Football/Soccer

Ali McCann aiming to play with and learn from NI skipper Steven Davis

St Johnstone's Ali McCann during a Northern Ireland training session.

IN the future, Ali McCann might, just might, be the one replacing Steven Davis. So far though, it was the other way round, with the Northern Ireland skipper coming on for the debutant late on away to Austria in the Nations League back in November.

With Davis sitting out McCann's second match completely, the final group game at home to Romania, it's meant the 21-year-old hasn't played on the same side as the 124-cap man – yet.

The chances of doing so soon are fairly high, though, given McCann's impressive displays in those games and with his club St Johnstone this season, and also factoring in Davis's longevity.

Whether the latter can keep going until the winter of 2022 or Northern Ireland reach the Qatar World Cup then are two moot points, but McCann will learn what he can from him in the meantime:

"He doesn't look like hanging up the boots anytime… Steven is brilliant, he conducts himself so well day to day. He's in great nick and every training session he is 'at it'. You look at him and the senior players and they have had good careers for a reason so you try and pick up pointers when you can.

"He's been unbelievable this season for Rangers. They've blown everyone away in the league and obviously were crowned champions a few weeks ago.

"He's been one of their best players and he's a great professional. You see that every day in training when I'm with the Northern Ireland squad and if you can take away pointers from someone like him, it can only be good for me as well."

Likewise with his international appearances, which he felt boosted his club form, helping the Perth side win the Scottish League Cup:

"It's a different experience to club football. There's such a high intensity and you're playing against players from the best leagues in Europe, so to make yourself better as a player you have to put yourself up against these type of players. For me personally, it can only be good for me."

Facing Italy would be another step up, but McCann insists damage limitation won't be the approach in Parma:

"It's definitely a difficult start to the campaign but it's a game we will go in with a positive mindset and try and get something from it.

"You don't want to invite them on to you and be under pressure because that will never end well. You have to be positive and hopefully we can turn them over."

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Football/Soccer