Belfast Telegraph

Captain marvel Steven Davis is best man Northern Ireland could hope to lead Euro charge

By Steven Beacom

Steven Davis was the shining light for Northern Ireland. Words in my match report from an international at Windsor Park.

No, they weren't taken from last year when the captain inspired the team to that famous victory over Greece which sealed Euro 2016 qualification.

Try a decade previously. On his debut for his country!

February 9, 2005. Northern Ireland lost 1-0 at home to Canada who had played most of the game with 10 men.

Northern Ireland were awful in the friendly. As the fans left Windsor that evening the only positive was Davis, who had just turned 20.

In midfield he looked assured with an eye for a pass and worked extremely hard when his team didn't have the ball.

In the 11 years that have followed Davis has become one of Northern Ireland's greatest footballers.

A few months ago I asked manager Michael O'Neill just how good he thought the Southampton midfielder was in terms of our international heroes past and present.

He paused for a second, evaluating the question, and then said 'Up there', raising his hand high above his head as he answered.

O'Neill loves Davis as a player. We all do.

He has so many attributes, from his vision to his finishing when chances arise and under O'Neill he has grown as a captain both in words and deeds.

I can't think of anyone better to lead Northern Ireland on to the pitch in the Euro 2016 finals, when they start their campaign against Poland on Sunday.

And I know from talking to his team-mates they feel the same way.

There's affection and respect in equal measure in the dressing room for the 31-year-old from Cullybackey.

One of the things people admire about him is that he is content to play the game in such an understated fashion.

He is the best player in the team but there is no ego about him on or off the pitch.

Davis is an outstanding person as well as an outstanding footballer.

He has great family support from his wife Tracey, a charming lady from Kilrea, and adores his two daughters Chloe and Kaia. He is delighted that they along with his dad David and brother Richard will be attending the games in France.

In his special Euro 2016 column for the Belfast Telegraph today he talks about his late mum Laura in the most glowing terms. What a woman Laura must have been, because her boy is something special.

Steven didn't want paid for his columns, preferring instead that this newspaper make a donation to the charity Myeloma UK, which is connected with the illness his mum had.

He's a class act in every way.

Belfast Telegraph