Belfast Telegraph

Former NI team-mates hail Steven Davis as he overtakes David Beckham

So good: Steven Davis takes the ball past David Beckham during Northern Ireland’s Windsor clash in 2005
So good: Steven Davis takes the ball past David Beckham during Northern Ireland’s Windsor clash in 2005

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis will become the UK's most-capped midfielder on Saturday against Holland. The Windsor Park icon will win his 116th cap, surpassing the record of England great David Beckham.

We speak to five midfielders Davis loved playing with at international level to find out what makes the Rangers star so special.

Dean Shiels

Steven was born on January 1, 1985 and I was born exactly a month later. My dad Kenny used to have five-a-side teams at Under-nine and Under-10 level and myself and Steven played in those sides and even went to a youth tournament in France as kids at the 1998 World Cup representing Northern Ireland.

We grew up together playing football coming through the 17s, 19s, 21s and then playing for the senior international team. He's always been a genuine person and good friend.

As a young player he had brilliant ability and when he went to England with Aston Villa he kicked on.

He kept improving and his consistency from Villa's first team until now has been phenomenal. Davo has been delivering at a high level for 15 years which shows how great he is.

He has determination, fantastic close control, awareness to get out of tight spaces and his passing is top class. Davo has also been a huge influence and driving force off the pitch for Northern Ireland with the success we've had under Michael O'Neill.

He would be in my top three players in Northern Ireland history. There's George Best of course and in the modern day era David Healy did so much for Northern Ireland football with his goals, then Steven took the baton and has pushed us on even more.

Damien Johnson

From when Davo was a young kid at Aston Villa and I was at Birmingham, you heard talk about him in the city. I saw him at close quarters at Villa in reserve and youth team games and you could tell he had quality on the ball.

When he came into the Northern Ireland squad he was a class above what we had at the time. I thought, 'What a player we have here'. You knew with his temperament and how he handled the ball and himself that he had unlimited potential.

He has had a wonderful career. I'm just glad I got to play with him. He was a key figure in one of the best nights of my career when we beat England 1-0 at Windsor in 2005. Our goal that night with Davo passing to David Healy to score summed the pair of them up.

Davo has quality on the ball, vision, awareness and touch - all of the things you look for in a top midfielder. That pass for David's goal against England was perfect.

It showed Davo could deliver on the biggest stage and he has been doing it ever since. He could hold his own with anyone. He's also always been totally committed to Northern Ireland so Davo hitting this incredible milestone doesn't surprise me. The country should be very proud of him.

Chris Brunt

I started playing with Davo when I was about eight or nine and he has always been a great lad as well as a fantastic player. What he has achieved in his career is brilliant.

I remember when we both came into the senior squad as young lads in Azerbaijan in 2004 and he was already in the first team at Aston Villa which showed how much they rated him. That would have given him confidence and look at what he has done since.

Even then you could see Davo had the ability and the character to go on and do special things. As a player and skipper for Northern Ireland, he has been top class.

With captains now they don't normally shout and pull other players around, they lead by example and set the standard and Davo has always done that at international level.

He is someone who makes other players play better and consistently delivers himself. I can tell you the esteem in which he is held by players who have played with him is incredible.

There is no doubt Davo is one of our best players ever. The night we qualified for the Euro 2016 finals he scored twice against Greece and was outstanding. He's always been an inspirational figure for Northern Ireland.

Chris Baird

It was an absolute pleasure playing alongside Davo for many years. As a player, he's terrific and so easy to watch.

His ability is fantastic and his knowledge on and off the pitch is very special. You could always learn from Davo, which is a great quality to have.

He has a big personality around the other players and is greatly appreciated by his team-mates. As a person, his commitment and dedication to the national team is a credit to him.

He has always turned up for Northern Ireland even through the tough times which says a lot about his character and how much it meant to him.

We shared a room for about 10 years and became good friends and had great times together. We are still close pals to this day and always will be.

For Davo to make it as the UK's most-capped midfielder is an amazing achievement. It really couldn't happen to a better person. I hope he goes on and breaks the all-time record because he would deserve that too.

Sammy Clingan

The first word that springs to mind when I think of Steven Davis is legend. Without a shadow of doubt, he is the best player I've ever played with.

He has everything. One of the qualities I've always loved about him is his ability to take the ball anywhere on the pitch and be able to make the right decision. When I played alongside him he was streets ahead of everyone else and knew before the ball came to him what he was going to do with it.

My favourite game for Northern Ireland was the famous 3-2 victory over Spain at Windsor Park and it was a privilege to be with Davo in our midfield that night.

We were up against some of the best midfielders on the planet and one of the biggest compliments I could pay Davo is had he been in the Spanish team he would have fitted right in and would not have weakened their side. He's that good.

I always felt Davo would win 100 caps and now to reach this landmark, beating David Beckham's record, is fantastic. He's still Northern Ireland's most influential player and lifts players around him and still has so much to offer moving forward.

It's also worth saying Davo isn't just a great footballer, he's also a great person. That's another reason why he is so well liked and respected.

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