Leeds United utility man Stuart Dallas handed Northern Ireland honour amid high praise
Ian Baraclough called Stuart Dallas “the natural choice” to captain Northern Ireland in Sunday’s friendly against Malta in Austria.
A decade and three days after making his international debut against Wales in Dublin, the Leeds midfielder will lead out the side for the second time in his career in the absence of regular skipper Steven Davis and vice-captain Jonny Evans.
“I’ve made him captain for a previous game and he’s proven to be a leader in the group, he leads by example,” said Baraclough, who also gave Dallas the armband against Austria last November.
“For me it was a natural choice and he’s the right person.”
Baraclough had not insisted on his senior players making this trip but Dallas said he had no hesitation despite an intense campaign with Leeds on their return to the Premier League.
“It probably would have been easy (not to come), but that’s not what I’m about,” he said. “Where we are as a group, I think it’s important as senior players you set an example to the younger players coming in.
“We want to have the right culture and that means turning up to these games. We’re in a privileged position, it’s a privilege and an honour to be here, and I enjoy coming and meeting up with the boys.”
After scooping up three of Leeds’ end-of-season awards – player of the year, players’ player of the year and goal of the season for his last-minute match-winner at Manchester City – it is perhaps understandable if Dallas does not want the campaign to end.
“It was a good season for me, and for the club it was a brilliant first season back in the Premier League,” Dallas added.
“Obviously the individual awards that came along with that were nice, although I’m not sure about goal of the season, it was more a moment, but I’ve had a great season.
“I’ve been fit, that’s the main thing, and that’s why I want to come here to try to continue that.”