Belfast Telegraph

Tragic Darren Rodgers will be in our thoughts: Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis

By Steven Davis

The morning after our opening Euro 2016 game with Poland was when we heard the terrible news about young Northern Ireland fan Darren Rodgers.

Darren's death in Nice puts everything in perspective. All of the Northern Ireland players have family and friends out here in France and they mean the world to us, just as young Darren meant the world to his family.

It's tragic what happened to Darren and our deepest sympathy and thoughts go out to all of his friends and family.

I hope the family can take some comfort in how much we are thinking about them at this sad time and how everyone in football from Northern Ireland fans to Republic of Ireland fans and others have united following Darren's passing.

It was obviously a dream for Darren to come out here to France, just like us as players, and it was so sad to end the way it did. It is a tragedy that has resonated closely with everybody connected with the Northern Ireland team.

Against Ukraine on Thursday in our second group game it would be nice to go and get a positive result in Darren's memory. We always give 100 per cent effort, but hopefully what has happened can spur us on even more.

Darren was one of our fans at the Poland game and every single one of them can feel proud at the amazing support they gave us.

Unfortunately we couldn't get the result we wanted and lost 1-0.

There was a lot of frustration from the players after the game but then you sit back and analyse it and see where we can obviously do better.

When we came out to talk to the media after the match we spoke from the heart because doing well in Euro 2016 really does mean everthing to us.

The build up to the tournament went on for a long time leading into the Poland game, so we were obviously disappointed not to play at the level we know we can.

I don't know if we made them look better than they are but they started really strongly and made good use of the ball and we had to do a lot of running and covering without the ball.

It was difficult to get pressure on it. I think that is something we need to do a bit better going forward and also our own use of the ball, especially in tighter situations, has to improve.

We obviously set up in a certain way to try and stifle them but we didn't make the best use of the ball when we had it in good areas.

Towards the end of the game we maybe could have done a little bit better with a couple of half chances and set-pieces, something we pride ourselves on and did so well with during the qualifying campaign, so we know we can improve on that.

There were some positives to take out of the match given that it was our first experience of major tournament football.

We stayed in the game until the very end and defended strongly, but overall the feeling was one of disappointment because we weren't at our best.

If we are going to go out of this tournament we have to go out fighting.

I think we will look to the Ukraine game and have a real go. It's not going to be a gung-ho performance because we have to play a certain way and can't be too open against teams but I believe we really can go and get a very positive result against Ukraine.

Once things settled down after the Poland game the players were sitting together having some food and we talked about the whole occasion which really was an incredible experience.

Obviously it would have been at another level if we had won.

Going out for the warm-up is something that will live long in the memory for all of us. Even at that time there were thousands of our fans in the stadium and the reception we got from our supporters was amazing.

You could feel the buzz around the ground and from our fans in particular and I think all the players were just desperate to get out and play on that stage.

Throughout the game you could hear our fans singing. They were giving it everything for us. It's just a pity we couldn't get the result we wanted for them.

Being captain on what was such a historic night was a huge honour for me and my family who were watching in the stands.

To lead the team out in our opening game in the tournament and in our first ever game in the European Championship finals was so special.

I'm looking forward to doing it again against Ukraine in Lyon tomorrow night and hopefully with a positive result to go with it this time.

We still have a hell of a lot to play for and it is still in our own hands. Our plan is to go out and give a performance which has been more like us in recent times.

There are going to be thousands more of our fans in Lyon than there were in Nice. I don't know how it is going to be better than the Poland game in terms of atmosphere but I'm sure our fans will make it another memorable occasion.

I know that the noise will be incredible. There could be more Northern Ireland fans inside the ground on Thursday than there is at Windsor Park on game nights so to see that will be fantastic.

Our supporters seem to be enjoying Euro 2016. Like the players, they were disappointed not to take anything after the game but even at the end of the match their support was sensational.

Playing Ukraine will be very tough. They don't concede too many goals and have top players out wide and we have to be wary of that but for us we want to stamp our authority on the game much more than we did against Poland.

I have faith that we can, especially with the backing of our wonderful support.

We have a family day the day after the game so that will be nice. It will be even better if we have won against Ukraine. That is what we are aiming for.

Belfast Telegraph