Football/Soccer

Kyle Lafferty relishing his return to Rangers

Kyle Lafferty scores Hearts’ opening goal against Celtic during the Ladbrokes Premiership match at Tynecastle earlier this month. Lafferty, who spent four years at Rangers between 2008 and 2012, signed a two-year contract with the Ibrox club
By Gavin McCafferty

UEFA Europa League play-off round, first leg: Rangers v Ufa (Thursday, 7.45pm)

KYLE Lafferty seized his unexpected chance to “redeem” himself at Rangers as he claimed his Ibrox exit left him with a broken heart.

Lafferty has signed a two-year contract after moving from Hearts for an undisclosed fee six years after declining the chance to transfer his employment to the Rangers newco after the club went into liquidation.

The Northern Ireland international had spent four years at Ibrox, hitting 38 goals and lifting three league titles, and did not disguise his delight at being back in light blue.

The 30-year-old, who goes straight into the squad for tonight's Europa League play-off first leg against Russian side Ufa, told Rangers TV: “I have supported them since I was a kid and I have played here before, but obviously the way I left I was disappointed to walk out those doors six/seven years ago.

“Basically it broke my heart, but to be given a second chance to redeem myself and put things right, I jumped at the chance. I am happy to be home,” he said.

“Of course I always wanted to come back and put things right and show the fans what I am all about. Did I think I would get another chance though? Not really.

“I went to Hearts last season and had a good season and now I have been given a second chance, which I am lucky to have.”

Gerrard is keen to harness Lafferty's experience of winning trophies in a Rangers shirt.

“That's the key, that's vital to us,” the Ibrox boss said.

“He knows what this club is about. There is no risk in terms of him performing in front of the demands of this crowd and this club, and the expectation.

“I believe we're a young squad so he brings vital experience to us. He's a Rangers nut. He is desperate to come, and I think he ticks all the boxes that I'm looking for, what I want from a frontman,” he said.

Gerrard's joy was tempered by news that Jamie Murphy has been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Test showed the winger had damaged a cruciate ligament when he twisted his knee on the Rugby Park surface during Rangers' victory at Kilmarnock on Sunday.

Gerrard said: “It's sad news for Jamie. I'm bitterly disappointed over it. He will be missing for the remainder of the season. He's got an ACL injury and we got the news we all didn't want.

“He's coming to terms with it now but at the beginning he was upset, as you can understand.

He's a player who loves playing the game and he's been excellent for me since day one.

“We are trying to look for the positives out of it now and it's important Jamie does everything he can in terms of his rehab and comes back in the best physical condition he can come back in. We'll give him every bit of support he needs and we will stick with him. He's a very important player for us for many, many years,” he said.

Hearts owner Ann Budge told fans the club had little option but to sell Lafferty – the Jambos' top scorer last season with 19 goals – after the forward made his desire to sign for Rangers known.

Budge told the club's official website: “It is no secret that this has been a particularly difficult and drawn-out affair.

“While we have no desire to sell our players to other teams in the league, when a player has his mind fully set on moving, it is difficult to reach an alternative conclusion.

“The deal, when completed, will suit all parties and, importantly, will allow Craig to focus his efforts on finalising potential deals to add to his playing squad - having brought in 13 players already this summer – and preparing the team for their Ladbrokes Premiership match at Kilmarnock, where they will bid to go eight games unbeaten.

“It will also allow me to return my attentions to progressing the development of our new, multi-million pound main stand and improving the matchday experience for our supporters,” he said.

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