WORLD CUP: Jonny Evans highlights value of ‘under-rated’ Steven Davis

Jonny Evans in relaxed mood leading up to the World Cup play-off games.
Jonny Evans in relaxed mood leading up to the World Cup play-off games.

Jonny Evans considers captain Steven Davis as “under-rated” on the eve of the Northern Ireland midfield maestro’s century cap.

Davis will step out with Northern Ireland tonight for the 100th time at senior level and, as a result, step into his country’s sporting history books as only the third player to hit that milestone.

The 32-year-old - who became the recipient of the MBE last week - joins Pat Jennings and Aaron Hughes in the 100-cap club.

Evans and international manager Michael O’Neill took time out of preparations to honour the achievement.

“He’s such a good player and, within the squad, we feel he’s under-rated in terms of how good he is,” said Evans, Davis’ long-standing international team-mate.

“He brings a real maturity to the team, with his performances over the past few years outstanding.

“I remember coming into the squad 10 or 11 years ago and every game he would get ‘man-of-the-match’.

“He’s just that kind of player, fans love watching him, he gives everything for the country and we all respect and appreciate him as players.”

O’Neill was quick to highlight a measured approach by his man in the middle to the captain’s role.

“I feel quite privileged as a manager to be able to give him that 100th cap,” he said. “When I came in I felt it was the right time for Steven to captain the side and he has done that fantastically for me.

“He has missed two games in that period, both through injury.

“He’s a very humble person, he’s got time for everyone, but he has a great inner strength as well.

“He shows that on the field, there are captains who are extremely vocal, relish that role and want to show everybody that they are captain – but Steven is captain that leads by example.

“He takes care of everyone in the group, he has time for everyone in the group, and obviously when he goes onto the pitch he takes enormous responsibility.

“I feel honoured that I’m the coach at this minute and can award him his 100th cap.

“I don’t know how many I’ve given him in total, possibly 49, but it’s fitting that it’s in a game of such magnitude.”

Davis’ composure in the centre of the midfield storm is a calmness Evans views as shared around the squad irrespective of the high stakes against Switzerland.

“We’ve been in big situations before when we’ve had to produce over the past couple of years,” said Evans. “It’s business as usual for us and we’ve spoken before about how, when it comes to crunch time, we’ve been able to stand up and produce big moments.

“That gives us an extra sense of composure in the squad and that extra belief.

“But there have also been situations when not underdogs.

“So, whatever way the game pans out - and in terms of going into the second leg - we will be comfortable.”