Belfast Telegraph

Kyle Lafferty's Swiss role

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty's first season in Switzerland has been eventful.

The big centre-forward has become a favourite with the fans at Sion FC, scored a few goals, suffered niggly injuries and worked under several coaches, including the latest to take over – Italian legend Gennaro Gattuso.

The former AC Milan midfielder took charge of Sion in February becoming the SIXTH coach of the club in the last year.

Even Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich would find it hard to keep up with that turnover which makes you question how long the volatile Gattuso will last as boss.

Lafferty hopes he'll be around for a while believing the 2006 World Cup winner can help him develop as a footballer.

"As a player he was fantastic and I'm sure he can be the same as a coach," says Lafferty, who left Rangers last summer to start a new challenge and life in Switzerland.

"The boss won everything when he was playing, the World Cup, the Champions League ... and to have him as the coach will help me improve as a player."

Lafferty's departure from Ibrox, though controversial in the eyes of current Rangers chief executive Charles Green, was always going to happen given the financial strife at the club.

Many though were surprised by his choice of destination, especially with Championship outfits in England interested in signing the 25-year-old from Fermanagh.

The former Burnley forward insists that he is glad to have opted for Switzerland.

"Life is really different here, especially after five years in Glasgow," he says.

"I needed a change, it's as simple as that. When Sion's offer came, I did not hesitate and I do not regret my choice.

"The quality of life in Switzerland is brilliant and the weather is incredible; it's always sunny!

"I am proud to be a Sion player. Before joining Rangers I played in the English Championship with Burnley and maybe I will go back to the UK one day, but I feel good here.

"Our fans are incredible. It does not matter the way we play, they are always behind us. That helps the players on the pitch, believe me."

Just like when he played for Rangers, Lafferty had been hoping to fight for the title in his new surroundings, but Sion, knocked out of the Swiss Cup semi-final's by Basle in midweek, have underachieved in the league.

They are in fourth position at present, 15 points behind leaders Basle with the campaign climaxing in early June.

Lafferty says: "We're a bit disappointed with the way things turned out. With the team that we have, we should be battling for the title. That's why I came here. I left Rangers, where I won medals and scored a lot of goals, to win titles.

"In terms of comparing the SPL with the Swiss Super League, before the relegation of Rangers, only two teams were able to fight for the title and do something in Europe. Here in Switzerland, there are six or seven teams who can fight for the top places. The championship is tighter and I think better.

"Players here are more aggressive and, simply, better than in Scotland. The game is harder here."

While enjoying his time in Switzerland, Lafferty knows he won't be going to Brazil next summer for the 2014 World Cup finals with Northern Ireland.

The Kesh native was suspended for the 2-0 defeat to Israel last month in Group F which extended Northern Ireland's long winless run to 13 games.

He is set to return to the qualifying campaign, however, for the rearranged game against Russia in August.

Lafferty, who says countryman and ex-Rangers team-mate Steve Davis is the best player he has ever played with, insists that Northern Ireland must find consistency if the nation is to once again reach the finals of a major competition.

"We won't be going to Brazil in 2014. I have only two or three chances left to qualify, but why not in the future?" he says.

"We have quality in our squad but our huge problem is consistency.

"We drew in Portugal last year, we beat Spain in 2006 and we've also beaten England, Sweden and Denmark. We're able to do that, but then, we draw at home against the likes of Azerbaïjan and Luxembourg. That's really hard to accept.

"We need to raise our level against these countries. If not, then we'll never reach the finals of an international competition," the man from the Lakeland county adds with typical candour.

Belfast Telegraph


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