We are ready for Poland hotbed, says Davis
Hostile atmospheres, backs to the wall results - it’s nothing new to Steve Davis.
In many ways going to Chorzow will be a walk in the park for the 23-year-old.
The Poles love to play there because they believe it is a football hot-bed where the fans make it a place where visiting teams not only don’t relish going to, but fear.
Indeed it is five years since they last lost a competitive game at the Slaski Stadium — to England in the qualifying campaign for the last World Cup.
Davis has experienced travelling across Birmingham for a second-city derby during his days at Aston Villa and running out at St Andrews in claret and blue is no picnic. It pails in comparison though to what he has experienced since signing for Rangers, with there being no occasion like an Old Firm derby.
And alongside that he was a key man as Walter Smith’s side pulled off some against-the-odds results away from home to make it to the 2008 UEFA Cup final.
Now he is ready for whatever Poland have to throw at Northern Ireland on Saturday night, with the home side knowing that it is win or bust in terms of their World Cup qualifying hopes.
“The important thing for us to try to do is to get off to a good start and quieten the crowd down,” said Davis.
“We’re expecting a hostile atmosphere after the previous game, but I am sure it’ll be a good atmosphere to play in.
“Hopefully we can quieten them and then build from there.
“It’s good to have the experience of playing in Old Firm games and hopefully that will stand me in good stead in Poland.
“We’ll be first to admit ourselves that our away form hasn’t been good enough. We’ve relied too much on our home form and if we’re going to have realistic aspirations of qualifying for major tournaments we have to pick up points away from homes and that starts now, going to Poland.
“There is bound to be a reaction from Poland after we beat them at Windsor Park. They are the home team, they are a good side who are hoping to progress from the group, which is no different from us.
“They’ll be looking for revenge, but we have to concentrate on ourselves. We’ve got to try to do the same things we did against them at Windsor Park, put them under pressure, hopefully our quality will shine through after that and we’ll be good enough to come away with a result.
“It’s going to be a tough task for us, they are a good side.”
History is in the making if Northern Ireland collect three points on Saturday. Five competitive wins in succession is unchartered territory in the 128 years history of the IFA. Doing it now would be hugely beneficial in the fight to make it to next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa.
“Four wins in a row breeds confidence,” said Davis.
“We’ve learnt from the previous campaign and the ambition is to see it through and qualify this time. We’ve managed to put together a good run of results and we’ll go with a belief that we can get something from the game.”
It’s been five months now since the last competitive games and Davis admits that he has found himself at times dreaming of making that trip to the African continent next June.
It’s understandable because every one of the fans who will travel to Chorzow on trains, planes and automobiles — and possibly other means as well — has the same dream.
“We probably shouldn’t think too much about what it would be like to qualify, but at the same time it is probably hard not to.
“It would be an unbelievable achievement and the pinnacle of all our careers to do that.
“We do still have a major task, even with three games to go, especially with two of them away from home, but if we can get a result in Poland then we’ll come back to Windsor Park next Wednesday night still in the frame.”