Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough did Steven Gerrard a big favour on Sunday by resting key Rangers player Steven Davis for an international friendly against the USA in Belfast.
Davis had played a full 90 minutes three days earlier as a spirited NI fell to a 2-0 defeat in their opening World Cup Qualifying Group C fixture against Italy in Parma.
It was the first of three fixtures during a hectic international block, with the friendly against the USA and a second qualifier against Bulgaria, both following at Windsor Park.
The outing against the Azzurri was Davis’ 125th senior international appearance, making him the joint most-capped British footballer of all-time alongside former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton [BBC Sport].
The Gers star could have gone out on his own had he featured against the States on Sunday and his presence would have greatly strengthened a Northern Ireland team that is still searching for its first win in 90 minutes since Baraclough’s appointment in June 2020.
However, the manager resisted the temptation to deploy the 36-year-old, doing Gerrard a favour in the process.
Davis has held up well across a busy season, making 41 appearances in all competitions for his club, but three international matches in less than a week would have been a big ask for the veteran, especially with the Gers looking rather light on options in midfield right now.
Ryan Jack is currently out injured and Bongani Zungu is likely to soon pick up a substantial SFA ban after being charged following an alleged breach of Covid regulations, while backup players like Jamie Barjonas and Ciaran Dickson both recently left Ibrox on loan.
Therefore, an injury to Davis on international duty would constitute a particularly big blow to the Gers’ Scottish Cup hopes, and it’ll be a relief for the coaching staff that he was given the weekend off.
The veteran should be back in action on Wednesday night, though, in what would be a record-breaking appearance against Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, a Rangers star’s World Cup hopes have been boosted after his latest impressive international display.