Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's Lafferty in the mix for Windsor battle after late call

By Connor McLaughlin

Michael O'Neill yesterday called Daniel Lafferty into the squad for Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifier with Norway on Sunday. The Sheffield United full-back has won 13 caps since making his international debut in June 2012 but missed out on O'Neill's 23-man panel for the European Championship finals in France last summer.

Lafferty has, however, netted three times in 32 appearances for the Blades this season - form which has earned the former Burnley man the recall he had yearned for.

"Trying to get into the Northern Ireland squad is as hard as it has ever been," he said recently.

"If playing at United and regularly performing well merited a call-up then it would be fantastic.

"We are playing some nice attractive football, we are scoring goals and have got some very good players at United."

Northern Ireland boss O'Neill had originally put Lafferty on standby for Sunday's Windsor Park encounter, citing consciousness of the 27-year-old's club commitments, before formally inviting him to join up with the squad yesterday.

"We watched Daniel a couple of weeks ago against Bolton," explained O'Neill.

"He's very much in the equation, but we left him on standby.

"For players at that level of football, they have to miss their club games, so I don't want to bring them for the sake of bringing them along. If they come, I want them to have a real opportunity to push to start."

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder - whose side's SkyBet League One trip to Oldham at the weekend could well be off regardless after a video emerged on social media of a heavily waterlogged playing surface at SportsDirect.com Park - said: "Obviously, we are disappointed that he will miss Saturday's game but it is a great opportunity for him to stake a claim at international level once again."

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