Belfast Telegraph

Slovenia v Northern Ireland: Give Kyle Lafferty a break, Steven Davis tells critics

By Graham Luney

Steven Davis has told Kyle Lafferty’s critics to shut it and accept that the striker has got a future at Ibrox.

A loan move to Blackpool collapsed on transfer deadline day, keeping the Kesh man in the Scottish Premier League where his career has been dogged by controversy.

Flashes of indiscipline have upset his club boss Walter Smith and Northern Ireland chief Nigel Worthington who wants Lafferty to hit the headlines for the right reasons.

But his Rangers team-mate Davis says Lafferty has got a future at Ibrox and he’s delighted the 22-year-old is going nowhere.

“I think he (Lafferty) has been unfairly criticised or pilloried at times,” said the Cullybackey man. “He has become a bit of a target.

“That’s possibly because of things he has done, most of the time because of a lack of experience.

“He is still young though and people forget that. He is only 22-years-old so he is still maturing as a person and a player.

“He got a move to Rangers at a very young age and it was a big move for him.

“Things get scrutinised in the Old Firm, but Kyle is young and I hope he proves the critics wrong.

“Kyle knows what he has to work on and he also knows there comes a time when you have to learn from past actions.

“Hopefully those things are behind him now and he can move on. He is my mate, I get on with him and I know he has the qualities to be a really good player.

“I would have been surprised if the manager (Walter Smith) had let Kyle go to Blackpool.

“His Rangers career is not over. I’m pleased he’s staying and he still has all the attributes to be a top player.

“Once his confidence returns, he can have a terrific career.”

Worthington experimented with Lafferty as a lone frontman in the Montenegro friendly but the plan backfired as Northern Ireland slumped to a 2-0 defeat.

The former Norwich City chief may play Warren Feeney alongside Lafferty in attack against Slovenia tomorrow night — depending on how brave he is feeling over his corn flakes.

Davis feels Worthington has to experiment — even at this stage — and he would not wish to pile too much pressure on the shoulders of any player.

“I’m not going to say Kyle can be number one for Rangers and Northern Ireland,” he added. “I would never put that kind of pressure on any one player’s shoulders.

“Kyle was frustrated in Montenegro but all the players were.

“It was a frustrating night for everyone.

“No one player will win or lose games for Northern Ireland — it has to be a real team effort.

“We’ve seen Kyle at his best, like in Poland, but we just hope he can reproduce that form on a more consistent basis.”

Northern Ireland are slow starters in qualifying campaigns and no-one wants to be playing catch-up again.

While the negative stats say no win in 10 and no goals in seven, the more positive figures are one defeat in seven qualifiers and unbeaten in three away qualifiers.

“We have to be positive,” added Davis. “Our competitive form has been good.

“It's important we are hard to beat in this campaign, particularly away from home.

“You can over-analyse the stats sometimes.

“Overall, we will take a lot of positives from the last campaign and our form in qualifiers.

“It's important we build on that form going into the Euro 2012 campaign.

“We don't want to be playing catch-up in the group and it's important we get a good start.

“You can do all the talking you like about that, but we have to put words into action.

“It is an uphill battle if we start slowly in the group. If we want to give ourselves a chance of reaching the finals, we need to secure some points from the word go.

“We are 100 per cent focused and committed to making an early impression in the group.”

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