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Steven Davis: I'll do all I can to be in top shape for Euros in 2021, I want to be there with Northern Ireland

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Steven Davis will be 36 when the European Championship finals take place next year but is determined to be as influential as ever for Northern Ireland

Steven Davis will be 36 when the European Championship finals take place next year but is determined to be as influential as ever for Northern Ireland

Steven Davis will be 36 when the European Championship finals take place next year but is determined to be as influential as ever for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis has admitted it will be extremely difficult for him to wave farewell to international football.

The good news for the Green and White Army is that the experienced midfielder intends to be around for some time yet and the Rangers star is determined to help his country to the European Championships again, having inspired the team to the 2016 finals in France.

With the Euro 2020 finals delayed for 12 months because of the coronavirus pandemic, Davis will be 36 when the tournament is played should Northern Ireland triumph in the play-offs and qualify.

"If I am being honest I would prefer that it was in 2020 because in 2021 I will be a year older, but of course I will do all I can to be as fit as possible and be in the best form possible going into those games if we reach the finals," says Davis, who with 117 caps is just two behind the iconic Pat Jennings on the IFA's all-time appearance list.

"With a chance to get to another major tournament I would want to be there. It is a huge carrot for everybody connected with our team."

The former Aston Villa and Southampton ace is regarded as one of his nation's greats, revered and respected by the fans in equal measure for his ability and commitment to the cause, even during some dismal periods for the side.

Such has been his influence since he made his debut 15 years ago that a Northern Ireland side without Davis is now unimaginable, though the modest captain appreciates he won't be able to go on for ever.

"When people say positive things about your contribution to the team it is nice to hear," he says.

"Obviously I have been around the team for a number of years and to still be having an impact on the team is important to me. If I felt I couldn't do that I would probably then say my time is up and give a chance for younger players to come through.

"I have always enjoyed my time with Northern Ireland. From day one it has been a proud moment when I pull on the jersey and then to captain Northern Ireland has been such an honour.

"It will be very hard for me when the day comes that I won't be doing that.

"A lot of the players who have been around the squad for a while have gone through tough times. What those times did is make us appreciate even more what we have achieved in recent years.

"There was never any doubt in my mind about turning up for trips, even when things weren't going so well. I have wanted to play as many times as I possibly could for Northern Ireland and try to bring us as much success as possible.

"The experience of playing in France in the Euro 2016 finals was wonderful.

"That has given us belief that we can do it again and I hope it gives future generations who play for Northern Ireland the belief that they can reach major tournaments."

Davis believes the play-off semi-final in Bosnia, whenever it is played, will be a "highly competitive game" and one Northern Ireland can "progress from". Such a scenario would set up an all or nothing play-off final at Windsor Park with the Republic of Ireland or Slovakia.

The plan was that Michael O'Neill would lead the team in the play-offs, but the demands of his job at Stoke City may make that impossible, depending on when they take place.

"Whether you are a Northern Ireland fan or a player, our number one priority would be for Michael to stay and take the team, but we have to be respectful about his position at Stoke and what their thoughts are," says Davis.

"We would love Michael to be leading us out for the play-offs. We have put ourselves in a strong position. It is a real opportunity for us and you don't want to change things too much."


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