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Steven Davis is still the man to lead Northern Ireland to greatness, says Billy Hamilton

 

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Key man: Steven Davis will aim to lead Northern Ireland to another Euros

Key man: Steven Davis will aim to lead Northern Ireland to another Euros

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Key man: Steven Davis will aim to lead Northern Ireland to another Euros

Northern Ireland legend Billy Hamilton has tipped captain marvel Steven Davis to haul his country over the line and into the Euro 2020 finals next summer.

Just last week, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard saluted his midfield genius, saying: "Davo's being really, really consistent at the moment and arguably in the best form since we've been working together."

The Cullybackey man is 35 now and perhaps doesn't have the energy and pace of a younger player, but his intelligence, experience, reading of the game and accurate passing still make him a very valuable asset to Gerrard and Ian Baraclough.

It's ironic now that Davis made his full international debut in one of the low points of Northern Ireland's history when they lost 1-0 to Canada in 2005.

There was something special about the Aston Villa youngster, but who could have predicted him topping the all-time appearance list for his country, 122 caps and still counting?

The Euro 2016 journey all the way to France was a fitting reward for his loyalty and service, and his major tournament action may not be over yet.

Northern Ireland will qualify for another major tournament if they can conquer Slovakia at Windsor Park tonight and former Burnley ace Hamilton says the team and supporters will always have belief when Davis is leading the charge.

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"It's an unbelievable appearance record for an outfield player, and Steven's been a great servant and example. He hasn't let the country down at all," said Hamilton, the man who supplied the cross for THAT goal against Spain.

"I always hope the lads do well, and there's a great prize to play for. Steven's a top man and player. He's a leader, and if he can shine on the night, Slovakia could be in trouble.

"It must be difficult for the players to play at Windsor Park when it isn't full, it can't have the same feeling, but they can still do the job.

"I understand the health and safety concerns, but it must be a difficult atmosphere to play in.

"At least in Bosnia we didn't have to face a full stadium and it's certainly very strange times."

As for qualifying for back-to-back tournaments, well, that's easy. Sure Billy Bingham's men did that in the 1980s.

"We did back-to-back World Cups in 1982 and 1986 but not back-to-back European Championships, so it would be another special achievement," added Hamilton.

"It was great to see the development of the squad under Michael O'Neill and you just hope that can continue under Ian. Victory in the play-off final would give the country a lift in what has been a very difficult year for everyone."


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