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Michael O'Neill: Steven Davis could be Rangers' key to winning Premiership title

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

By Gareth Hanna

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill reckons Steven Davis could provide the key to unlock the Scottish Premiership title for Rangers.

The 34-year-old centre-midfielder moved to Ibrox on loan from Southampton earlier this month and could make the first appearance of his second spell at the club in the Scottish Cup at Cowdenbeath on Friday evening.

He arrives as the Gers find themselves level on points with league-leaders Celtic, albeit having played a game more than their Glasgow rivals.

While Celtic are gunning for their eighth league title on the trot, O'Neill reckons Rangers' signing of his international skipper could just have tipped the balance.

"I think he's got every chance of doing that," he told the Belfast Telegraph, when asked if Davis can provide the spark to land the league title. "He has leadership qualities, he has proven that in the past when he's been at Rangers and he's obviously proven that when he has captained us at Northern Ireland.

"He's an immensely experienced player and one of Steven's biggest qualities is he brings the best out in others. I think (Rangers manager) Steven Gerrard has recognised that. Rangers, in a lot of areas, are a little bit inexperienced. They've added experience with Steven, Jermain Defoe and Gareth McAuley there already. I think he (Steven Davis) could be a key player between now and the end of the season."

While Davis had been struggling for gave time at parent club Southampton, O'Neill is hopeful his move back to the club he left in 2012 could prove the perfect tonic to revitalise his club career.

"It's a good move for Steven because it's a club that's very close to his heart obviously," he said. "It's important for him to go somewhere where he's in with a chance of winning something.

"There were other clubs interested but at this stage of his career, I think this is the right move for him. Davo is such an important player for us. He's 34 but he still has, for me, at least a couple of years left for him and I think it's a great move for him."

Davis, of course, links up with international team-mates Kyle Lafferty and McAuley at Ibrox, although that pair has made just 11 Premiership starts combined this season.

"I just want my players playing as much as possible," O'Neill said. "Hopefully they all get that opportunity. Gareth has been unlucky with injury and Kyle hasn't had the game-time he would hope for with the form Morelos is in but hopefully come March, they've got more game-time under their belt and they're ready for the qualification process that lies ahead."

O'Neill was speaking at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards, where Jonathan Rea was again named Sports Star of the Year while William Dunlop was posthumously added to the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame.

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