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Lafferty looks to star for Rangers

By Graham Luney

Not for the first time in his colourful and controversial career, it is payback time for Kyle Lafferty.

The Kesh man has to convince Rangers boss Walter Smith he belongs on the Ibrox stage and Sunday’s Old Firm showdown is a golden opportunity to win over a sceptical manager.

The Northern Ireland international is his own worst enemy at times, with his latest mishap being a broken finger as he fooled around exiting the team bus.

His latest moment of madness resulted in a five-week spell on the sidelines nursing his finger and wounded pride — and all at a time when his army of critics is growing.

No-one has ever questioned Lafferty’s ability to put the ball in the back of the net, but his behaviour on and off the park has seriously curtailed his progress.

The broken finger denied Lafferty a chance to take on Manchester United in the Champions League — a harsh punishment for his crime but he should be consumed with regret.

And the former Burnley striker should now have a fresh burning desire to floor Celtic at Ibrox on Sunday and silence some of his doubters.

It’s time for the 23-year-old to make the headlines on the pitch by performing the way Northern Ireland fans know he can — when his mind’s on the job.

“It was down to me messing about,” Lafferty said. “I know I’ve got to start cutting that out and concentrate on my football. If I can forget the messing about and the horseplay I can end the season on a high.

“There’s a lot of jokers in the team. But there’s a time to do it and a time when you can only be focused on the football.

“I’m still developing as a person and a footballer. What happened on the morning of the Man United game was another harsh lesson. Hopefully I can now let my football do the talking. The gaffer’s been great with me. Yes, he was extremely unhappy at the time. But he knew that I regretted it and since then he’s backed me.

“Now it’s about paying him back and I’d love to be involved in the big one against Celtic.”

With four goals to his name this season, Lafferty knows there is a lot more to come from him.

He added: “The cast has been off my hand for the last two weeks. I am trying to get it moving again and testing it in contact training. I’m determined to carry on where I left off at Kilmarnock in my last game. I felt I played well that day and made a big contribution to our win.

“In fact, I feel I’ve had a good first half of the season. That’s what made my stupid injury all the more frustrating.”

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