Steven Davis points to Conor Bradley example as he predicts more squad progression

A picture of Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill with Steven Davis
-Credit: (Image: INPHO/Presseye/Jonathan Porter)

Steven Davis has challenged Northern Ireland's rising talent to follow the example of Conor Bradley. Davis, who is now part of Michael O'Neill's coaching set-up with the senior squad, has been impressed with the progress made by the young stars over the past 18 months.

They have bounced back from a losing streak in European Championship qualification to win their last three internationals. A stern test against Euro-bound Spain now awaits O'Neill's men in Mallorca on Saturday night.

But former skipper Davis insists they have to rise to the challenge in front of them, like Bradley did earlier this season. “Conor is a classic example," said Davis. "He stepped into a top, top topside at Liverpool. You can see how much confidence that's given him and the energy it brings to the team and it’s a great example for all the boys that when you get an opportunity just have to be ready.

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“In bad times and difficult moments you learn a lot about yourself. You learn the character of the team and stuff like that. It doesn’t necessarily feel like it at the time, but I think they've all grown a lot in the last 12 months.

“I think they’re in that phase of their careers when hopefully, we will continue to see the big progressions every six to 12 months and every time they come into the camp and gain that confidence. Over the last couple of years they’ve been drip-fed in and you have to go through that process, the big thing is you can see the progression and the confidence and belief in what they are doing.

"I still think there is so much more for them to grow and to get better but I thought in the last two games against Romania and Scotland, there was a maturity about the performances and how disciplined they were within this shape. These two games against Spain and Andorra are really good for us before the next campaign."

As well as the two friendlies the coaching staff will also get an extended time working with the players on the training pitch. For Davis, who is starting off on his new journey he is relishing that opportunity.

“It’s a different outlook for me now but I’m really enjoying it," he said. "I’m doing my badges now and having had the experience at Rangers, it’s invaluable for me to be in and around it to see how Michael and Diarmuid [O'Carroll] work and get involved in bits and pieces - and Michael gives me the freedom to do that.

"As you know, in international breaks you don't get a lot of time on the grass to get your ideas across, so it’s so important that you use it well and it’s good for me to be in there and observe that for me now."

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