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France fairytale of Euro 2016 has left Northern Ireland wanting even more: Steven Davis


One more sleep: Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis during yesterday’s training session at Windsor Park

One more sleep: Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis during yesterday’s training session at Windsor Park

William Cherry/Presseye

One more sleep: Northern Ireland’s Steven Davis during yesterday’s training session at Windsor Park

Steven Davis was too modest to mention it. He scored twice against Greece in a 3-1 win five years ago to send Northern Ireland to the Euro 2016 finals but when that match was brought up in a media briefing on Wednesday the Rangers great didn’t get into specifics.

The midfielder prefers to let his football do the talking with his performances at club level this season recently moving Rangers manager Steven Gerrard to pinpoint the high standards of the 35-year-old.

Davis has the quality to be a hero again on Thursday evening at home to Slovakia in the Euro 2020 play-off final, though you know the Northern Ireland captain would happily settle for one of his team-mates hitting the headlines.

Quizzed on how the experience of qualifying for the last European Championships can spur the team on, Davis said: “I think for all of us who have been involved in big games, we have those experiences and we can certainly draw on that for this game. We know how special it was for the ones involved to qualify and the ones who weren’t involved want to experience that.

“We’ve spoken many times about how much we enjoyed being in France. It’s left us wanting more and we will go out determined to do it again.”

So how would qualification this time, if achieved, compare to last time around?

“The Greece game was a memorable night for all of us involved, a special night,” said Davis. “I think it’s very hard to compare successes you have. If we do it on Thursday night, ultimately the most important success is the one you have at the time.

“Maybe that’s something when you finish your career you can look back on. Listen, we all want to play on that stage again.”

Over the years Davis has played alongside Corry Evans in midfield in big internationals with the latter a key component in the Northern Ireland machine.

The Blackburn Rovers ace has had a difficult time with injuries and everyone in the squad was disappointed when he was forced to pull out due to an injury sustained playing for his club side at the weekend. With the likes of Middlesbrough pair Paddy McNair and George Saville and Stoke’s Jordan Thompson plus Manchester United youngster Ethan Galbraith in the squad, there is enough ability in the middle of the park, but the former Southampton star acknowledges the absence of Evans is a blow.

“There’s quality and good experience in that area but clearly Corry is going to be a miss; you know what you get with Corry, he’s been excellent for his country and probably doesn’t always get the plaudits he deserves to be honest,” says Davis.

“We want to get the job done and then the likes of him and Trevor Carson, who is also injured, we’ll give them something to look forward to. They’re disappointed to miss the match but the rest of the squad’s in a good place.”

Belfast Telegraph