Belfast Telegraph

Old Firm misery can propel Northern Ireland to Euro 2012, says Davis

By Stuart McKinley

Steve Davis has the perfect remedy to the the Old Firm’s European hangover.

Davis believes that the Rangers and Celtic players in Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland squad who experienced a massive low when both clubs were knocked out of the Europa League last week can use that experience to drive them to the finals of Euro 2012.

Rangers trio Davis, Kyle Lafferty and David Healy, as well as Celtic’s Paddy McCourt — who scored two stunning goals in the 4-0 win against the Faroe Islands three weeks ago — are all expected to play a part in Friday’s crucial qualifier against Serbia at Windsor Park.

A home win would be a major boost to qualification hopes and it would also help lift the spirits of Worthington’s Glasgow-based quartet.

“I think the boys from Rangers, as well as Paddy, can use the disappointment of going out of Europe to spur us on as we try to qualify for the European Championships,” said Davis.

“If we can make it to the finals it would go some way to making up for the Old Firm getting knocked out of Europe so early.

“We have tough games coming up, but the opportunity is there for us to qualify and we have to make the most of it by going out and winning them.”

Northern Ireland go into the game a point ahead of the visitors as the games get bigger and bigger in the closing stages of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Slovenia are the third team in the mix for second place in the group, which would mean a winner-takes-all two legged play-off for a spot in next summer’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Nothing will be decided on Friday night, when Slovenia also host Estonia while group leaders — and favourites — Italy will be expected to win in the Faroe Islands.

A defeat for Northern Ireland would, however, be hard to overcome, which is why Davis sees the clash with the Serbs as pivotal to qualification chances.

“This is the big one for us,” said the 26-year-old.

“We needed to beat the Faroes and we did that. It was good that we played well and scored a few goals.

“That win has set us up for a shot at taking second place in the group. If we can beat Serbia we’ll be in a really good position going into the two games against Estonia.”

Rangers players don’t usually like to see anyone from Celtic performing well, but Davis shared the Green and White Army’s delight over McCourt’s hugely impressive display against the Faroes and he is hoping there is more to come.

“The Celtic fans know what Paddy’s capable of — they know the quality that he’s got and now everyone has seen what he can do on the international stage,” said Davis.

“Serbia will try to work out a way to stop him — hopefully Paddy will find a way past them.”

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph