Belfast Telegraph

Apologetic Kyle Lafferty won't be ignored by Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill has revealed that he has had a heart-to-heart with an "apologetic" Kyle Lafferty and will pick him again if the player learns to stop letting his Northern Ireland team-mates down.

While on Friday night, after the 4-2 defeat to Portugal, O'Neill said he had sympathy for Chris Brunt who was sent-off for two bookable offences, he ripped into Lafferty labelling his red card tackle as "reckless and ridiculous."

It was the first time as Northern Ireland boss O'Neill had criticised an individual in such harsh terms.

Brunt is suspended for tonight's World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg. So too is Lafferty and O'Neill feels the former Rangers player may now be absent for trips to Azerbaijan and Israel next month if Fifa come down hard on him.

Lafferty has already missed too many internationals through injury or suspension frustrating the fans, his pals in the dressing room and the boss.

O'Neill said: "I had a good conversation with Kyle on Saturday. He was very apologetic. He recognised that most importantly he had let his team-mates down.

"I would never say that I would wash my hands off him or anything like that and at the end of the day he is still someone who potentially could be a big player for us and an asset to the squad, but at this moment in time he is not giving us very much. He knows that himself and he needs to address it.

"He recognised the tackle was a stupid tackle and he recognised that despite starting the campaign well he has contributed very little since and will contribute very little for the rest of the campaign.

"He realises that he has to address that, not only for me, but whoever is in charge of the team and also the lads that he plays alongside.

"The reality is that he misses the Luxembourg game with suspension and it wouldn't surprise me if he misses the last two games with suspension as well with the sanctions. We'll look at the situation again after that."

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