and has worked with previously and I think that’s important and also Bailey (Peacock-Farrell).”

As for Gartside, who celebrated his 23rd birthday recently, he’ll only turn all his attention to the Northern Ireland squad after Saturday’s league opener at Longford Town where his sole focus is on getting a positive result for City.

“Obviously the most important thing for me is getting the game on Saturday, that’s my priority right now,” confirmed the Derry keeper.

“Yes it has been nice to be called up, but we have got a job to do against Longford. I obviously want to play as much as I can this season, so if we can get the three points on Saturday and then I’ll worry about the Northern Ireland internationals after the game.”

The former Institute net-minder said he was aware he has to be ready if he’s called upon by Baraclough.

“Yes, it’s an honour to be called up for your country and obviously any player would be buzzing to get a call-up, especially for me as it came as a bit of a shock, just like when I was called up for the U21 squad. That too was out of the blue but I had to make my debut straight away which I was happy about. It’s an even bigger honour this time to get a senior call up," he added.

“Anyone going into the squad should be having the mentality that if you are needed, then you have to give 100 per cent for your country. Yes, I’m going in for the experience but at the same time I’m looking to improve myself.

“At the minute Saturday’s game is the most important thing for me. I had a good pre-season which has been tough with the goalkeeping coach, Declan McIntyre, but that’s part and parcel of giving 100 per cent in every training session.”