Ian Baraclough has explained Rangers star Steven Davis’ shock absence from the Northern Ireland squad for a pair of international friendlies against Malta and Ukraine [Belfast Telegraph].
Davis is the most capped footballer in home nations history, racking up 126 appearances for his country since making his debut against Canada in 2005.
He has shown remarkable consistency in terms of his performance and availability down the years and despite being 36, has no immediate plans to retire.
Therefore, it came as a shock when he wasn’t listed in the squad for the friendlies against Malta and Ukraine, which will take place on Sunday and next Thursday respectively.
However, Baraclough has subsequently explained that his skipper informed him in advance of the selection process that he needed a rest.
“He has had a busy season, a successful season with European football on top of the domestic stuff, and he just felt he needed a bit of a break and a bit of family time”, said the NI boss [Belfast Telegraph].
“I spoke to all the players after the Bulgaria game and said I’m not going to stipulate you must turn up in the summer. For many of them, it’s been two seasons back-to-back with no break whatsoever.
“Within a bubble, with all the coverage, restrictions of travel, being away from your families as well for long periods, I realise that this trip wasn’t for everybody.”
Davis may not be with the group but Rangers winger Jordan Jones is, following the completion of his loan stint at Sunderland.
Former Gers players Kyle Lafferty and Jordan Thomson are both also involved, with the Malta clash taking place in Austria, while Ukraine will have home advantage in Dnipro.