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An in-form and happy Lafferty is just what Northern Ireland need: O'Neill

 

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Raring to go: Kyle Lafferty got his dream return to Rangers and that can only benefit Northern Ireland says Michael O’Neill

Raring to go: Kyle Lafferty got his dream return to Rangers and that can only benefit Northern Ireland says Michael O’Neill

Raring to go: Kyle Lafferty got his dream return to Rangers and that can only benefit Northern Ireland says Michael O’Neill

Michael O'Neill wants Kyle Lafferty's dream move to Rangers to inspire the striker to lead Northern Ireland to the Euro 2020 finals.

Lafferty was outstanding in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, netting seven times as O'Neill's men made it to France.

Viewed as Northern Ireland's number one striker then, the Fermanagh man was in and out of the starting XI in the 2018 World Cup campaign, which ended at the play-off stage, yet he still managed to be joint top scorer with Josh Magennis on three goals.

O'Neill knows all too well that when Lafferty is in form and firing his team are a much more dangerous outfit and feels that the transfer from Hearts, where the 30-year-old scored 19 goals last season, to Rangers could prove beneficial for both the Ibrox club and country.

"We want the Kyle that was a big part of propelling us to Euro 2016, that's what we want and what Rangers want as well," said O'Neill.

"The squad's always a brighter place when Kyle's in it. It's testament to him that he managed to rebuild things in the space of 12 months from not being an automatic starter for us or playing club football and now he's got a move that he really wanted."

O'Neill added that Lafferty will thrive under Rangers boss Steven Gerrard stating it is the ideal time for the forward to return to the club he supported as a boy six years after leaving because his head is in such a good place thanks to the arrival of a new baby with wife Vanessa and his fine form on the pitch.

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"The most important thing for me is the happiness of the player and he's delighted with the move," said O'Neill.

"Everyone seems happy with the move - Hearts are happy with their end and Rangers made it clear over a number of weeks they wanted to get him in.

"For me, it's about Kyle coming to the international squad in the right frame of mind and having gone to Rangers that will certainly be the case.

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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Rangers Kyle Lafferty during the pre-match warm up prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off / Credit: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers Kyle Lafferty during the pre-match warm up prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off / Credit: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers makes his second debut during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers makes his second debut during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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Kyle Lafferty of Rangers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Kyle Lafferty of Rangers. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen during the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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Rangers Kyle Lafferty is shown a yellow card by referee Daniel Stefanski after a challenge on FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers Kyle Lafferty is shown a yellow card by referee Daniel Stefanski after a challenge on FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Kyle Lafferty (right) collides with FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty (right) collides with FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Kyle Lafferty (right) collides with FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty (right) collides with FC Ufa's Jemal Tabidze during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers Kyle Lafferty during the pre-match warm up prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers Kyle Lafferty during the pre-match warm up prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Getty Images

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

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Rangers Kyle Lafferty arrives at the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers Kyle Lafferty arrives at the stadium prior to the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Jon Flanagan and FC Ufa's Ivan Oblyakov battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Jon Flanagan and FC Ufa's Ivan Oblyakov battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Connor Goldson (centre) celebrates with Nikola Katic after scoring his sides opening goal during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Connor Goldson (centre) celebrates with Nikola Katic after scoring his sides opening goal during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Alfredo Morelos heads the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Alfredo Morelos heads the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangerss Ryan Kent and FC Ufa's Dmitriy Zhivoglyadov battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangerss Ryan Kent and FC Ufa's Dmitriy Zhivoglyadov battle for the ball during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Rangers' Connor Goldson celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

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GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 23: Kyle Lafferty of Rangers is seen prior to the first leg of the UEFA Europa League Play Off match between Rangers and FC Ufa at Ibrox Stadium on August 23, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

"He's had a new baby so everything's falling into place and he's coming off the back of a very strong season, having virtually played no first-team football for three years.

"Last season was great. There was a real hunger in his play at Hearts and he had great focus so he just needs to bring to Rangers what he brought to Hearts and I'm sure he'll be a huge success.

"The club he is at is where he wants to be, he never played for me as a Rangers player but in his previous stint there were some very high points and some low points but this is a fresh start for him.

"There's a whole new management model and whole new ownership model and he's going to Rangers at the right time.

"Living in Scotland I've seen the excitement around the appointment of Steven Gerrard as Rangers manager and that strong start.

"I have had conversations with (Rangers assistant manager) Gary McAllister, who I know well, regarding Kyle and you can tell that they felt he was a good fit and I don't think it would have been too difficult to sell it to him."

Lafferty is one of six strikers named in O'Neill's 25-man squad for the September 8 UEFA Nations League clash at home to Bosnia & Herzegovina and the friendly three days later against Israel at Windsor Park.

Will Grigg is back after a two-year absence and O'Neill is pleased he has hit the ground running with goals for Wigan in the Championship this season. Ditto Josh Magennis at Bolton and Liam Boyce with League One Burton Albion.

"I've been in constant contact with Will and he's started the season really well. He's in good form. It's a step up into the Championship after he performed well in League One last season and I'm looking forward to having him back in," said O'Neill.

NORTHERN IRELAND SQUAD (v Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel): Michael McGovern (Norwich City), Trevor Carson (Motherwell), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (Leeds United); Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (Leicester City), Aaron Hughes (Hearts), Gareth McAuley (unattached), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Paddy McNair (Middlesborough), Michael Smith (Hearts), Jamal Lewis (Norwich City); Steven Davis (Southampton), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Cory Evans (Blackburn), Shane Ferguson (Millwall), George Saville (Millwall), Jordan Jones (Kilmarnock), Oliver Norwood (Sheffield United; Kyle Lafferty (Rangers), Liam Boyce (Burton), Josh Magennis (Bolton Wanderers), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Conor Washington (Queen's Park Rangers), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest).


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