Belfast Telegraph

Nigel tips Lafferty to stay at Burnley

By Paul Ferguson

Nigel Worthington has tipped his young hitman Kyle Lafferty to take the Premiership by storm - but only when he has finished his education at Burnley.

The Northern Ireland boss made it abundantly clear when he was appointed Lawrie Sanchez's successor on June 1 that he wanted as many of his players performing in the Premier League.

He has admitted though to being concerned when news filtered through that a number of Premier League clubs, including a Transfer deadline night bid of £3m from Lawrie Sanchez's Fulham, were interested in securing the 19-year-old's services before the transfer window slammed shut last Friday night.

Worthington is a massive admirer of Lafferty's talents - he selected him ahead of Warren Feeney for the vital European qualifying match against Liechtenstein and is expected to play the Burnley striker against Latvia on Saturday night - but believes the Kesh lad still has so much to learn before he should embark on cracking the Premier League.

Burnley boss Steve Cotterill was forced to reject two offers from Fulham and Worthington breathed a sigh of relief.

Former Norwich City chief Worthington, who will lead a training session this morning ahead of Saturday night's match in Riga, said yesterday: " Personally, as a former club manager, I support the fact Kyle will be staying in the Championship with Burnley.

"The jump to the Premier League at this stage of his career would have come too soon.

"He's still got so much too learn - Kyle will get an excellent education at Burnley, continue his development and get invaluable experience.

"Sometimes players his age take a big step far too early and they suffer because of that.

"He will reap the benefits from playing in the Championship, an extremely difficult league to play in and undoubtedly improve as a player."

Lafferty has emerged in the last year as the new Northern Ireland target man to partner goalscoring sensation David Healy.

His form dipped at the start of 2007 after being linked with Old Firm giants Celtic but he has worked immensely hard on his game and hit back with his first international goal at Windsor Park during Northern Ireland's 3-1 win over Liechtenstein last month.

Clarets and international team-mate Michael Duff is not at all surprised with the interest shown in Lafferty and reveals the Fermanagh teenager's hard work ethic is the reason he is in demand at such a young age.

Duff says: "You can see what it means to Kyle, he just wants it so much when he plays for either Burnley or Northern Ireland.

"His attitude is terrific, Kyle is always staying behind after training, working on his finishing with the (other) strikers at the club - Robbie Blake, Andy Gray and Ade Akinbiyi.

"Then he comes over to play for Northern Ireland and there is no better person to learn about finishing from than David Healy."

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