Belfast Telegraph

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty will be offered a peace deal for November Northern Ireland return

 

By Steven Beacom

Kyle Lafferty could return to play for Northern Ireland against the Republic of Ireland next month despite the Irish FA blocking the striker from featuring for Rangers against Hamilton in the Scottish Premiership this weekend.

Following Lafferty's late withdrawal from the squad for the Nations League games against Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina, the IFA yesterday confirmed the Belfast Telegraph story that they had invoked FIFA's five day rule on the Gers striker which prevents a player who has pulled out of international duty from playing for his club for five days after the end of the international window.

It has been suggested that Lafferty was nursing an Achilles problem but ringing O'Neill around midnight before the squad was due to meet up the following day to travel to an Austrian training camp was deemed unacceptable behaviour by the powers that be at Windsor Park. The IFA's big hitters, fully supported and approved by O'Neill, felt they had no option but to take the stand as it sends a message to all players, regardless of their status, that they can't treat the manager and team-mates in this manner.

The controversy, which left O'Neill fuming, cast a cloud over the Nations League defeats in Austria and Bosnia, but it does not mean the end of Lafferty's international career.

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O'Neill is set to hold talks with the 31-year old and will also speak about the situation to the management team at Rangers - he has a strong relationship with Steven Gerrard's No.2 Gary McAllister.

The Northern Ireland boss is not closing the door on the Fermanagh man, who has scored 20 goals at international level, and if the situation can be sorted out to O'Neill's liking, Lafferty could return for the eagerly anticipated November 15 friendly in Dublin against Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland.

If Lafferty were to be brought back into the fold then and scored the winner at the Aviva Stadium, he would win over those fans disappointed by his withdrawal for the trips to Vienna and Sarajevo.

On November 18, Northern Ireland play Austria at Windsor Park in their final game of the Nations League campaign, with the group draw for the Euro 2020 qualifiers taking place in December before the tournament then kicks-off in March.

Lafferty has a proven track record at the highest level and, with Northern Ireland struggling to score goals, especially away from home, O'Neill knows he could do with the former Hearts star on board but only if the player is committed to the cause.

Rangers, who received an email from the IFA on Tuesday informing them Fifa's rule had been invoked, refused to comment on the issue, though boss Gerrard will be asked about it this week at his press conference ahead of the Hamilton fixture.

An IFA statement, which was released yesterday afternoon, said: "The Irish FA has written to Rangers FC regarding Kyle Lafferty who was selected in the Northern Ireland squad for the Uefa Nations League matches against Austria and Bosnia & Herzegovina on 12 and 15 October 2018 respectively.

"As the player did not comply with the Association's call up, the player is in breach and as a result, the Association is invoking the Fifa regulation (Fifa Regulations for the status and transfer of players, Annexe 1, Section 5).

"This states that 'the player is not entitled to play for the club with which he is registered during the period for which he has been released or should have been released pursuant to the provisions of this annexe.

'This restriction on playing for the club shall, moreover, be prolonged by five days in the event that the player, for whatsoever reason, did not wish to or was unable to comply with the call-up.'"

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