George Saville will never complain about lack of recognition for his hard work

By Sports Desk June 17, 2023

George Saville will never complain about a lack of recognition for his work in the Millwall and Northern Ireland engine rooms, but when praise came his way at the end of the season he was delighted to get it.

Saville has made his career out of doing the dirty work in midfield, the sort of unglamorous role which can go unnoticed.

But the 30-year-old was third in the running for Millwall’s player of the season award after being singled out by manager Gary Rowett for praise during a play-off push which fell short on the final day of the Championship season as Blackburn came from 3-1 down to win 4-3 at The Den.

“With the manager having that trust in me, how he spoke to me at the back end of the season was fantastic and to get recognition at that level was great,” Saville told the PA news agency.

“I’ve had a good season personally, my confidence is good, my fitness is good. It’s just a shame we missed out on the play-offs on the final day when it was in our hands. But that’s football.

“You learn lessons and hopefully that makes the team stronger. For me as an individual I do what I can every time I step on the pitch and long may it continue.”

Saville is playing some of the best football of his career, and was a strong performer again as Northern Ireland suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Group H top seeds Denmark, working tirelessly to support young, relatively inexperienced colleagues in his side’s injury-ravaged midfield.

“I enjoy the hard work and that side of the game,” Saville added. “In club football I do the same thing, I play a deeper role for Millwall. A lot of work goes unnoticed but I don’t need a pat on the back or for anyone to say well done for doing this or that.

“I don’t need a high profile, I’m happy to do what I need to do for the team and if that goes unnoticed so be it. As long as it helps the team that’s the main thing.”

Friday was Saville’s 45th cap but he is yet to score in international football, a fact he is not always happy to be reminded of. Saville gets his share of goals at club level, and remains convinced he can one day get on the scoresheet for Northern Ireland.

“I wouldn’t say it plays on my mind,” he said. “I’ve had opportunities to score. For club level I’ve scored goals, it’s just something that I feel like will still come. I don’t think about it much, I’m more focused on the team.

“I’m in the right areas. I’m an optimistic person. I think it will come but the main objective for me now is qualifying for a major championships.”

Saville is enjoying once again working under Michael O’Neill, the man who gave him his international debut in 2017, and who returned to the Northern Ireland job in December after a spell at Stoke.

“Michael first brought me in so for me it’s great,” he said. “We’ve got a great relationship and understanding and he’s someone I really enjoy working with, I really enjoy having Michael as a manager.

“As a person he’s the same old Michael. He’s had different experiences and he’s come back to a different squad. We’ve lost a few experienced lads.

“In the last couple of camps it’s been a young squad and now they are coming through and it’s become more that way. It’s a different situation for us and for him and one we’re all adapting to and trying to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

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