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Friday 2 December 2016

Steven Davis: I'm proud to follow in the footsteps of Northern Ireland's great captains

Steven Davis, pictured left, scored twice against Greece as Northern Ireland booked their place at Euro 2016
Steven Davis, pictured left, scored twice against Greece as Northern Ireland booked their place at Euro 2016

Northern Ireland's Euro hero Steven Davis is brimming with pride at following in the footsteps of his country's most celebrated captains.

Danny Blanchflower led Northern Ireland to the 1958 World Cup, Martin O'Neill did the same in 1982 and Sammy McIlroy was the last skipper to experience such an honour at the '86 tournament in Mexico.

But that exclusive club of three will finally become a quartet next summer, when Southampton midfielder Davis leads the Green and White Army in their first-ever European Championship in France.

He played a starring role in making that happen, scoring twice in Thursday's decisive 3-1 win over Greece, and the realisation leaves the 30-year-old wide-eyed.

"Whenever you mention yourself in the same breath as the ex-captains it is unbelievable," he said (inset).

"It is hard for me to sum that feeling up because it gives me so much pride.

"Obviously Thursday night was a very proud moment for me as well. I was delighted for all my family and all the boys, Michael O'Neill and everyone, including the fans.

"It has been difficult at times playing for Northern Ireland and trying to get consistency and results.

"You have to dig deep sometimes but qualifying makes it all worthwhile. Now we can look forward to France which is an amazing feeling."

Davis and his team-mates have been inundated with messages of thanks from grateful fans - online and in person.

More than 2,000 travelling supporters have made the trip to Finland for the final Group F qualifier and the squad have been lauded as heroes.

"It's been an incredible response from everybody. Everyone's phones have been going mad, people getting in contact to wish them all the best and say congratulations," said Davis. "Michael and the lads have been inundated with messages of support."

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