Belfast Telegraph

For now, Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty has to stay at Norwich City

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty will see out the year at Norwich City with a decision on his future at Carrow Road deferred until January.

Leeds United boss Steve Evans had wanted to sign the striker on a temporary basis ahead of next week's emergency loan deadline, but that move has been rejected by Norwich manager Alex Neil.

Prior to Northern Ireland's 1-0 victory over Latvia earlier this month, Lafferty stated that he wanted to be in his 'best shape ever' for the Euro 2016 finals, admitting he needed to be playing club games to be at peak fitness.

Unfortunately, despite his heroics at international level, he has rarely had the chance to shine for the Canaries, who are away to Jose Mourinho's Chelsea in the Premier League today.

On too many occasions for the liking of Northern Ireland fans and manager Michael O'Neill, Lafferty hasn't even made the bench this term. Even so, Neil is adamant that the former Rangers ace is staying at Norwich - for now.

"I told Steve (Evans) he is not going. There will be no more players going out on loan or leaving the club in any shape or form until January," said Neil.

"I haven't had to speak to Kyle. He knows the situation.

"I have spoken to him on numerous occasions and he is fully aware of the situation he is in. He was on the bench in the last game so that hasn't changed. This is a crucial period and my squad is settled.

"We have done our business in terms of letting lads out on loan. No-one will be leaving here. When we get to January then we can sit down and look at it again."

Meanwhile, Lafferty's international team-mate Corry Evans has signed a new contract at Blackburn, keeping him at the club until 2019. He said: "I'm looking forward to playing here for the next three and a half years."

O'Neill's men may face the Scots and Poles in friendlies

Northern Ireland will play a minimum of four friendlies next year before the Euro 2016 finals... and Scotland and Poland could be amongst the opposition.

The Irish FA won't finalise any of their warm-up games until after the December 12 group stages draw in Paris, but they are doing groundwork to make sure the organisation of games is as smooth as possible.

Scotland and Poland are in the mix, though if Northern Ireland draw the Poles in France, Michael O'Neill may not be keen to face Robert Lewandowski and co before the tournament.

Scotland were the last team to beat Northern Ireland, in March.

Meanwhile, earlier this week we told you Republic of Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane was coming to the Armagh City Hotel for a charity gala night on February 4. You can purchase tickets at Skelton Travel in Lurgan, telephone 028 38 324741.

Belfast Telegraph