Steven Davis relishing big return to Windsor Park following Euro 2016 qualifying success

Steven Davis celebrates scoring against Greece
Steven Davis celebrates scoring against Greece

Steven Davis admits he can’t wait to sample Windsor Park’s electric atmosphere on Friday night.

Northern Ireland are preparing to return to the scene of their famous Euro 2016 qualifying success of last month.

A 3-1 victory over Greece – aided by two goals from ‘Captain Fantastic’ Davis – booked Michael O’Neill’s side’s place in France next summer.

Friday’s friendly with Latvia will be another celebratory occasion for the Green and White Army, and for Davis and his teammates.

“It goes without saying, I am looking forward to the game again,” the Southampton midfielder said.

“It’s a great place to play and great memories from the last time we were here. I’m looking forward to sampling the atmosphere once again.”

Despite the relaxed mood around the Northern Ireland camp this week, Davis appreciates the importance of Friday’s game with Latvia.

“We obviously want to just keep momentum going, keeping the belief going,” he added.

“Obviously some players are gaining a little bit more experience but it’s about keeping the winning habit going and keep reaching the high standards we have set.

“That’s the mentality of the players heading into these games.”

Northern Ireland boss O’Neill is also keen to continue building momentum in the lead-up to next summer’s finals.

Northern Ireland are unbeaten in their last seven games and haven’t conceded more than one goal in each of their last eight fixtures.

“All of that’s good. It’s good for momentum, it’s good for confidence,” O’Neill said.

“We’ve talked about this already with the players. The strength in this group is how strong we’ve been defensively.

“It was nice to finish top goalscorers in the group, we probably surprised ourselves with that a bit. You only have to look at what Romania’s success was built on to understand the significance of being strong defensively. Their record in the group was phenomenal.

“That’s something we need to continue because the level of opposition goes up again. I don’t think we’re going to go to the Euros and win too many games 4-3 if I’m honest.

“We’re going to have to play with a structured approach and the defensive shape of the team is a big part of that.

“We have to wait and see who we get in the draw now. Once you know the opposition and the host cities you’re going to be playing in, then preparation is ramped up.

“Everyone is juggling fixtures at the moment but no-one really commits because they don’t know if they’re going to be in the same group.”