Lafferty bids to leave mark on record books
Under Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty is a man on a mission in Tirana.
The Kesh-born hitman has come in for heavy criticism this season for some inept performances in a Rangers shirt and for the fact he has only scored two goals.
The 22-year-old was also involved in a controversial scuffle with Scott Brown during Sunday’s Old Firm clash which led to the Celtic captain being shown a straight red card.
But after touching down in Albania yesterday ahead of tomorrow night’s friendly, the 22-year-old promised to silence his critics and make headlines for all the right reasons by playing a greater role in Rangers’ bid for a domestic treble.
He has also set himself the target of becoming Northern Ireland’s second greatest goalscorer of all-time!
Lafferty, who is expected to partner David Healy in attack in the Qemal Stafa Stadium stadium, is currently on seven goals and is now chasing down Colin Clarke and Billy Gillespie who both registered 13 goals during their international careers.
“It’s been a tough season for me but I think I’ve grown in confidence over the last month,” admits Lafferty.
“I haven’t scored as many goals as I would like to and obviously I would love to find the back of the net more often, but as long as I’m making a contribution to the team and the team are winning then that’s all that matters.
“Even though it has been difficult I am actually enjoying playing for one of the biggest teams in Britain.
“I thought I did okay against Celtic in the first half and then was a lot better in the second half.
“I know that I can improve a great deal and that’s what I’m constantly working on.
“I want to give the team so much more and will always strive to do that as we go for all three trophies.
“After the Old Firm derby on Sunday my attention turned straight to the friendly against Albania. I want to play a big role in the game and it would be great to score another goal for my country.
“I’m not too far off the guys in second place in the all-time leading goalscorers charts — that’s what I am chasing at the minute.
“I want to be second behind David in those charts.
“That is a great incentive for me against Albania and in every match I play for my country.
“I’m always going to get chances because this team creates so many opportunities. It’s up to me to take them and I’m confident I can do that.
“The Rangers pressure is off me when I’m with Northern Ireland so I’m determined to get back on the goal trail this week,” added Lafferty, who last scored for his country against Poland six months ago.
Lafferty concedes that he knows nothing about the Albanians, except that they are ranked 97th in the world and have recorded decent results against Sweden, Denmark, Portugal and Cyprus recently.
However on past experiences against sides in eastern Europe, especially in their own backyard, he is anticipating a stubborn and formidable challenge from Albania.
Northern Ireland have an appalling away record in all competition — winning just three matches since August 2004.
Lafferty is determined to help Northern Ireland improve that statistic.
“We want to win every game we play whether it’s a friendly or qualifier because we’re representing our country,” insists Lafferty.
“Boss Nigel Worthington is brilliant in his preparation for each game and he’ll have every player up for this match even though most of us don’t know too much about the opposition.
“We never want to let him or the fans down so we’ll definitely be going out to put on a really good performance.
“They’ll give us a really tough game — that’s what we’ll be expecting and we have to make sure we have an answer for them.”