Saturday 21 April 2018

Davis enjoying squad progress

Steven Davis is pleased to see younger players coming through in the Northern Ireland set-up
Steven Davis is pleased to see younger players coming through in the Northern Ireland set-up

Captain Steven Davis is pleased with the way Northern Ireland's squad has evolved over the course of the current campaign.

Manager Michael O'Neill has gradually fed new players into the side since taking over from Nigel Worthington, capping some for the first time and bringing in others from the fringes of the squad to the first XI.

Against Luxembourg on Tuesday night, the likes of Daniel Lafferty, Lee Hodson, Oliver Norwood, Shane Ferguson, Jamie Ward and Martin Paterson can all expect to start.

They were peripheral figures at the same stage of qualifying for Euro 2012, leaving Davis, 28, to reflect with satisfaction on a rejuvenated group.

"Without a doubt, it's great to see. I am one of the elder ones in the squad now and it is great to see younger players coming through and especially making an impact and being part of big nights for us," said the Southampton midfielder.

"Hopefully we can keep progressing as a team and growing and that will keep us in good stead.

"We've got a good squad together and a good mix, plenty of jokes floating about.

"You've got a squad now with a lot of young players in and they have gained valuable experience so far in a number of games and hopefully that can be a good measure for us going forward."

More immediately, Davis is looking to put right arguably the most disappointing result of O'Neill's tenure.

A year ago at Windsor Park, Northern Ireland dominated Luxembourg in their second Group F fixture, taking an early lead through Dean Shiels.

But they somehow failed to add to their tally despite numerous chances and saw a lucky equaliser deny them three points late on.

"Yeah, we came off the pitch disappointed at end of that game," said Davis.

"Dean Shiels scored a good goal and we put ourselves in a good position with numerous opportunities to extend the lead and then they got a deflected goal.

"We have got good results away to Portugal and home to Russia and yet we've struggled in the games we have been tagged as favourites.

"I have spoken so many times already about how I think the performances have been good this campaign but at the end of the day we need results and that's what we have to put right."

Northern Ireland's travelling support is likely to outnumber the home faithful at the Stade Josy Barthel, with 1,200 members of the Green and White Army expected.

Davis said: "They've been fantastic for us in the last two games...I sometimes think they don't realise how much of an impact they can have on the players.

"It's great to have that support behind us again."

Press Association

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