Baraclough: links to Notts County were just "speculation." INPHO/James Crombie
LOI Kick-off

Baraclough: I was never leaving Sligo -- and now I've built my best squad yet

Sligo Rovers kick off the new season when they welcome Premier Division new boys Athlone to the Showgrounds tonight.

IAN BARACLOUGH SAYS he never came close to leaving Sligo Rovers — and after committing to the Bit O’Red for another season, he feels he’s built his strongest squad yet.

Sligo begin their quest to regain the SSE Airtricity League title tonight when they welcome Premier Division new boys Athlone Town to the Showgrounds.

Baraclough’s maiden campaign brought a first league title in 35 years but Sligo’s defence petered out last season as they finished third behind St Pat’s and Dundalk.

The run-in was overshadowed by fears for the manager’s future and with time ticking down on his contract, rumours linking him with a return to former club Notts County got louder and louder.

But the Magpies eventually plumped for Shaun Derry and after steering Sligo to another FAI Cup win, Baraclough signed on the dotted line for another season out west.

“It was what it was, all speculation, and it’s difficult to put a lid on that or to say against it,” he told

The media have got a job to do. All the time managers are being let go from their jobs and any tenuous link there might be, being an ex-player or knowing a chairman, you’re always going to get linked. That’s the territory.

With silverware in each of his first two seasons, Baraclough will be hoping to make it a hat-trick in 2014. More importantly though, he’s enjoying life in the League of Ireland.

Ian Baraclough speaking to RTE's Tony O'Donoghue ©INPHO / Donall Farmer ©INPHO / Donall Farmer / Donall Farmer

“We’re all doing our job, we’re all doing our very best. Some have different ways of doing things.

“My way is probably with a calm demeanour, a smile on my face, and look as though I’m enjoying it which I am. I’ve enjoyed every minute since I’ve been here.

“To be in this job is a real privilege, first and foremost to be manager of Sligo Rovers but also to be a part of a fantastic league.”

As with every club the off-season has seen faces depart the Showgrounds, most notably Anthony Elding who left for Cork and club captain Danny Ventre who has joined the Roddy revolution at Derry City.

But Kalen Spillane, Danny Ledwith and Paul O’Conor have all come the other way as has English striker Eric Odhiambo who proved to be an instant hit with a hat-trick against Crusaders on his competitive debut.

“We’re working with a smaller squad but I think the quality that we’ve brought in is probably better than the last two years that I’ve been here,” Baraclough said.

“I think so, and that’s no disrespect to the squads that I’ve had, but I think we’ve got some real quality there.

“We’ve had to do that because other teams have gone and got really good quality. I think the standard in the league as a whole will be a lot higher.”

Ian Baraclough with Joseph Ndo

That much was evident in Inchicore last week when a former Irish international proved to be the difference between Sligo and Pat’s in the inaugural President’s Cup.

Martin O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane were in Richmond Park to see Keith Fahey’s moment of magic and with the Ireland manager promising to scout the league’s best talent, Sligo have plenty of players worth keeping tabs on.

“There are one or two young lads who have made an impact coming through and who I felt could have got an U21 shout.

“You look at Sean Maguire who’s got a great career ahead of him. Yes, he’s not with us full time but he’s with us on loan and hopefully we can help him propel himself into the Irish national squad. I think he’s got a really good future.

“Someone like David Cawley has been to England, played in England, come back and hopefully we’ve got him back on track to make some sort of an impact and get back to England.

“There’s no reason why players like him and Seamus Conneely and the likes of that can’t go on and make an impact in England again.”

Ian Baraclough celebrates with the trophy ©INPHO / Donall Farmer ©INPHO / Donall Farmer / Donall Farmer

But for now the immediate focus is on Athlone and a chance for Baraclough to pit his wits against a familiar foe in Mick Cooke, who is now in charge of last year’s First Division champions.

“I went to see them in a pre-season friendly. What you can take from that, I don’t know, but it does mean that I’m taking the game very, very seriously.

“They’re a new team that’s just got promoted, an unknown quantity if you like, and they’ll be eager to show that they’re not here to be whipping boys.

“Mick, knowing Mick, will have something in store for us. I feel as though I’m coming up against him every other week!”

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