Tuesday 23 January 2018

Kyle Lafferty shuns loan move to fight for Norwich spot

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty is willing to fight for his Norwich future
Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty is willing to fight for his Norwich future

Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty is ready to fight for his Norwich career and is ready to shun the "easy option" of a loan move.

Lafferty is in the form of his life at international level, taking his Euro 2016 qualifying tally to seven in eight matches with the injury-time equaliser against Hungary on Monday night.

Only Bayern Munich pair Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller have bettered that return for Germany, but while they are key cogs at one of the giants of European football, Lafferty is unsure where he stands at Carrow Road.

He joined Turkish side Rizespor for the second half of last season and a knee injury means he has yet to feature at all this term.

With Cameron Jerome, Dieumerci Mbokani and Gary Hooper also on the Canaries' books, the 27-year-old faces a battle to persuade manager Alex Neil but it is one he is ready to embrace.

"Every single player in this world wants to play in the Premier League, you just have to look at the players playing in it. I want to play against those players," he said.

"I'm not going to take the easy option and go out on loan to a Championship team, play the long-ball game. I want to play against the best players in the world in the Premier League.

"When I was a young boy I sat watching Match of the Day, dreaming of playing there, so I'm not going to throw my hat in now and take that easy option.

"I will just go back and work my socks off in training and keep on knocking on the manager's door.

"If he sits me down and says I'm not in his plans, then it's time for me to make a decision whether I do go out on loan or stay and work even harder to change his mind."

Regardless of how his Norwich career pans out, Lafferty's efforts in front of goal look likely to take his country to a first major tournament in 30 years.

That will be quite an achievement, given they were ranked among the fifth seeds and already have 10 more points than they finished with in qualifying for last summer's World Cup.

A home win over Greece next month would guarantee their trip to France, but the talismanic Lafferty will be a spectator having picked up a one-match suspension.

Nonetheless, he is bullish about the prospect of a big night in Belfast.

"This team does not get beat at Windsor any more. Our heart and determination won't let any team come here and walk over us," he said.

"Michael O'Neill's team will not lose at Windsor, especially with the way we have been.

"Unfortunately we haven't crossed the finish line yet but we're not panicking. All we have to do is go out and win a game and I'm pretty sure we will."

Lafferty's efforts over the past 12 months have seen him take the mantle long since set down by David Healy - the country's record goalscorer with 36.

Lafferty will be hoping his domestic career does not fizzle out in the way Healy's did, but he defers to the local hero whenever comparisons are drawn.

Healy netted 13 times in Euro 2008 qualifying, still a record, but never reached a European or World Cup finals.

"I think there's only one David Healy, no-one will ever touch what David did for this country," he said.

"But this country has been through enough over the last 30 years and it's about time we sent them to a tournament."

Press Association

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