Kyle Lafferty must push on after his frustrating spell: O'Neill
Published 27/02/2014 | 01:30
MICHAEL O'Neill wants to see Kyle Lafferty fire on all cylinders rather than frustrate over the next two years.
Striker Lafferty was out of sorts during the World Cup qualifying campaign, culminating in a stupid red card against Portugal in a 4-2 defeat at Windsor Park last September.
He has not played for his country since but, in fine form for Italian Serie B leaders Palermo at present, the former Burnley and Rangers ace has been given another chance to prove his worth at international level, starting next Wednesday against Cyprus in a friendly as preparation begins for the 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign.
Lafferty, who has scored nine times for Northern Ireland, will win his 37th cap. "Everyone knows Kyle's importance to the squad and by his own admission he didn't give us very much in the last campaign," said O'Neill, who spoke to the 26-year-old Fermanagh man earlier this week.
"He only started four games, didn't score for us and is at a stage where he has to give us more.
"He's at Palermo, who are top of Serie B in Italy. He's playing on a regular basis or coming off the bench and he's scored seven or eight goals this season. It has been a decent move for him and if he found himself playing in Serie A next year it would be fantastic for Kyle. We'd like to see that level reflected when he plays for us."
Lafferty has been linked with a move back to England or Scotland. O'Neill added if that was the player's ambition, then international football was the ideal shop window to make it happen.
Also returning to the squad are Barnsley's Paddy McCourt and Rangers ace Dean Shiels, who O'Neill believes dovetails well with Lafferty.