Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis welcomes international focus

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis admits being on international duty in Valletta has been a “nice break” from troubled club Southampton.

Outlined by the deeply azure Mediterranean Sea and constructed from tanned limestone, Malta has become a popular refuge for winter sun-seeking Brits.

Not many of them, however, are Premier League stars seeking solitude from their club situations.

The Saints sacked manager Nigel Adkins in January, in what has been billed as the most ruthless move for years.

Adkins secured back-to-back promotion and the board’s decision to axe him prompted outrage from fans and former players.

Now, over 2100 kilometres away from the hassles at St Mary’s, Davis is fully focused on helping Michael O’Neill to achieve his first win as Northern Ireland manager.

“I have been here for a long time and have been on a few trips now, so I want the opportunity to perform against Malta,” the midfielder, who was previously with crisis club Rangers, said.

“I played in the 1-1 draw in 2005. It was one of the first games I was involved in and shows there are no easy games at international level. Maik Taylor even had to save a penalty in the last few minutes.

“It would be nice to get the monkey off our back, in terms of our first win.

“There’s a feel-good factor among the squad at the moment, everyone gets on well and it is a nice break from [our] clubs.”

As one of they key experienced players in O’Neill’s pack, Davis has been encouraged by the fresh, youthful side emerging in the camp and has credited the manager with making positive changes.

“You can see from the performances it’s improved; we try and get the ball out in play, press other teams and it is great to see the younger ones getting a chance.

“It is disappointing the results haven’t followed that up, but I have definitely seen progress since Michael took over.”