Steven Davis and Jonny Evans ‘not ready’ to retire after helping Northern Ireland stop Italy, says boss Ian Baraclough

Steven Davis and Jonny Evans “are not ready” to end their careers in Northern Ireland, according to hopeful boss Ian Baraclough.

kipper Davis reiterated after Monday night’s impressive 0-0 draw at home against Italy that he had yet to make a decision on his international future, but his manager said he was confident his two key men would remain with the squad for next year’s Nations League campaign. .

Their future was a big part of the narrative leading up to what Baraclough hope is not their last window as players from Northern Ireland.

Evans (33) has suffered since May from a foot disease – plantar fasciitis – but is back in action for Leicester City and Northern Ireland while Davis (36) continues to shine for Rangers as well as at an international level.

Last week Evans spoke of his ‘joy’ coming back to add to his 93 senior caps, while Davis stressed how ‘sad’ he would be at the end of his time as a Northern Ireland player. .

And now Baraclough has praised a pair that he is confident will continue to be central to his side.

“You’ve heard their comments this week; they’re not ready to end and I decline to answer any further questions about it to be honest,” he smirked after spending full time at Windsor Park.

“Davo said he would stop when he stopped enjoying it, when he found it difficult. For me, he’s still the heart of the team.

“Jonny behind him also gives us a little more composure. The back line was great. They had to deal with a lot tonight.

“A lot of (the preparation) had to be done with video analysis and resting the legs as much as possible. When you have someone like that in the back (Evans) and in the midfield (Davis), they can help control things and calm things down.

“For me they are always at the forefront of this team, so why finish? I think this team is improving and I hope we can show it in the Nations League and then in Euros.”

At least publicly, Davis was unwilling to be so outspoken, sticking to his consistent line that there will now be a period of reflection before he draws a conclusion about his future.

“Whenever that day comes, it will never be easy to accept, whether it is my choice or not,” he said of his eventual retirement. “I’ve had some of my most memorable moments wearing a Northern Ireland shirt. It’s always an honor to put it on. I don’t honestly know what the future holds.

“The next Euro campaign is going to be so important for us and I have to take into account giving young players the opportunity to show what they can do as well.

“I really haven’t made any decisions. It’s going to be very difficult. I think it’s important to put this campaign on the sidelines. I was focusing on those two games and then taking a step back, having these conversations with my family and the manager and see what’s the best way to move forward. “

The skipper at least agreed with Baraclough that better days could just be ahead of this team, with people like Ali McCann, Daniel Ballard and Shayne Lavery all stepping up for the senior squad in recent months, joined by teenage hopefuls like Conor Dale Taylor of Bradley and Nottingham Forest.

“I certainly hope so,” he said. “There is quality in the team. We have been disrupted in this campaign by injuries, Covid and different things to face. It is important when we come together we have a team as strong as possible and if we do it, we will give ourselves the chance to succeed.

“With some of the young players coming in and bringing this energy, I hope we can take advantage of this move to the Nations League.”

As for Monday’s draw, that said a lot that the reaction was tinged with regret after three big chances created by Northern Ireland in the second half, with George Saville and Stuart Dallas closing in before the Conor Washington’s last-minute effort doesn’t get stuck on the line.

“You know you’re going to have to work for long stretches of time, maintain some pressure, fill in the gaps, work your absolute socks off and we’ve done it in abundance,” the boss said.

“Then you know you’re going to have a chance or two as you go along and they start taking one-on-one risks at the back. Conor Washington had the best chance in the game, I think.

“I feel for Conor because he is desperate to score goals. He gets good positions. He did everything right but Bonucci is a class defender, comes on the line. Conor couldn’t get the power over the shot after he’s’ I really did the hard work, going around (goalkeeper Gianluigi) Donnarumma, cutting him off and pretending to go in. He will turn and turn around tonight thinking about that- the. “

With the manager now ready to draft a new contract, this outcome will certainly spawn another measure of goodwill among the support.

“The pace of work and the desire of the players to get a result in what was dead rubber for us, people said,” said Baraclough. “They don’t understand. Every game means something to them. Wearing the green jersey is something to be proud of and cherished.

“Gianluca (Vialli assistant – Italy) on the side said it was an Italian defensive performance from us. That’s what they’re known for, so I’ll take it.”

Vialli boss Roberto Mancini didn’t seem at all surprised at his team’s difficulty in getting to Belfast.

“I’m disappointed because we couldn’t find a goal in the first half,” he said. “We played a good game with good possession but Northern Ireland are tough. They play with all the players behind the ball, they’re strong and big. If you don’t score fast it’s tough.”

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