Ian Baraclough says people are writing Steven Davis off prematurely

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has warned people writing off Steven Davis’ international career they are doing so prematurely.

The veteran Rangers midfielder, who has earned a record 132 caps for his country, has been included in Baraclough’s 25-man squad for this month’s friendlies against Luxembourg and Hungary.

There had been speculation over whether the 37-year-old would continue following the end of Northern Ireland’s unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign.

Yet Baraclough insists the former Southampton player remains committed and is firmly in his plans as he looks ahead to the start of the Nations League programme in the summer.

Northern Ireland's Steven Davis. Pic by PA.

Baraclough said: “I know it’s a question that’s going to be asked every (press) conference but my conversations with Steven have been no different – looking forward to the two games, looking forward to June.

“He still was one of our best players against Italy and that just shows you that if he’s got any thoughts of finishing or quitting, or if anyone wants to try to finish him, then they’re going down the wrong road with that.”

Northern Ireland play in Luxembourg on March 25 before hosting Hungary at Windsor Park four days later. They will be the side’s first outings since they wrapped up their World Cup qualifiers with a creditable goalless draw against Italy, a result which denied the European champions an automatic place in Qatar.

The only issue concerning Davis had been fitness-related after a stop-start campaign at Ibrox but Baraclough expects him to be able to join up with the group.

Baraclough thinks the problems he has had this term may even have fuelled his hunger to continue on the international front.

Baraclough said: “He’s out of the picture at Rangers at the moment having had a couple of little niggles and the team have done well, so it’s been difficult for him to get back into the side.

“That’s probably something new for Steven, having to contend with that, which means he’s looking forward to meeting up with the group of guys and being part of our squad.

“He’s had a couple of setbacks, a small calf issue, a thigh issue, but I’ve not been told he won’t be fit for us come next week.”

Leicester defender Jonny Evans is not included in Baraclough’s squad due to injury but Fleetwood winger Paddy Lane and Sunderland’s Trai Hume have earned their first senior call-ups.

There are also returns for five players in Shayne Lavery, Dion Charles, Daniel Ballard, Matthew Kennedy and Luke Donnelly but Jordan Jones, Dale Taylor, Jamal Lewis, Conor Washington and Ethan Galbraith are not involved.

Baraclough said: “We’ve tried to go as strong as possible for the two friendlies and I’ve said that it’s like a reset for the next two years.

“We’ll hopefully try and put a good platform in place for what hopefully will be a successful two years, a Nation’s League campaign followed by the Euros.”

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