Ian Baraclough backs Ali McCann to shine in Championship after late Preston move

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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has backed Ali McCann to shine in the Championship following his deadline-day move to Preston.

McCann took time out from preparations for Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier away to Lithuania to complete his move from St Johnstone.

Baraclough, who managed McCann in the under-21s before handing him his senior international debut last year, has long tipped the 21-year-old to make the step up to a higher level and has no doubts he will make it a success.

“At every level he’s played at he has done it with an assurance and a confidence in his own ability,” Baraclough said. “He’s never looked out of place.

“I expect him to go into the Championship and do exactly that. He’s a great young prospect and I expect him to learn. He will learn at Preston and enhance his reputation.”

Baraclough said the transfer had a minimal impact on Northern Ireland as they work towards Thursday’s qualifier, which already looks like a must-win contest with only one point taken from their opening two Group C fixtures.

Northern Ireland’s own medical staff conducted the tests required for the deal, with McCann completing all the formalities from the team hotel.

“When we first joined up we had a conversation about how we would do it if a move was going to happen,” Baraclough added.

“We made the medical people aware because obviously they would have to liaise with whatever club it might have been and I told him no one would be leaving the bubble.

“No one was going anywhere to sign for a club, it was all done from our hotel and that’s what happened and clearly Preston have been confident enough to rely on what our medical staff are seeing and I’m glad he was able to seal that move.”

McCann is in contention to start in Vilnius, particularly with Corry Evans among the players missing from the squad through injury, and Baraclough said he would approach the game with a spring in his step.

“You wouldn’t have thought – coming into this camp – that there was anything happening with Ali. He’s a very level-headed lad and I’ve known for a month or so something could happen,” he said.

“It took until right up to the deadline and finally something went through right on the deadline, but I’d known all day it could happen.

“Ali trained as normal that day and he’s been very level-headed and dealt with it great. He came down to breakfast this morning with a smile on his face.”

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