Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016: Captain Steven Davis can become a legend, says Campbell

By Adam McKendry

Former Northern Ireland midfielder David Campbell has described current captain Steven Davis' talents as 'under-appreciated' ahead of this summer's European Championship finals.

The 51-year old has praised the midfielder for his performances for club Southampton and the role he played in helping the Saints qualify for next season's Europa League.

Davis (31), missed just four Premier League games for Ronald Koeman's side last season and has become a vital member of their first-team squad.

After Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said that Davis' contribution goes unnoticed so much that 'he gets about 15 seconds a season on Match of the Day,' Campbell agrees that the international skipper does not get the plaudits he deserves for the consistent performances he puts in for both club and country.

"He was probably one of the most under-appreciated players in the Premier League last season in terms of level of performance week in, week out," he said.

"If you're working with Ronald Koeman and he puts you in every week, you're at the top.

"I think he was appreciated at Rangers, but then he moved and now in the Premier League he's shown he can hold his own against anyone in there.

"He could become something very special over the next couple of weeks, without a doubt. He's had a brilliant season and I hope he has an amazing tournament because of what an outstanding player he is."

Campbell was a member of Billy Bingham's Northern Ireland squad for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and made his first international start against Brazil in Guadalajara.

He was then the man behind the production of a film 'Shooting for Socrates' which used Northern Ireland's qualification for the World Cup and the game against Brazil as its backdrop. The film will have its network TV premiere on RTE One tonight at 10.05pm.

June 12 will mark the 30th anniversary of that game, which Northern Ireland went on to lose 3-0, which is the same day that Northern Ireland open their Euro 2016 campaign in Nice against Poland.

Despite the long gap between the two tournaments, Campbell says he can see parallels between the two squads and also the two managers.

Campbell said: "I think we were so lucky in the '80s, we had such a magnificent bunch of lads with lots of strong characters - brilliant footballers but brilliant characters as well. I think that's what Michael O'Neill has got.

"I was speaking to Michael before Christmas just after they qualified and I said to him what you're building reminds me so much of what we had in the '80s where you have footballers who maybe aren't big superstars, but put them together collectively with a manager and a coaching staff and you get that extra bit which is fantastic. Billy Bingham did the same to us."

Despite not having the big name stars like some teams will have, Campbell is confident that O'Neill's men will be able to use their form and their ability as a team to cause an upset and reach the knock-out stages of the tournament.

"Think of the qualifying tournament and how well they did," he said.

"It's 11 games now without tasting defeat. The boys have the confidence so it doesn't matter if they're up against the likes of Germany.

"If you've got that togetherness and you've got that belief, I've seen it all my footballing life, it actually doesn't matter who you're playing against.

"Hopefully they'll experience a bit of what the boys experienced in '82 and '86. It could change their lives, it could make them overnight heroes for the country, and that's what's ahead of them over the three games.

"If they could do it, it would be amazing."

Belfast Telegraph