Thursday 8 December 2016

Michael O'Neill keen for Kyle Lafferty to play more club football

Published 14/11/2015 | 11:26

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, pictured, is eager to see Kyle Lafferty play more at club level
Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill, pictured, is eager to see Kyle Lafferty play more at club level

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has welcomed interest in star striker Kyle Lafferty.

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Lafferty scored seven times in nine games to help his country qualify for Euro 2016 - their first major tournament in 30 years - but has seen his club career stall at Norwich.

Despite his heroics on the international stage he has managed only two substitute appearances for the Canaries all season.

The 28-year-old remains key to O'Neill's plans next summer and managed 54 minutes in Friday's 1-0 friendly win over Latvia despite suffering an upset stomach.

But his lack of game time has had a clear effect on his sharpness and with Leeds having registered an interest in taking Lafferty on loan, O'Neill is hoping that will soon change.

Asked if he had discussed Leeds with the striker, O'Neill said: "I've had absolutely no involvement in that at all, but the most important thing for me is that Kyle gets playing.

"It's a hard situation. It's November now and he hasn't started a game for his club. That's not an easy situation to deal with.

"I thought he did extremely well given the circumstances.

"But there's no secret and he knows it himself, to be at his best he needs to be playing.

"That applies to any player and I know that personally. There were times I played internationally when I wasn't playing for my club and it's a very difficult situation for a player to find themselves in."

Captain Steven Davis was the match-winner at Windsor Park, converting from close range after his initial header had been well saved.

Having scored twice in the history-making win over Greece last month, he now has eight Northern Ireland goals to his name and five for club and country this season.

Like so many of his team-mates, the Southampton midfielder has seen lean times in a green shirt but he admits things are currently better than ever.

"It has been the best year in my career as a Northern Ireland player and it was fantastic to end it on a high with another win," he said.

"I have always said that I love playing in front of our fans at Windsor. They have always been great to me and they gave the team fantastic backing again. To get the standing ovation at the end was really special.

"It was nice to score again but I won't be getting too carried away. It was a great ball from Craig Cathcart and I got the rebound in. I had another few chances as well but to score again was great."

O'Neill's side are now eight matches unbeaten and could find themselves moving to a new record high in the FIFA rankings when the standings update.

They are currently 29th in the world, with a previous best of 27th under Lawrie Sanchez.

"We wanted to keep the momentum going and keep that intensity and desire in our play," said Davis.

"We knew going into the game we were on a good run and we knew that the last Northern Ireland team to go unbeaten in eight matches was 30 years ago so we wanted to match that.

"We will all keep in touch over the course of the next few months before we meet up again in March.

"Now it is important now that everyone does well for their club. We want everyone to be coming into games next year with good fitness and feeling confident."

Press Association

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