When Northern Ireland entertain Norway at Windsor Park on Sunday night in World Cup qualifying Michael O’Neill’s men may again look to Kyle Lafferty for goalscoring inspiration.
The 29-year-old continues to lead the way for his country and has netted 20 times in 59 international appearances. Indeed, his form in helping Northern Ireland qualify for last summer’s European Championships was quite fantastic.
But what makes Lafferty’s contribution at international level so remarkable is the fact that his club career has completely stalled since leaving Rangers in 2012.
A couple of strange career decisions – joining Sion (Switzerland) and then Palermo (Italy) – didn’t seem to help the towering striker. And there was also a short, unsuccessful loan spell in Turkish football.
Lafferty is currently contacted to Norwich City, who he joined in 2014. But he has failed to ever establish himself at Carrow Road, scoring a paltry two league goals in 31 appearances. And a brief loan stint with Birmingham City last year didn’t exactly work out either.
There remains no doubt that Lafferty, who began his career with Burnley, has ability, that usually rears its head on the international scene. However, several disciplinary issues have plagued Lafferty’s career, with Palermo’s controversial president Maurizio Zamperini once famously calling the Ulsterman ‘an out of control womaniser’ after Lafferty was voted the Fans’ Player of the Year having helped the Pink-Blacks win promotion to Serie A.
Domestically though, Lafferty’s career has been at a standstill for some time. Whether he can ever find another club to settle at remains to be seen. He turns 30 in September, so time is not on his side.
Yet, O’Neill seems to know exactly how to handle his centre-forward, and has a knack for getting the best out of the striker who nobody seems to want in club football. And it will come as no surprise if Lafferty is again on the scoresheet, albeit starting from the bench, as Northern Ireland attempt to rubber stamp their second place position by beating Lars Lagerback’s new charges in World Cup qualifying Group C.
Kevin O’Neill, Pundit Arena