28 September 2022

Skipper Steven Davis will not rush into decision on Northern Ireland future

28 September 2022

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis has insisted he will not rush into any decision on his international future this winter.

The 37-year-old earned his 140th cap on Tuesday night but it came in defeat as Northern Ireland’s Nations League campaign ended in a 3-1 loss to Greece in Athens – with Ian Baraclough’s side only spared the prospect of a relegation play-off after Kosovo thrashed Cyprus 5-1.

As he has done at the end of previous campaigns, Davis said he would take time over the coming weeks before committing to return.

“I think it is important to reflect and not make knee-jerk decisions,” Davis said.

“When that day does come it will be very emotional for me to be honest. Everyone knows how much it means to me playing for Northern Ireland. I think I need to really feel I can still contribute as much as I want to and that has to be shared amongst everybody.”

Northern Ireland are yet to arrange any fixtures for the pre-World Cup international window in November, and may not play again until the start of the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign in March.

Defeat in Athens was a disappointing way to sign off as the optimism created by Saturday’s come-from-behind win over Kosovo quickly evaporated in a disjointed performance with too many mis-placed passes.

Davis was responsible for a key one – giving the ball away to allow Greece to retake the lead early in the second half – and the Rangers midfielder held up his hand.

“We have said it too many times in this campaign, we are frustrated,” he said. “Obviously coming off the high of the Kosovo game we wanted to come out here and get a positive result but unfortunately we gave ourselves too much to do with the two goals we conceded in the second half.

“In the first half I thought we were well within our shape and frustrated them at times with some good combinations. In the second half we didn’t really get going and the pressure told in the end. There were a couple of mistakes thrown in there as well and that has happened too often in this campaign.

“In terms of the first half we reacted well to conceding first and I’ve made a mistake for their second goal and we got punished for it and we struggled to get up the pitch and play in the style that we did in the first half.”

Although Shayne Lavery had cancelled out Dimitris Pelkas’ opener, Giorgos Masouras punished Davis’ error 10 minutes into the second half and a fine strike from Petros Mantalos settled it late on.

The final whistle was greeted with boos by the 976 travelling fans packed behind Baraclough’s dugout, and a number turned their frustrations on the under-pressure manager as he went to applaud them.

“We are all in it together,” Davis said when asked about Baraclough. “It has been a really frustrating time. The responsibility lies with more than the manager but we obviously know how football is perceived when results are frustrating. It is a shared frustration within the dressing room.

“We felt optimistic coming into this campaign coming up against the teams we have and we don’t feel we have done enough.

“There is plenty of frustration there (amongst the fans) but for 90 minutes in the game and even after the game when the players went over to them they were clapping and showing their support again.”

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