Football/Soccer

NI skipper Steven Davis has sympathy with those who will be left out of Euro 2016 squad

STEVEN Davis may not have the slightest personal worry about selection for the Euros but the skipper still expressed genuine sympathy for those who will miss out.

There was talk of ‘a carnival atmosphere’ in Belfast tonight before the Northern Ireland squad head off to France but that won’t be the case for the five players on the 28-strong training panel who haven’t made the cut.

Southampton star Davis had sympathy too for manager Michael O’Neill, saying: “It’s going to be a difficult conversation. Everyone has applied themselves and that was the aim for everybody, not to give any reason to be left out.

“Everyone has been excellent in their approach. Whoever is left out will be disappointed and it is a tough decision to make.”

Davis is a caring captain but even he rejected the suggestion that he could be much of a ‘shoulder to cry on’ for those not flying out on Monday, saying: “I don’t know. There’s not much you can say, obviously just ‘Keep your head up’.

“When someone is left out they are going to be disappointed and that’s what you would expect. Maybe further down the line something might come into play later on down the line. But I think everyone knows if someone ever wants to talk to me then I’m here.”

The 31-year-old has already expressed his appreciation of the fringe players, delivering a well-received speech after first spot in the qualification group was secured out in Finland last October, especially referring to those who hadn’t enjoyed many minutes on the pitch, as he recalled:

“It was basically to thank the boys who hadn’t played and would come away with the squad for 10 games and not get game-time.

“They obviously play a massive role in our success and preparation applying themselves in training. That all plays a part in the spirit of the team and success of the team.”

As far as tonight’s friendly against Belarus is concerned, Davis has three aims: “Ultimately it is the performance, hopefully coming through injury-free, and because of the run we are on we want to keep that going and win the game – so if we get all three of those we will be very happy.

“It is for the fans to enjoy and we will enjoy it if we do those three things. It is great to be back in Belfast. It is a long time since we have been here and already you can feel the buzz and everyone is looking forward to it.

Belarus may not have got much of a mention even ahead of a normal friendly but tonight is largely about a farewell party for the fans and the Northern Ireland players.

Michael O’Neill, in his typical meticulous fashion, did mention their own recent unbeaten run, of five games, and their lack of goals conceded.

The visitors’ best-known player remains Alexander Hleb, the former Arsenal and Barcelona wideman / attacking player, who has been playing in the Turkish top flight at the age of 35 with Genclerbirligi.

Football/Soccer

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