Kyle Lafferty axe was for the greater good, insists Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill, on why he dropped Norwich City striker
PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 June 2016
Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill revealed Kyle Lafferty’s bit-part role for Norwich City last season was one of the factors behind his surprise omission for the historic 2-0 Group C win over Ukraine.
Lafferty’s seven goals fired his country to their first-ever European Championship finals appearance but he was an unused substitute for the landmark win. Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn struck in the second-half to give O’Neill’s men a shot at reaching the knockout stages ahead of their daunting final pool game against world champions Germany. Lafferty was replaced by Conor Washington but O’Neill insisted Lafferty was not dropped.
O’Neill said: “Kyle was disappointed obviously but I’d say dropped is the wrong word.
“He only started four games of club football last season so it would be foolhardy of me to expect three lots of 90 minutes from him. I didn’t expect him to play 90 minutes (against Poland) but we decided to keep him on the pitch because of the way the game went and you think he’ll get you something in the bag. As opposed to playing him for 55 or 60 minutes from the start against Ukraine, I thought we would get more from him (Lafferty) coming on in the game.”
Lafferty made just one Premier League cameo for Norwich City last season before ending the campaign at Birmingham. O’Neill also admitted Germany’s use of Mario Gotze had come into his thinking.
He said: “Germany played with (Mario) Gotze against Ukraine. He’s a different player from Conor but I thought the Ukraine centre-halves would prefer not to play against a striker with that kind of movement. In the end I decided to bring Josh Magennis on late in the game instead of Kyle but that was because Josh is probably a better marker at set pieces than Kyle. But Kyle is a massive part of the squad and he still has a massive part to play in the tournament for us.”