Belfast Telegraph

David Healy: Revitalised Kyle Lafferty has quality to be a huge hit for Northern Ireland at Euros

By David Healy

Kyle Lafferty could become a world star at the Euro 2016 finals.

He has had his ups and downs in his international career, but in France he could experience the greatest high of all.

Kyle had an injury worry earlier this week in training and while I know Michael O'Neill won't take any risks with any of his players, he will be desperate to get the big man out on the pitch because he is so important to the team.

I remember Kyle coming into the Northern Ireland set-up 10 years ago and he was a raw talent who had the capability to worry defences.

Two games stand out for me in the first part of his international career - away to Poland and away to Sweden, when he played really well against tough opposition.

Kyle will admit himself he probably didn't do that enough until Michael took over though even in Michael's first campaign Kyle wasn't performing as he should have been and I know the red card against Portugal in a World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park frustrated the manager.

There was a time after that sending off when people were wondering if Kyle Lafferty would play for Northern Ireland again.

Thankfully, prior to the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Michael had a good chat with Kyle and reminded him about his responsibilities to the shirt, the team and his team-mates and something appeared to click.

He scored the winner in the opening Euro qualifier against Hungary in Budapest and since then he has been consistent in his performances and dangerous in front of goal.

Scoring seven times in qualifying was fantastic. He didn't just do it at Windsor Park either. He hit the net in important games away from home.

His goal in Greece in the 2-0 win was fantastic. I think that was the goal where Northern Ireland fans started to think Lafferty would finally fulfil his potential.

When I was playing for Northern Ireland, I loved the responsibility of being the man expected to get goals.

And I believe Kyle feels the same way. He relishes the supporters and the other players looking to him to deliver in crucial moments and unless we qualify for the World Cup, the European Championships will be the biggest stage Kyle and the rest of the lads will play on.

Kyle loves the big internationals. I played with him at Rangers for around a year and you could see it then too.

For his sake, I just hope the twisted groin he suffered in training isn't bothering him too much because he is the type of striker who likes to do a lot of running. Kyle is not a forward who is all about being in the box. The way we play demands Kyle to work hard outside it too and that can be a lot tougher if you are carrying a knock.

An on-form and fit Kyle could take this tournament by storm. He has scored against Poland before and will fancy doing it again. And if you score in your first game in a tournament, your confidence soars and you believe you'll score in every game.

Michael also has other good strikers at his disposal. Josh Magennis will give you his all, Will Grigg is in fine scoring form and I really like Conor Washington.

I have a feeling he could shake up the opposition in France, while if Jamie Ward plays up front he can trouble defences too.

What a dream this must be for all the players to be at a major tournament.

I would have loved to have been in this position in my career and hope all the boys relish the experience.

They should feel 10 feet tall when they walk out against Poland and I truly believe that if we play like we can, we will get a positive result.

Belfast Telegraph