Striker Kyle Lafferty delighted with Northern Ireland display against Ukraine
KYLE Lafferty may label himself part of the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ duo in the Northern Ireland squad but it’s selflessness rather than stupidity that makes him say Michael O’Neill shouldn’t change his starting line-up to face Germany.
The team’s star striker of recent times was left out along with four others who lined out against Poland for the brilliant 2-0 victory over Ukraine and he had nothing but praise for the 11 who took the field in Lyon:
“I don’t think any of the lads who started deserve to be dropped. I think the performance that they put in… they probably sweated blood out there and they deserve another chance," he said.
Lafferty lost his place to Conor Washington and the team returned to 4-3-3/ 4-5-1, but he lauded the manager’s guts saying: “Michael has made massive changes; to change five players from the first game is a massive shout but it’s paid off.
“As a fan I am absolutely delighted for every player. Conor and I have a great relationship so I’m absolutely delighted for him to start.
“With the performance he put in, I think he deserves another chance against Germany.
“The front three that started against Ukraine were absolutely brilliant.
“I think everyone knows that Stuarty [Dallas] and I are like ‘Dumb and Dumber’. We’re probably best pals in the team and the performance he’s put in has great. I’m delighted for him.
“Like I said, I’m disappointed for myself but I’m absolutely buzzing for the rest of the lads.
Dallas had the late shot saved that led to the second goal, from Niall McGinn, and Lafferty insisted he didn’t wish anyone to score more than the Donaghmore man:
“The second goal was massive for us. If I wanted anyone to pop up with a goal it would have been Niall.
“When he first came into the squad he won about five ‘Man of the Matches’ in a row and I thought he was going to be a legend. But he hasn’t really been given a proper run since then.
“But he’s come on and got a goal, just like he did in Hungary during the qualifiers, and I’m absolutely delighted for Niall.”
Lafferty himself did not get a minute against Ukraine but he insisted: “It’s not about me, it’s never been about me.
“I knew from the start of the campaign that my position wasn’t guaranteed and this proved it.
“There are 23 players in the squad and none of us think we are guaranteed a place. I might have scored goals and played a massive part in getting us here but that means nothing now.
“We are at the Euros now and if the manager thinks someone should start ahead of me then I will have nothing to say.
“I respect the manager’s decision…I still have to work my socks off in training to have a chance of playing.
Lafferty expressed his delight at what he witnessed in Lyon, saying: “To be a Northern Ireland fan and watching that performance was amazing and we really deserved it.
“I’m disappointed for myself but, hand on heart, the call the manager has made was superb.
“He has put out the 11 men he thought could do a job and we are sitting here with three points and plus a goal so it’s worked. I can’t complain about that.”
The lanky frontman now believes that Northern Ireland can take a point in Paris next Tuesday night, a result that would surely secure progress:
“Germany will be facing the team with the best heart and determination in the whole tournament.
“If we put in a performance like we did against Ukraine, no one is going to beat us. The way the lads performed was exceptional.
“The first time we had a proper touch of the ball against Poland was five minutes into the game but we got a corner after a minute against Ukraine and that set the tempo.
“If you don’t do that early doors you’re going to be on the back foot, but the lads set the tone.
“We have to concentrate on the Germany game now. It’s going to be tough and they are World champions for a reason.
“They have amazing players; probably some of the best in the world and some of the best defenders in the world but I think if we turn up like we did on Thursday night, they will be wary of how we fought right until the 96th minute.
“We won’t be afraid of this game at all. We’ve lost one out of our last 13 and we’ve five clean sheets out of seven games.
“I’m sure it will be an exciting game and a massive day for everyone”.