A crushing injury to Rangers midfielder Steven Davis continues to devastate an out of form Northern Ireland team.
The veteran Ibrox midfielder, 38, is the lynchpin of the Ulstermen and that cruciate ligament injury from last season has condemned the country to a year without their talismanic playmaker.
Having earned a remarkable British record 140 caps for the country, the evergreen Steven Davis was expected to continue with Northern Ireland a little while longer.
But after sustaining the troublesome injury the nation has been forced to adapt and are struggling to find their feet and form without the presence of their boy from Ballymena.
Northern Ireland rue Steven Davis injury
Michael O’Neill lamented the lack of Steven Davis heading into the international break and the nation continue to toil without the influence of the Northern Ireland legend.
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A 1-0 defeat away to Kazakhstan in European Championship qualifying is the country’s fifth straight defeat with a 2-0 victory over San Marino the country’s only positive result in seven matches.
It comes after the country fell to a dispiriting 4-2 defeat away to Slovenia last week.
In fact you have to go back to September 2022, when Steven Davis was captaining the Northern Ireland side in the middle of the park, to see when the nation’s results change.
A late 2-1 Nations League victory over Kosovo in Belfast was symbolic of the never-say-die spirit under the leadership of the Ulsterman and since then results have been hard to come by.
Northern Ireland are now 10 points off the top of Group H in Euro 2024 qualifying and would need a miracle in order to make the plane to Germany with only four games to play.
The country has so often punched above its weight on the international stage but without their leader this qualification campaign has proven a bridge too far.
With Steven Davis’ Rangers and Northern Ireland career firmly up in the air, the nation has had to prematurely deal with the post-Davo era and it’s clear they were sorely underprepared.
So, it appears, were Rangers.