Davis hails leader Hughes as a ‘great example’ for players

Steven Davis goes through his paces during training in Trnava
Steven Davis goes through his paces during training in Trnava

Steven Davis has described Aaron Hughes as a “great example” for all of Northern Ireland’s players to follow.

Hughes could earn his 100th cap on Saturday night against Slovakia in Trnava – the country whom he made his debut against in 1998.

It has been an outstanding international career for the former Fulham and Aston Villa defender, who will be determined to boost his appearance tally at this summer’s Euros.

Davis – who succeeded Hughes as Northern Ireland captain in February 2012 – believes the 36-year-old’s experience could prove invaluable in France.

“Everybody looks up to Hughesy and can take a lot from him in terms of his application and the level of professionalism he shows and his consistency,” Davis said.

“I don’t remember Hughesy ever having a bad game and that probably goes for everybody. He’s a great example for all the players on the team.”

Slovakia head coach Jan Kozak had already revealed which 11 players he would select in Trnava before Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill conducted his press duties.

However, the local journalists hopeful of learning if Hughes would be involved against the country he made his debut against were left guessing.

“Maybe, maybe not,” O’Neill said, laughing.

“That would be very nice but we are only focusing on the preparation of the team, I think Aaron would be fully behind that decision. The importance is the game. Aaron deserves to get 100 caps but the decision on whether he starts the game or is used in the game depends on how the game goes and if I select him to start.”

Meanwhile, both Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik will start against the Northern Irish after manager Jan Kozak confirmed there would be only two changes from the team which defeated world champions Germany on Sunday.

Tomas Hubocan and Robert Mak are the duo coming into a side that Kozak believes made a statement with their triumph in Augsburg, which came two years after a home win over back-to-back European Championship winners Spain.

“We have made a certain signal,” he noted.

“The victory in Germany is that signal going to the world, to give a message. Our team is of high quality.

“The team which has defeated Spain must have a certain strength.”