Belfast Telegraph

Davis: My lowest ebb as Northern Ireland team struggled

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland hero Steven Davis has revealed how the joy of qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals eased the pain of his 'difficult' early days as skipper under manager Michael O'Neill.

In a wide ranging interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Davis admitted that during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers when Northern Ireland struggled and lost to little Luxembourg and Azerbaijan, as skipper he took the defeats personally and was badly hurt by the experience.

Fast forward to the present day and Davis (pictured) is relishing the prospect of leading Northern Ireland in the Euro finals having delivered a series of superb performances to help take the team to France. "When Michael took charge and gave me the armband and we had that poor run of results in the World Cup qualifiers it wasn't easy," said Southampton midfielder Davis.

"When Northern Ireland are beaten all the players are disappointed but as captain the defeats we had then really hurt me.

"I took the results personally and that run was a low point for me with Northern Ireland.

"I felt more pressure and responsibility being captain and didn't want to let anyone down.

"Wins were hard to come by in Michael's early games and it was a difficult start for all of us. Then in the Euro campaign we had a brilliant start, gained momentum and ended up reaching the finals in the style.

"The experience of that more than made up for the World Cup campaign," stated Davis, who added that he hoped O'Neill would stay as manager beyond Euro 2016.

Belfast Telegraph