Belfast Telegraph

Billy Hamilton: 'Superman' Kyle Lafferty can be a hero at Euro 2016

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland great Billy Hamilton believes Kyle Lafferty will be a superhero for Michael O'Neill's men at the Euro 2016 finals.

Hamilton is confident that Lafferty can cope with the pressure of being Northern Ireland's main man in France and will flourish in the big tournament environment.

The Norwich City striker showed during qualifying when he scored seven goals that he can deliver for his country and now the hope among the Green and White Army is that he can take that form into the finals.

Hamilton, who scored at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, is backing the ex-Rangers star to shine.

"I think Kyle Lafferty will be Northern Ireland's key man," said Hamilton.

"Despite not playing regular club football for Norwich City and in recent years, every time he has put on a green shirt, he has turned into Superman.

"In my view he really dragged us through qualifying and scored an unbelievable number of goals.

"If Kyle is on form in France, I think we can do well as a team."

More: Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 France Finals: Everything the Green and White Army needs to know

Hamilton, though, is not totally convinced by playing two in attack for Northern Ireland's group games in France against Poland, Ukraine and Germany.

Manager O'Neill adopted that policy in Friday's 3-0 victory over Belarus in Belfast when Lafferty and Conor Washington were a joint strike force.

"I think it is interesting that Michael has played two up front in recent friendlies," said Hamilton, who once upon a time dovetailed superbly with Gerry Armstrong in a green shirt.

"I honestly think he'll start in France with Kyle as a lone striker, up front by himself, as was the case in qualifying.

"But the option is there to go with two up top if we go a goal behind.

"I don't think Kyle and Conor as a pair worked against Belarus.

"I don't think a partnership materialised between the two. They both got a goal but didn't link together, although that is something they can work on in training."

The Northern Ireland team are in Austria this week ahead of a friendly in Slovakia on Saturday before they go to France the following day.

"It's going to be a fantastic experience for all the players, the management team and the supporters who go out to watch the tournament," said Hamilton.

"Northern Ireland have done wonderfully well to get to France, but I know Michael O'Neill and all in the squad won't just be satisfied with that. They will be focused on making a real impact in the finals."

Belfast Telegraph