Belfast Telegraph

Club happiness can shine through on NI duty, insists Steven Davis

 

All smiles: Steven Davis takes in his surroundings at the Le Coq Arena before Northern Ireland’s final training session
All smiles: Steven Davis takes in his surroundings at the Le Coq Arena before Northern Ireland’s final training session

By Paul Ferguson

Northern Ireland may see a rejuvenated Steven Davis against Estonia tonight.

For the last 18 months, the international skipper has been dogged by club issues surrounding regular game time, but since the opening games of Euro 2020 qualifying in March - when he scored from the penalty spot against Estonia - he has been a regular for Rangers, playing in seven games, and his performances have been rewarded with a one-year deal at Ibrox.

Davis is feeling great and hopes his new-found happiness at club level will see him back to his best form in a Northern Ireland shirt.

The 34-year-old from Cullybackey, who is set to win his 110th cap this evening, openly admits he never wanted the season to end, due to finding the form that maybe had deserted him over the last year and a half because of inactivity.

"I'm feeling good," said Davis as he prepared to train with his Northern Ireland team-mates in their final training session at the A Le Coq Arena last night.

"I feel comfortable at Rangers and was playing games towards the end of the season. I was enjoying the role in the team and obviously the team were doing well so I didn't really want the season to end, because the first six or seven months of the season were frustrating for me.

"I'm delighted to sign there for another year and look forward to building on our performances."

Davis will occupy his usual position in the middle of the park for Northern Ireland alongside Middlesbrough's George Saville with Michael O'Neill then having to decide between Corry Evans and Paddy McNair as the third midfielder - due to Ollie Norwood's continued absence as he recovers from a hernia operation.

On the right flank, Davis could be playing alongside his new Rangers team-mate Jordan Jones - an exciting talent who has signed on a free transfer from Kilmarnock after agreeing a pre-contract in January.

"In the last couple of internationals, Jordan has put in two very strong performances," stated Davis. "It was a bit frustrating he wasn't getting game time towards the end of the season with Kilmarnock with his situation there having signed for us. He'll be looking to make an impact. He has looked bright in training this week, it will be a big step up for him (moving to Rangers) but he'll be ready for it."

Davis has always made it known he was immensely proud to lead his country to their first ever Euro finals in 2016. But he accepts that if Northern Ireland are able to qualify from a group that contains Germany and Holland, it might be a greater feat.

"Without doubt," he accepted. "We knew when the group was drawn how difficult it would be to progress, but we just have to take each game as it comes.

"We managed to do that with the two home games which was important. It's always good to get off to a good start and these games are equally as important.

"We're not underestimating how difficult it is going to be, it is going to be a good test these two games. We're away from home, we have to take into account the heat and our club seasons ending some time ago. But I think we are well prepared, and we can go into the two games in confident mood.

"We just want to give ourselves an opportunity going into the second half of the group and our sole focus is on getting the job done in these two games."

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