Football/Soccer

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis set to break appearance record against Germany

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has a laugh during a press conference with manager Michael O'Neill.
Photo by David Maginnis/Pacemaker Press

Euro 2020 qualifying Group C: Northern Ireland v Germany (Windsor Park, 7.45pm)

HISTORY is always being made, but some records, some occasions, are more noteworthy than others.

Steven Davis is set to become Northern Ireland’s most capped outfielder tonight, overtaking Aaron Hughes by winning his 113th cap, but as a consummate team player he’s more concerned with achieving a positive result against Germany.

Despite that, manager Michael O’Neill suggested he merits similar respect to a modern-day great of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo, commenting:

“Any player who amasses over a hundred caps at international level, that has played and been available for as long as Steven, for every game barring a few that he’s missed through injury, is a fantastic role model for all international footballers.

“I was watching Cristiano Ronaldo play at 34 years of age for his country and what it means to him, and that’s why international football is so special.

“Steven deserves to be talked about in that breath because I believe he will go on and break Pat Jennings’s record.”

Surpassing ‘Big Pat’ by reaching 120 appearances might involve Davis getting to Euro 2020, and that’s what would mean more to him, he insists:

“It’s obviously huge [to surpass Hughes] but I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought at this point in time. I’m obviously focussed on the game.

“If we manage to get out of this group it will be a remarkable achievement, and that will be more important to me than getting the caps.

“Obviously I’m very proud of every cap I’ve earned and hopefully I’ve got a few more left in me.”

O’Neill joked that Davis had badgered him for his record-equalling appearance as a sub against Luxembourg on Thursday night – but went on to heap genuine praise on the 34-year-old:

“I think it’s a great achievement. He pestered me all week to get five minutes against Luxembourg. I eventually wilted under the pressure.

“He is still as effective at this level as he was when I took the job seven years ago. He’s had a magnificent career at both club and international level.

“Whenever he does hang up his boots, which hopefully will be after I’ve left this job, he will rightly be remembered as one of the greatest players we’ve ever had.”

Davis may have to be at his best tonight, up against German stars Toni Kroos and Joshua Kimmich, although the visitors other midfield options have been reduced, losing Dortmund’s Niko Schulz and Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan to injury and illness respectively, which may mean inclusion for former Liverpool man Emre Can.

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