Kyle Lafferty targets 'ideal' move back to Hearts as striker beaks silence on Rangers exit
Kyle Lafferty has broken his silence on his premature Rangers exit, admitting that he'd now love to return to former club Hearts.
Just 12 months after the Northern Ireland striker swapped Tynecastle for Ibrox, Lafferty is targeting a move back to the Scottish capital.
The Kesh man's Rangers contract, which had a year left to run, was cancelled by mutual consent.
He was linked to a move abroad, with the likes of Cypriot rivals AEL Limassol and Apollon Limassol said to be interested along with clubs in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
However, Lafferty has now touted himself for a move back to Hearts, who have already brought in fellow Northern Ireland forward Conor Washington this summer to add to their striking options of Steven Naismith, Uche Ikpeazu, Steven MacLean and Craig Wighton.
“I’d like to stay in Scotland but I don’t know what to do," Lafferty told the Daily Record.
“I’ve enjoyed playing abroad, I enjoy that type of football and the lifestyle of being abroad as my family would enjoy that but it’s not about just going somewhere hot and sunny.
“My preference would be to stay in the Premiership and my ideal move would be to go back to Hearts as I enjoyed my time there.
“People don’t realise how big a club they are but they are a terrific club.
“I need to sit down and assess things and decide my next step. We’ll see what the next chapter is.”
After Lafferty left Rangers, boss Steven Gerrard indicated his belief that the forward didn't do enough to make a success of his second stint at the club.
"You’d need to ask Kyle why it hasn’t panned out for him," said Gerrard. "We believe he had the opportunities. Kyle is a good player, but showing it in glimpses for Rangers isn’t enough. That’s the brutal truth."
However, while Lafferty doesn't have 'a bad word to say' about Gerrard, he does admit that he would have liked to have been given more time on the pitch, having started only six Scottish Premiership games last season.
“Steven had his view on me as a player and you don’t want to be told by any manager at any club that you won’t be needed next season," he said.
“He was straight with me and told me I wouldn’t be anywhere near the first team. No matter who you are or who you play with, that’s hard to hear. But if it’s with the team you grew up with and the team you support then it’s a hammer-blow.
“I would have liked to be asked to do more, to have had more game time but that was down to the manager.
“He watched me every day in training and I will be the first to hold my hand up and admit I’m not the best trainer. My performances in training and in games are night and day.
“The manager has judged me in training and clearly that’s prevented me getting more games. The reality now is that I won’t wear that blue jersey again or play for that incredible support and it’s a horrible feeling.
“Things change at all clubs but it’s been difficult, the manager had his opinion and we will agree to disagree on that.
“There were times when I felt I could have done more but getting a few minutes here and there at the end of a game isn’t ideal. If I had been given more opportunities and failed then I’d have said, ‘fair enough, okay'.
“I felt when I was coming on for half an hour at the end of games and dong well and helping the team to go on and win games. I’m not gong to sit here and be bitter and claim I wasn’t given opportunities.
"I need now to to move on. Do I regret going back to Rangers? Not for one second, I’m still going to support them and go to games. That love won’t ever leave me.”
Lafferty said he was 'gutted' not to be able to finish his career at the club, and that his daughter Sienna, who celebrated her first birthday a few days ago, won't be able to grow up watching her dad play for Rangers.
“I’ve watched the YouTube video of the day we won the league at Kilmarnock in 2011 over and over, 10,000 times," he said.
“I will have that memory for the rest of my life. I’ll always be grateful to have been given the opportunity to wear the shirt as I’ve lived a wee boy’s dream. I count myself lucky to have had the career I’ve had so far.”
That league title, won in Lafferty's first spell at the club, is the last time the club got their hands on the Premiership trophy.
But the striker is optimistic that run can end under the current manager.
"We should have won it last season," he said.
“There are games I look back on where we should have won but didn’t, we drew games and lost some we shouldn’t have but it’s all what ifs?
“We should have been closer to Celtic.
“If you look towards this season and assess the players the manager has signed combined with what was there before then it’s a high-quality group.
“We can definitely win the league and go on to win a cup. To qualify for the Europa League group stage would be massive as well.
“We did that last season which was probably beyond everyone’s expectations other than the manager’s.
“He’s laid the foundation for us to improve and with the players he’s signed, I’m excited as a fan."
“I’ll watch all the games I can and wherever I am or whatever club I’m with I hope to be free for the last game for Rangers and watch them lift the trophy. The fans deserve that after what they’ve been through.”
Whatever Lafferty's next move is, he'll hope it will spell an upturn in fortunes at international level, where he hasn't scored since November 2016.
Belfast Telegraph Digital