Tuesday 21 November 2017

Davis focused on the common goal as he closes in on 100th cap

Steven Davis will win his 100th cap for Northern Ireland on Thursday
Steven Davis will win his 100th cap for Northern Ireland on Thursday

Steven Davis met the Duke of Cambridge last week and will earn his 100th Northern Ireland cap on Thursday, but insists the World Cup play-off with Switzerland is more important than such personal landmarks.

Southampton midfielder Davis, 32, will become just the third Northern Irish centurion, following in the footsteps of Pat Jennings and Aaron Hughes when he leads Michael O'Neill's team out at Windsor Park in the first leg against the Swiss.

It is another significant milestone for a player who recently received his MBE at Buckingham Palace, but Davis, one of his country's most understated figures, would rather his 100th cap slid under the radar.

"In all honesty I'm not counting caps," he said.

"I don't want anything to distract from my or the team's preparations for the game. That will be at the very back of my mind.

"It's a huge landmark and I'm delighted to reach it, but my focus is solely on the game and hopefully after the play-offs I can look back and say it was a special achievement.

"It's not my personality to be sentimental. It's more a nice feeling for my family at the game. They can enjoy it more, but your focus automatically is on the game and you are in the zone at that point."

As part of O'Neill's meticulous preparations, Davis and his international colleagues have been given pamphlets of information on their Swiss opponents since meeting up in Belfast.

Yet his skipper had already been made somewhat aware of the size of the task by a member of the Royal Family.

"It was great meeting Prince William and a great experience," Davis revealed.

"It's something you are not used to, but it was great to be in the room with other great people receiving their awards. They have done very well in their own fields, whether it is police, military, ambulance or professors, and it was nice to experience that with my family.

"It was a special day for my family and Prince William was very knowledgeable on the game. He talked about the play-offs, knew we were playing the Swiss and said it would be very difficult, but he wished us all the best. It was a memorable day."

Davis, who led his country at Euro 2016, their first major tournament in three decades, was there for his services to football and admitted he was moved by speaking to others being honoured in various fields.

"It is very humbling to be there and recognise what people have achieved in their lives," he added.

"I got an award for doing something that I have loved and it's not something I ever expected, but I'm very proud of. I'll probably keep in touch with a few of the award winners.

"There was a guy from Glasgow who had lost his son and then went on a campaign to raise money for a teenage cancer fund, it was nice to share that experience."

Press Association

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