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Rangers star Lafferty can’t win after ‘cheat’ row

By Mark McIntosh

While Steven Davis is being tipped to land the Scottish Player of the Year gong at the end of the season and Andy Little opened his Ibrox goal-scoring account two weeks ago, the Northern Ireland contingent at Rangers are flying high.

Sitting proudly at the top of the table, not even Robbie Keane’s arrival across the city at Celtic could wipe the smile from the blue faces.

Spare a thought, however, for Kyle Lafferty.

The much-maligned Northern Ireland striker is the man they love to hate in Scotland — much the way Neil Lennon was public enemy number one when he was strutting his stuff at Parkhead.

Lafferty hasn’t helped himself of course. His ridiculous dive to get Aberdeen’s Charlie Mulgrew sent off at the end of last season was foolish to the extreme but he’s done the time for his obvious crime.

He is more aware than anyone else that he will be booed and heckled everywhere he goes from now on, regardless of what he achieves for the remainder of his Rangers career.

Will that bother him? Not a bit. More worryingly however, is the stick he is receiving from former players and a section of his own fans.

Sky Sports pundit and former Celtic striker, Charlie Nicholas, has become his biggest critic this season.

A rash, mis-timed challenge on Andreas Hinkel in the last Old Firm caused uproar in the studio and the Bhoys bench.

Was it worthy of such a fuss though? Not a chance. There was no injury to Hinkel and it was a typical challenge from an awkward front man.

Kyle is certainly not alone there. But had it been Kris Boyd or Kenny Miller there would never have been another word about it.

The simple reason is because they don’t have the baggage of a so-called cheat and they are scoring goals.

Lafferty has shown his true quality in glimpses in his 18 months in the SPL but playing on the left wing will never bring the best out in him.

Boyd’s injury has given him the chance to prove his critics wrong in a central role but unfortunately there seems to be an agenda against praising the Kesh man.

His faults are blown up — and out of proportion — but we never read what he does well.

His terrific through-ball with the outside of his boot to international team-mate, Davis, to set up the midfielder’s first goal of the season against St Mirren last month was sublime. He then had a hand in another goal at the weekend against Falkirk but you won’t read about that.

Too many people have already made their minds up about the 22-year old.

Thankfully, Walter Smith and his Gers team-mates are fully behind him, none more so than Davis.

Lafferty will start tonight’s Co-Operative Insurance Cup semi-final against St Johnstone knowing he is fighting for his future at Rangers.

He’ll never please everyone all of the time, but his own fans would be a start — the rest are insignificant.

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