Kyle Lafferty’s former boss last night heaped praise on the Northern Ireland striker after he completed a dream move to Rangers.
The 20-year-old Fermanagh man finally signed a contract with the Teddy Bears yesterday after a long-running tussle with Old Firm rivals Celtic and Championship team Wolves.
Burnley have accepted a bid of £3 million for the 6ft 4in Lafferty, who will soon get a chance to play for his childhood heroes — as well as join up with Northern Ireland team-mate Steve Davis who joined the Glasgow giants earlier this year.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, George Beacom, manager of Bawnacre Leisure Centre in Irvinestown, where the forward worked for two years, said the news has helped put Fermanagh firmly on the sporting map.
“Kyle was with us on a placement during his last two years as a pupil at the Duke of Westminster High School,” he said; “He was a very popular trainee recreational attendant and put his energies into all aspects of running the centre during his time here. Myself and all the staff hold him in very high regard. We wish him all the success in the future.”
Mr Beacom said that the 15-times capped former NFC Kesh player had toyed with a career in recreation before he hit the big time.
“Kyle was thinking of working in sport, especially with children and youths who used the facilites at the leisure centre,” he said.
“That was before he got snapped up as a player. His recent move from Burnley to Rangers has put Fermanagh firmly on the sporting map and it’s an great example to a lot of young boys and girls that they can dream and aspire to achieving their goals in sport. When Kyle wasn’t working he was always practising his football skills in the main hall.”
In testament to his hard work, Bawnacre’s foyer boasts a display cabinet that sports an autographed copy of the international jersey worn by the Northern Ireland striker in the 2007 match in which he scored against Sweden, after he donated it to the leisure centre last Christmas.
Neil Jardine, IFA treasurer and secretary of the Fermanagh and Western League in which the young Kesh man played, said it was good to see another player from the area follow in the footsteps of Roy Carroll and Ivan Sproule.
“For years people from this area never seemed to get a chance but recently that has all changed. Another player has been recognised for his ability and it gives hope to other young players.
“They see what can be achieved if you have the ability and drive to push on. You can reach the highest standard in professional football, both nationally and internationally.”
NFC Kesh club chairman Trevor Horan said he believed that Lafferty — who was home to play in a charity game just two weeks ago — had made the right decision in going to Ibrox Park.
“It’s a good move for him in terms of his career, and hopefully everything will go well,” he said.
“Everyone in Kesh will be proud of Kyle no matter what he does from now on.”