125 not out - Rangers talisman poised to make history in a season like no other for him

Steven Davis will begin his 17th year as an international footballer at the Ennio Tardini Stadium on Thursday night with all of the energy and enthusiasm he had when he represented his country for the first time.

Steven Davis has excelled on a consistent basis for Rangers this season, earning the Northern Ireland captain a new one-year contract with the Ibrox club. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Northern Ireland’s opening World Cup Group C qualifier against Italy will represent yet another landmark moment for the Rangers midfielder whose agelessly consistent performance levels have been a key factor in the Ibrox club’s Premiership title triumph this season.

Davis is poised to win his 125th cap in Parma, equalling the all-time UK international appearance record currently held by legendary former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton.

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By the end of this international break, which sees Northern Ireland also face the USA in a friendly on Sunday before taking on Bulgaria in another World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park next Wednesday, Davis should be out on his own as British football’s most-capped player.

Steven Davis celebrates scoring for Northern Ireland against Estonia at Windsor Park in March 2019. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

At 36, the Northern Ireland captain continues to lead by example for club and country.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard, himself a cap centurion for England, observed recently that Davis would be his personal pick as Scotland’s Player of the Year in a season where his club provide so many strong candidates for the honour.

Davis’ influence at the heart of Gerrard’s team made it an easy decision to reward the veteran with the new one-year contract he signed earlier this week. The former Aston Villa, Fulham and Southampton player is arguably in the best form of his career and few would bet against him extending his time at Rangers even beyond the summer of 2022.

By that stage, he will hope to be looking forward to leading Northern Ireland into the World Cup Finals scheduled to take place in Qatar at the end of that year.

“I’d bite your hand off to play at another major tournament,” reflected Davis who played for Northern Ireland at the Euro 2016 finals in France.

The Euro 2020 qualifying campaign proved bitter-sweet for Davis who broke Pat Jennings’ Northern Ireland caps record during the course of it but suffered the agony of an extra-time defeat against Slovakia in the play-off final at Windsor Park last November.

Northern Ireland find themselves in a tough World Cup qualifying group which also includes Switzerland and Lithuania. Davis is humbled by the personal milestone he is about to reach, while prioritising the collective ambition of the squad he leads.

“The caps record is certainly not something I set out to do at the start of my international career,” said Davis who made his Northern Ireland debut in a friendly against Canada in 2005.

“You set out to just play for your country and it has been a privilege to play as many times as I have and luckily I am in a position now where I have the opportunity to break records.

"It wasn't so long ago where I got the Northern Ireland one. That was really special for me and likewise, this will be the same.

"But, of course, going into a new campaign, we want to try and get off to a good start. It will be very difficult with Italy being our first game away from home, and we are under no illusions as to how difficult it will be.”

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