Belfast Telegraph

Steven Davis eager to use his Northern Ireland form as inspiration at Rangers

 

Head man: Steven Davis leaps to win a header during Northern Ireland’s victory against Belarus
Head man: Steven Davis leaps to win a header during Northern Ireland’s victory against Belarus
Steven Davis celebrates with Josh Magennis

By Steven Beacom

Steven Davis is too modest to say it, or even think it, but Northern Ireland fans know all too well that he ranks as one of the great home nations captains.

The Rangers midfielder surpassed the finest of them all - England's Bobby Moore - in terms of international caps, leading his team to a crucial 2-1 victory over Belarus at Windsor Park on Sunday night.

World Cup winner Moore made 108 appearances for England. Davis now has 109 and counting.

When informed post-match, a surprised Davis said: "Really? I didn't know that. That's really good."

Davis is loved by Northern Ireland fans much the way the late, great Moore was revered by England supporters.

He's a class act on and off the field and a sporting legend in these parts. Coming into the Euro 2020 qualifying double-header with Estonia and Belarus, however, even he had some questions to answer given his lack of game time this year.

After hardly playing for Southampton prior to Christmas, it was felt his move to Rangers would see him become a regular for Steven Gerrard and dominate the middle of the park in the Scottish Premiership.

It hasn't worked out that way yet, with the 34-year-old spending more time on the bench than the field of play.

With Rangers struggling for consistency, it was interesting that Gerrard turned to Davis in the game before the internationals, a 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock in which the ex-Fulham star played 90 minutes.

In the wins over Estonia and Belarus, Davis enjoyed another 180 as Northern Ireland moved to the head of Group C in the Euro 2020 qualifying process. He would love another full game against Celtic in a league outing at Parkhead on Sunday.

Always honest in his assessments, Davis admitted that he has found this season tough going having to sit on the sidelines at club level rather than be in the thick of the action.

"I've always said that I have, all through my career, been used to playing regular games, and it hasn't really happened over the past year," stated Davis.

"It's been a different proposition for me and it's been difficult. It's not really something I've experienced too much in my career, quite luckily.

"Everyone wants to be playing, so when you get the chance, you have to show that you deserve to. Any opportunity I get I have to try and stay in the team.

"Hopefully, with three 90 minutes in the past week, it will do me good and I'm looking forward to this weekend's game.

"It's a great game to go back into. We haven't got the results we would have liked of late and we just want to go there and stamp our authority on the game."

Whether or not Davis starts in the Old Firm clash, it's unthinkable that, if fit, he wouldn't play for Northern Ireland. He scored his 12th international goal versus Estonia in Thursday's 2-0 success and provided an assist for Jonny Evans against Belarus, constantly probing and starting attacks, not allowing frustration to set in when the score was 1-1.

How he enjoyed celebrating the late, late winner from Josh Magennis.

"It's been a good week for us. Our objective when we set out was to get two wins and to come away with six points makes it perfect," said Davis.

"The longer it goes, you don't think the (winning) goal is going to come, but I thought we kept trying to do the right things and it was a really well worked goal.

"It would have been easy to start playing long and off second balls. That can be effective for us as well, and I'm sure there will be times when we have to do that, but it was well worked.

"Josh came on and gave us energy, and it is important the subs make that impact when they come on as it's a real squad effort.

"Even the lads who didn't get the game time over the week, they've played an important part. We can go away happy with our week's work."

Davis says the plan for Northern Ireland is to stay top of the table until Germany come to Belfast on September 9, with games against Holland to follow. That means picking up another six points away from home versus Estonia and Belarus in June.

"Of course, it's been the aim from the very start. We've had to try and break this campaign down and this past week was about getting six points," said the midfield general.

"It's now going to be a different proposition playing them away from home and these are not easy games, we know that.

"It's going to be difficult as well with the schedules and people's seasons finishing at different times, so we'll just do everything in our power individually to make sure we are ready for the two matches in June. At the moment, though, we are where we want to be."

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