NI boss Baraclough hoping for more from veteran Davis and new boy Shea Charles
PLAYERS at both ends of the international age spectrum can make their mark for Northern Ireland in the four Nations League matches in June, believes boss Ian Baraclough.
Skipper Steven Davis seems set to sign a new one-year deal with Rangers at the age of almost 37-and-a-half, while Shea Charles, who is half his age, could make his breakthrough with English Premier League champions Manchester City next season.
Speaking about 'Davo', Baraclough commented: "I think he can play for another couple or three years, but that's me. I don't want to ramp up any sort of pressure on him. I always get plenty of questions about him and I don't like talking about the subject of him retiring.
"In the Scottish Cup final I thought he was great. He came on in the Europa League final, calmed things down for Rangers at the time, maybe could have even got a goal or two for Rangers as well and he put his penalty away [in the shoot-out against Eintracht Frankfurt], which shows his coolness of mind. He's our leader, our captain, he's someone we want around for a little while longer."
Manchester-born City defender/midfielder Charles is ready to step onto the senior stage for both club and country, Baraclough believes:
"He has got the mentality to do really well. He's not played a senior game as yet, for his club or his country, so you're going into unknown territory. But he's a calm lad, he takes things onboard, he's athletic, he can handle the football.
The 28 players named in Baraclough's squad have all reported for duty ahead of the matches against Greece, Cyprus (home and away) and Kosovo in Nations League C, Group 2.
"I think the majority of them are fit and raring to go straight away. Just one or two are carrying knocks.
"We've got a mixture of a group, young and experienced. We're trying to find out about some of them and give them a chance.
"Hopefully one or two of them put their hands up and say 'Yeah, I'm ready for this' and go straight into it and look as though they've been playing at this level for years."
Northern Ireland, who are top seeds in their section, begin their home game against Greece this Thursday evening, June 2. Then they travel to face Cyprus for a match on Sunday, June 5, and onto Kosovo (Thursday June 9), before returning to Belfast to face the Cypriots again at Windsor Park on Sunday June 12.