Belfast Telegraph

Fired-up Kyle Lafferty has double vision

By Steven Beacom

Kyle Lafferty has revealed his burning desire to deliver the goods for CLUB and country in the weeks and months ahead.

Frozen out at Norwich City, it seemed Lafferty's only football until next season would be with Northern Ireland but Thursday's loan switch to Birmingham City until the end of the campaign has changed that.

The 28-year-old striker suddenly has more than the Euro 2016 finals to dream about - the switch from East Anglia to the Midlands means he is also targeting promotion to the Premier League with his new club and potentially a permanent transfer to Birmingham.

Lafferty has hardly had any game time for Norwich this term, but plans on bringing that frustration to an end at Birmingham in their remaining Championship games this season.

Gary Rowett's side are ninth in the table, six points adrift of a play-off spot and as Lafferty points out, moving to St Andrews means he has plenty to look forward to.

"This is an exciting time for me having secured a loan move to Birmingham for the rest of the season," said the Fermanagh man, who played for Northern Ireland in their 1-1 friendly draw against Wales in Cardiff earlier this week.

"I think they are six points away from the play-off places with a game in hand so that gives everyone at the club something to fight for and it's good going to a team like that who really have a lot to play for.

"I would have liked a move before this stage in the season but that didn't happen.

"I want to play games to get myself prepared for the Euro finals in France and when the chance came to go to Birmingham I jumped at it.

"Birmingham are a massive club and having played against them in the past I know how amazing their fans are.

"It's a move that suits both parties. It gives me a chance to go there and play games and hopefully I can help them push for a promotion spot. I'll go there aiming to score goals, get fit and help them climb up the table.

"I can't wait to play club football again. I've missed game time all season so every time I play I'm really excited.

"I was disappointed that I wasn't given a chance to play at Norwich but obviously the manager (Alex Neil) has his reasons for it but now I'm a Birmingham City player and will give 110% in every game and hopefully come the end of the season we will be involved in the play-offs."

Lafferty featured for 81 minutes in Thursday's draw with Wales and wants more action at home to Slovenia on Monday night in Northern Ireland's second friendly of the year.

"For someone who hasn't played much football I actually felt good. I've been working hard on the training ground as I looked towards France and that showed against Wales," said Lafferty.

"From a personal point of view to get 80 minutes under my belt was good and hopefully there will be more against Slovenia. As a team we were disappointed not to win the game in Wales, although the result wasn't the most important thing as we were trying out new formations."

In the first-half Lafferty was joined in attack by debutant Conor Washington.

They operated as a forward pairing in a 3-5-2 system, before manager Michael O'Neill replaced QPR hitman Washington at half-time in a tactical switch to go 4-3-3 which turned into 4-5-1 when the team were defending.

"Playing up front with Conor for the first time I think it worked well at times. We have understood each other's movement and there are other parts of the game that we can work on," said former Rangers ace Lafferty, who scored seven goals in Northern Ireland's successful Euro qualifying campaign.

"Conor is a good player. We have trained twice together and linked up well and formed a decent little partnership. It is up to Michael whether he wants to go with one striker or two strikers but there are places to fight for and all the strikers will be doing that.

"What I did in the qualifiers doesn't mean I am going to start. I still have to give my all and show Michael I am still hungry and am the right man to lead the line when the first game comes in France."

Next up for Lafferty, Washington and the rest is that game against Slovenia on Monday at Windsor Park when the Euro heroes can create history by becoming the first Northern Ireland team to go 10 games in a row unbeaten.

Lafferty said: "Michael said in the dressing room after the Welsh game that we had equalled the record. For us we want to go out and win as many games as possible and prepare ourselves properly for France."

Belfast Telegraph