Kyle Lafferty returned to Norwich City as an international hero who cannot get a kick at club level. Lafferty, 28 next week, has played two games this season and scored in both, but they were for Northern Ireland, not Norwich. Now he and his club manager, Alex Neil, have a decision to make.
After scoring the Irish equaliser in injury time against Hungary on Monday night, he contemplated his teetering career at Norwich, for whom he has not played since a 2-1 home defeat by Brentford in January. Lafferty, booked, was substituted at half-time.
A fortnight later, he was lining up for Rizespor in Turkey on loan and when he came back to Norwich this summer he was injured in pre-season training. But he has now played two internationals in four days and is desperate to stay at Norwich.
“Playing 75 minutes the other night and 95 here tonight was important for me,” Lafferty said on Monday. “The manager [Neil] will see that I’m probably fit enough to play 30, 40 minutes. I will just go back and work my socks off in training and keep 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 go out on loan or stay and work even harder. I’m not going to throw the towel in now, 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.”
Leeds and Bolton are understood to be monitoring Lafferty’s situation and his Northern Ireland manager, Michael O’Neill, needs his talismanic striker match-fit.
First O’Neill must find a replacement for Lafferty against Greece in Belfast next month. The dramatic last seconds at Windsor Park mean Northern Ireland still top Group F and require two points from their games with Greece and Finland to reach France. But Lafferty, who has seven goals in eight qualifiers, is one of three players suspended for the Greece match. “We can win without Kyle,” said O’Neill, who will consider Josh Magennis, Kilmarnock’s muscular 25-year-old forward.
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