Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland hero Steven Davis deserves mention alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, says Michael O'Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill and captain Steven Davis.

When Steven Davis finally calls it a day, he will go down in Northern Irish footballing folklore.

The skipper will lead his side out at Windsor Park once again on Monday, picking up his 113th cap; a very significant number.

It's the one he needs to officially overtake Aaron Hughes and become the nation's most capped outfield player of all time.

Barring catastrophe, he'll soon reel in goalkeeper Pat Jennings on 119 as well.

Boss Michael O'Neill knows all about the special talent at his disposal and he says the Rangers star's contribution to international football should land him a place alongside the true greats.

"I think it's a great achievement. He pestered me all week to get five minutes against Luxembourg (for his 112th cap) and I eventually wilted under the pressure," the manager laughed. "Any player that amasses over 100 caps at international level is a fantastic role model for all international footballers.

"I was watching Cristiano Ronaldo last night and what playing for his country means to him at 34 years of age. That's why international football  and Steven Davis has to be mentioned in that breath.

"I believe he's going to go on and break Pat Jennings' record. He's still as effective at this level as he was when I took the job seven years ago. It's a magnificent career he's had and when he does hang up his boots which will hopefully be after I have left this job, he will be remembered, and rightly so, as one of the greatest players we've ever had."

Ever the professional, Davis is more concerned with turning over the Germans than his appearance number.

"I haven't given it an awful lot of thought because the focus is on the game and if we can get out of the group that would be a remarkable achievemant and more important to me than the caps," he said. "I'm very proud to get every cap and hopefully I've got a few more left in me."

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