Tom Flanagan: Nobody wants Steven Davis to call time on Northern Ireland career

Northern Ireland defender Tom Flanagan is hoping the latest round of speculation regarding captain Steven Davis’ prospective retirement is nothing more than talk as he said it will be a “sad day” when the Rangers midfielder eventually calls it quits.

By Sports Desk
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 8:00 am

The 36-year-old Davis has been a mainstay in Northern Ireland’s midfield for the best part of two decades, his 130 caps a British record, but the Rangers midfielder has said he will take time to reflect on his future after World Cup qualifiers against Lithuania and Italy this weekend.

Questions over how much longer Davis might keep playing are nothing new, but the end of another international campaign brings them back up the agenda.

“No one is wishing him to finish,” Flanagan said. “If it’s something he decides on, no one will begrudge it because he has had an incredible career.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis

“I think when he does make his decision, it’ll be on his terms and things like that and that’s a positive because that doesn’t always happen in football.

“You’ve got to be a high calibre of player to make your own decisions in football. Usually they’re made for you, so that’s testament to him again…

“For me, he’s just the standout player that I’ve played with.”

Flanagan said neither he nor his team-mates have any insight into what Davis might be thinking as they focus on Friday’s match against Lithuania at Windsor Park, seeking a positive end to the campaign after hopes of reaching Qatar were dashed last month.

“If Davo has got something to say, he’ll say it,” Flanagan added. “He’ll tell the whole group. That’s how open he is. He doesn’t see himself as above or below anyone.

“If it does happen it will be a sad day, but everyone is hoping it won’t happen.”

While Davis’ future is back in the spotlight, Northern Ireland at least know who their manager is set to be going forward, with talks progressing on a new contract for Ian Baraclough after he received unanimous backing from the IFA board last month.

Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell said settling the question of Baraclough’s future was key as they look to next year’s Nations League and the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

“It’s an overlooked factor in football, stability is massive and the continuity in terms of having the same manager,” the 25-year-old said.

“We’ve built a squad now with a lot of young players coming through, making their debuts and staying in the team…

“Yes, we have missed out in this campaign, but we have the future to build on and we’re starting that now.”

After positive results in September, defeats to Switzerland and Bulgaria last month were a major setback.

While the Switzerland loss killed the Qatar dream, defeat in Bulgaria stopped much of the momentum that had been building, but Peacock-Farrell said there had never been any question within the camp about the progress made.

“I’m not aware too much of what noise is out there but I can speak on behalf of the lads and we are here together, there is a unity here and we are moving in the right and same direction,” the on-loan Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper said.

“The results haven’t gone our way, which is life. That’s football but there is certainly no divide in the camp. The manager and squad are pulling in the same direction, that’s for sure.”