Dean Shiels says it would be a fitting if Northern Ireland's record breaking captain Steven Davis had the chance to play in the World Cup finals next year.
The pair have been pals since primary school age and as they progressed through the various age groups at international level they were inseparable as the "two country lads" amongst the city slickers from Belfast.
Both would go on to play for boyhood team Rangers and for the Northern Ireland senior side, but while Shiels is now manager of Dungannon Swifts, fellow 36-year-old Davis is still playing and will earn cap number 125 for his country tonight in a World Cup qualifier against Italy in Parma.
Davis captained Northern Ireland in the Euro 2016 finals, but has been involved in four World Cup qualifying campaigns to date without success.
Fifth time lucky perhaps for Qatar 2022.
The closest the Rangers midfielder came to a World Cup was in 1998 when, as a gifted kid, he and Shiels made up a team from Northern Ireland to compete in a youth event in France where the biggest football tournament on the planet was being staged.
Steven Davis & Dean Shiels are 2 of the best people I've met in football. Here they are in Paris at a kids tournament (pic courtesy of Dean) to celebrate the 1998 World Cup. Here's hoping Davo leads NI to the 2022 version. No one would be happier than his good friend Dean... pic.twitter.com/hOMdfvA6b8— Steven Beacom (@StevenBeacom5) March 24, 2021
"It was held in Paris under the Eiffel Tower. I think it was six-a-side and we were playing against all the big nations. It was brilliant. We did pretty well," recalled Shiels.
"The way they selected it was that they said they would bring the best player from each county, so you had players from County Londonderry, County Antrim, County Down and so on, and Steven was there.
"The organisers put us up and we stayed in Disneyland, Paris in a hotel inside the complex. It was an unbelievable experience and the closest that we got to the World Cup.
"This is probably Davo's last go at qualifying for the World Cup and it would only be fitting if he could get to the finals.
"It would put a cherry on the top of what has been a great international career. I'm sure he is not looking that far ahead though. He will only be looking at the first games and seeing where we are at. It is a tough group, so we will be doing very well to qualify."
Reflecting on playing football with the former Southampton star when they were young, Shiels said: "I think I've been playing football with Davo since we were 10 or 11-years-old, and obviously we played together the whole way up after that.
"We were two country lads and every time we met up with the national team at Under-14s or Under-16s most of the group were Belfast lads.
"We sort of grew up together, so you get that bond.
"In our 1985 group we also had people like Albert Watson, Sammy Morrow and Jim Ervin, so we had good players. By Under-19 level and into the senior set up we had a good connection and I'm thankful we still have."
Did Dean know from the off that his pal had it in him to become a Northern Ireland legend?
"You can never envisage what's going to happen in the future because there's so many good young players who don't go on to be professional footballers," says former Hibernian and Kilmarnock hero Shiels.
"Out of our age group all born in 1985, going through the different youth teams not many of us had professional careers.
"You could tell in training and the quality that Davo had in games that he was exceptional from the rest. The quality was there from a very early age and obviously his attitude and his mentality is what took him to where he has finally got to."
Already Northern Ireland's most capped footballer, tonight he will join England legend Peter Shilton as the most capped British player of all time.
Little wonder then that Shiels rates Davis up there with iconic figures like George Best and Pat Jennings in terms of those who have contributed most to Northern Ireland football.
"Steven is the best Rangers midfielder in the past 15 years. He knits everything together at Rangers, anticipates the game very well and has been extremely influential in Steven Gerrard's side winning the title this season," says Shiels.
"From a Northern Ireland point of view he has to be in the top three players we have produced out of service and ability. He would never ever not turn up for a camp. He was so loyal to his country.
"There were players who would pick and choose, and because he was playing Premier League football for so long there could have been opportunities where he went 'I'd better save myself because we have Arsenal away at the weekend and I'll not go and play at Windsor or go away to Estonia or wherever', but it was always country first with him.
"I'm not old enough to remember a lot of the players who have gone by, but for me Steven is in our top three and I can't see anyone apart from George Best and Pat Jennings who would be up there with him. In modern day football he is definitely the best player we have had. I don't think that's up for debate."