Belfast Telegraph

I've lost patience with Lafferty: World Cup hero backs Josh Magennis to start for Northern Ireland

Josh Magennis and Kyle Lafferty
Josh Magennis and Kyle Lafferty
Billy Hamilton
Main man: Josh Magennis would be Billy Hamilton’s pick to start up front for Northern Ireland’s crucial game in Estonia

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland's 1982 World Cup hero Billy Hamilton believes Josh Magennis is the man to fire Michael O'Neill's men closer to the Euro 2020 finals rather than Kyle Lafferty.

The big Fermanagh man has lost some of his magic touch in front of goal and a disappointing second spell at Rangers will not have bolstered his confidence.

The 31-year-old is expected to leave the Gers and, while his club career stalls, his international adventures aren't providing any relief. Lafferty has now gone 14 internationals and 634 minutes without a goal for Northern Ireland and his last strike was in the 4-0 victory over Azerbaijan at Windsor Park in November 2016.

Bolton Wanderers frontman Magennis is likely be given the lone striker's role against Estonia tomorrow after scoring the winner in March's qualifying victory over Belarus in Belfast.

And former Burnley and Oxford United striker Hamilton admits he's running out of patience with Lafferty, who has scored 20 goals in his 72 appearances for Northern Ireland.

"I'm afraid I have lost patience with Kyle," said Hamilton, who still regrets his side failing to qualify for the 1984 Euro finals in France, despite beating West Germany twice.

"I thought Josh did a great job for us against Belarus and was more a threat when he came on and, of course, scored the late winner.

"Kyle seems to right out to the wing and doesn't hold the ball up well enough for me. I think Josh deserves a starting place.

"The way we play, you need a centre forward who can hold the ball up. You must make the ball stick up front and I don't believe we have been doing that enough.

"We have midfielders and even defenders who can score goals but, especially in away games, we need someone who can use the ball wisely and hold it up. I think for that reason Josh might get the nod."

Lafferty's Rangers return hasn't gone according to plan and Hamilton believes that club frustration can dent a player's confidence.

"It's hard to adjust from reserve team football to international football for any player," added Hamilton, who featured in the 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

"The sharpness and quickness of thought isn't there when it's needed. Kyle has struggled that last few games, his goals have dried up and he's no longer the first name on the teamsheet.

"You can't always keep living off your past glories. You have to deliver in the present and I'm sure Michael will not make many wrong decisions."

Northern Ireland sit top of Group C with maximum points after two games, but with Netherlands and Germany up ahead, Hamilton believes this next double header against Estonia and Belarus are huge games.

"The teams will be gunning for revenge but we can be an organised team away from home," he added. "We have got top class defenders and it's essential for us to get points out of these two games to have any chance of getting out of the group."

O'Neill has been linked with the West Brom job and Hamilton admits he feared the former Shamrock Rovers chief would be tempted by an offer from the Championship club.

"When I heard the link I thought that might have been the opportunity Michael might have gone for," he added.

"If there was an offer there, he might have been tempted. It made sense with Chris Brunt being an established player he would have given Michael a glowing report."

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