David Healy Praises Steven Davis As One Of The Best

FOR a nation of under two million people with no full-time professional league, Northern Ireland has produced an incredible number of footballing heroes over the years.

From the likes of Pat Jennings and George Best to Norman Whiteside and Gerry Armstrong, and then more recently, goal-machine David Healy, so many players have made a lasting impression on the Ulster public.

Tonight, Rangers’ Steven Davis will outdo all those famous names of the past, however, when he becomes the most-capped British male player of all time with 126 caps.

It’s a remarkable achievement for Davis, and close friend and former Ranger Healy believes he is well deserving of a place among those most famous Northern Ireland players of all time.

"He is a huge hero - a cult hero and a figure that people look at,” explained the current Linfield manager. “He is an easy one that I know the majority of our under-age groups from the under-21s down right to the under-15s at international level look to.

"Steve has come through that system - he played at all the age groups and came in to the international set up and you don't play the amount of games he has played at international and club level without making the sacrifices he has made as a player on and off the pitch.

"When you talk about Northern Ireland greats - the [Norman] Whiteside's, the [George] Best's, the [Sammy] McIlroy's and the [Gerry] Armstrong's and whoever else Northern Ireland people worship and adore, certainly Steve Davis would be very high up the list.

"He's a brilliant lad on and off the pitch and a fantastic captain for Northern Ireland. He has been a catalyst for Northern Ireland and one of the two players that has been instrumental in the success Northern Ireland have had in recent years with Jonny Evans.

"It is a credit to them. You look at Steve's age - I know me personally, I was finishing around my early 30s but Steve has the appetite, the hunger and the fitness levels, has made all the sacrifices and is still playing at the top level with the Famous Glasgow Rangers.

"To go on and achieve the monumental amount of caps he has is incredible.

"There have been players in previous campaigns and previous times where people probably weren't committed to the cause and people were probably choosing their club over their country which frustrated a lot of people in Northern Ireland.

"Again, Steve has had an incredible club career, but he has also mixed that in with a monumental amount of caps and games.

"He is one of those players when you see him play live, you maybe aren't looking at him in the highest bracket of player, but when you actually see what he does and what he commits to a game and you see what he gives to the game with passes that others don't see.

"He has been a quality player for quite a few clubs and at the international level, we haven't seen a player of the calibre of Steve Davis with the eye for the pass, the quality of the pass and the weight of the pass."

Healy had so many famous moments in the Green and White, and perhaps the most famous of all, his winner against England in 2005, came from a superb Davis through-ball.

That was a stunning moment for the nation – albeit good friend Healy couldn’t resit trying to take some of the shine off Davis’ contribution…

He added: "I think he actually over-hit the pass and it was probably my great awareness and great touch that actually made an average pass into a quality pass - that's my telling of it anyway!

"But his weight of passing and his quality of passing - he sees a lot of things on the pitch that others don't see. Sometimes he makes it look so simple and anybody watching from afar and maybe watching on TV might not see all the time the quality he puts on a pass.

"But if you ask anybody who has played with Steve Davis at international level and at club level, they will be more than complimentary of Steve Davis' talents.

"If you ask any of the managers he has played under, he is zero hassle and he trains well and is very professional.

"He goes and plays with a smile on his face and I know what it means to him, certainly now going back to Rangers and being successful this year.

"There is no greater man for it at the minute. He is probably in the running to be Scottish Player of the Year, and I think if Steve Davis was given that honour of being named 'Player of the Year' I don't think anyone would have any arguments."