Euro 2016: Davis dreaming of trip to France

Steven Davis was installed as captain by NI manager Michael O'Neill following his appointment in 2012
Steven Davis was installed as captain by NI manager Michael O'Neill following his appointment in 2012
Euro 2016 Group F qualifier: Northern Ireland v Romania
Venue: Windsor Park, Belfast Date: Saturday, 13 June Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website

Nothing beats a bit of nostalgia so I nipped along to the local cinema a couple of nights back to take in 'Shooting at Socrates'.

It's the story of Northern Ireland's exploits at the 1986 World Cup, a bittersweet tale of Billy Bingham's men in Mexico and the excitement back home.

It was a magical time to be a young Northern Ireland fan, for memories were still fresh of the heroic deeds in Spain four years earlier.

Indeed, the World Cup of '82 was the pinnacle and on a Boys Brigade trip to Portrush we belted out song after song in praise of Armstrong, Hamilton, Whiteside and the rest.

I was in football heaven as Northern Ireland mixed it with the elite while my beloved Liverpool were sweeping up the silverware.

My 11-year-old son came along to the movie, with a nudge quickly followed by his observation that "this was ages ago!".

The glory days are long gone, both for the boys in green and once mighty Reds - re-living cherished events of three decades ago brings consolation and comfort.

Steven Davis was a mere 17 months old when a Brazil side, led by the legendary Socrates, ended Northern Ireland's campaign in Mexico with a memorable 3-0 victory in Guadalajara.

Socrates watches on as Careca takes a tumble during the 1986 World Cup match against Northern Ireland
Socrates watches on as Careca takes a tumble during the 1986 World Cup match against N Ireland

That was Northern Ireland's last game at a major tournament but they are on target for a return at the Euro 2016 finals in France.

Four wins from five Group F qualifiers, four points clear in second spot and just a point behind pacesetters Romania.

Southampton midfielder Davis is set to skipper the side in Saturday's crunch qualifier against the Romanians at Windsor Park.

"It would be a dream to qualify for a major tournament with Northern Ireland and I know how difficult it is to achieve that," said Davis.

"It would probably be the biggest achievement of my career if we did it.

"We've had a tremendous start to the campaign and this is a huge game against Romania - if we come through with a result we are in with a good shout.

"We've been almost there in previous qualifying campaigns but just haven't put together the runs to make it possible.

"Everything has just seemed to click in the Euro 2016 qualifiers."

Northern Ireland's remaining Euro 2016 Group F qualifiers
Romania (home)Saturday, 13 June 2015
Faroe Islands (away)Friday, 4 September 2015
Hungary (home)Monday, 7 September 2015
Greece (home)Thursday, 8 October 2015
Finland (away)Sunday, 11 October 2015

Davis credits Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill as the key factor in producing a winning international team.

Just one win came in the opening 12 games of O'Neill's reign but the signs were positive and the former Newcastle and Hibs midfielder was handed a new two-year-deal in 2013.

It's proved to be an astute move by the Irish FA with O'Neill on course to take Northern Ireland to a major tournament for only the fourth time.

"Michael's detailed approach has worked well - you can see that with the good balance to the team, which has been lacking in the past," added Davis.

"Everyone knows their roles now, which is the the most important thing.

"If we're going to get results we have to play as a team and be solid, while also carrying an attacking threat.

"We've got that at present with our front players. This is what Michael has brought to the team."

Victory in Belfast would go far in ensuring that Northern Ireland fans can look to the future instead of basking in the past.

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