Belfast Telegraph

Lafferty has got to start playing to be at his best

By Steven Beacom

Michael O'Neill can't pick the Norwich City team, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if he did Kyle Lafferty would be in it.

Sadly for both Kyle and Michael, the Canaries boss Alex Neil doesn't feel the same way.

He hasn't picked Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 talisman to start a single game this season.

And even when the Kesh man scored a fine goal after coming off the bench against West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup he still couldn't get into the starting line up for the next game.

When it comes to international games though Lafferty's name is the first on the team sheet and with Leeds United interested in taking him on loan, O'Neill is now hoping that his main striker can get some time on the pitch at club level in the build up to next summer's European finals in France.

"I've had absolutely no involvement in that at all, the most important thing for me is that Kyle gets playing," said O'Neill.

"It's a hard situation for him. It's November now and he hasn't started a game for his club. That's not an easy situation to deal with.

"There's no secret and he knows it himself: to be at his best he needs to be playing.

"That applies to any player. I know that personally. There were times I played internationally when I wasn't playing for my club and it's a very difficult situation for a player to find themselves in."

Even in a green shirt Lafferty's time on the pitch was limited last night when he was only able to last 54 minutes of Northern Ireland's 1-0 win over Latvia at Windsor Park.

"He played with a bit of an upset stomach but I thought he did well," said O'Neill.

"He didn't feel great at half-time, but he wanted to give it a go in the second half but we had to withdraw him.

"I thought he did extremely well given the circumstances."

Loyal fans to be rewarded with Euro tickets priority

Good to see the Irish FA confirm a Belfast Telegraph story earlier this month that loyal Northern Ireland supporters will be given priority when it comes to the allocation of tickets for Euro 2016.

In the programme for last night's friendly with Latvia, there was a section devoted to tickets for next year's finals.

In the piece it stated: "For fans we will be using a priority scheme based on ticket purchases so that ticket allocations are as fair as possible."

The article added that the IFA would not know specific allocations until after the December 12 group draw for Euro 2016, but suffice to say the plan is to reward the supporters who have been attending Northern Ireland games and watching Steven Davis and co on a regular basis, both home and away, over recent years. If they didn't they would have serious questions to answer.

Belfast Telegraph