After steering his country to their first competitive win in four years Steven Davis has won the acclaim of his international captain and Aston Villa team-mate Aaron Hughes.

The young central midfielder was instrumental in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan and might have capped his sixth appearance with a goal to add to strikes from Warren Feeney and Stuart Elliott.

Although he missed a relatively simple chance the 20-year-old grew in stature at the heart of Lawrie Sanchez's team and gave a display that prompted Hughes to suggest the Ballymena-born player is 'five years ahead of his time'.

"Everyone is beginning to take notice of Steven," the Northern Ireland skipper said. "He showed what a good, up and coming player he was last season by getting a run in the side. He had something about him. This season he has taken that on. He is now looking five years ahead of his time.

"I see him every day in training and I have been very impressed. He is going to be important for Villa but he is also very important for Northern Ireland.

"There are not many young lads coming through. To produce players of the quality of Steven is something we really need, especially in the middle of the pitch."

Davis has made remarkable progress since making his international debut seven months ago and looks certain to win his next cap against England at Windsor Park tomorrow to complete a fantastic few months in which he also signed a new three-year deal at Villa.

Hughes, who left Newcastle in the summer, also expressed his admiration for how Davis has gone about his business.

Meanwhile, South African striker Benni McCarthy says he is ready to move to the Premiership and possibly Villa when his existing club Porto refused to sanction a deal.

Villa were among a group of five top-flight clubs interested in signing the pacy centre-forward although his most likely destination is West Ham United with whom he had passed a medical examination. But the move did not go through and McCarthy is not happy with the conduct of his Portuguese employers.

He said: "Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers have shown huge interest in me and I don't know why the club won't release me.

"I passed the medical test and I was sure I was signing for West Ham. You can imagine my frustration when told at the last minute that the deal was off. I have served the club well and I thought they would finally release me.

"I have two more years with Porto but I don't think I will be with them for that long. Maybe something will materialise when the window period opens again in January."