Kyle Lafferty dreams of reaching Euro 2012 finals
Kyle Lafferty isn’t listening to the doom merchants who laugh at Northern Ireland’s prospects of hitting the big time again.
Northern Ireland haven’t qualified for a major tournament since Mexico 1986 and there is no end to the frustration in sight.
But there is a fresh, optimistic outlook in Nigel Worthington’s camp as talented young prospects such as Corry Evans, Olly Norwood and Johnny Gorman emerge on the production line.
The Rangers’ hitman now believes Northern Ireland have the right blend of youth and experience to make it to Poland and Ukraine for the Euro 2012 finals.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow night’s friendly in Montenegro, Lafferty believes the years of hurt will come to an end.
“We definitely have what it takes to qualify for a major tournament,” said the 22-year-old.
“There are older heads and talented younger players in the squad and we have the right combination to achieve our target.
“The young lads like Corry and Olly can prove to Nigel they have a future in the international side and along with Jonny (Evans) they can show the manager just how good a player they are. This is a brilliant squad and I believe we can qualify and give the manager, players and especially the fans something to shout about.”
Lafferty is planning to explode into life for club and country as a new SPL season dawns this weekend and he has thanked Gers assistant boss Ally McCoist for his words of wisdom.
“Having Ally about at Rangers in the backroom staff has helped my development as a striker,” he added.
“You always learn from people like that who have a phenomenal goals tally.
“You need heart to wear the Rangers jersey and Ally still has that.
“His enthusiasm rubs off on everyone. All the coaching staff have been a big help to everyone.”
Lafferty is also expecting Neil Lennon’s Celtic to come out of the traps like a greyhound.
“I think Celtic will improve under Lenny,” he added.
“We will see a team with more fight and determination.
“They will put up a strong challenge.
“Neil Lennon brings that to any team.
“He’s a guy that hates losing. It will be tough but hopefully we can bring a few more players in before the transfer window closes to strengthen the squad.
“I wouldn’t say we are favourites as Celtic have spent a lot of money and signed good players.
“But we have shown that over the last two seasons we are capable of beating anyone.”
Before Lafferty prepares for another assault on the SPL, he is gearing up to shoot down Montenegro in Podgorica.
“I have been injured so this game should boost my fitness. Hopefully I can get 90 minutes under my belt and score goals,” he added.
“Montenegro will be a good, hard-working side. They’ll be well organised but it’s about how we perform.
“I’m getting fitter at Rangers. The lads have worked hard and we have got a good run under our belts.
“We went to Australia and everyone is geared up for the Champions League but Northern Ireland’s future also means a lot to me.”