BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
KYLE LAFFERTY has conceded that he did renege on an agreement to discuss a move to Hibs after being savaged by Easter Road boss Neil Lennon.
Lennon pulled no punches last week when he gave his side of the story following the Edinburgh transfer saga, insisting Lafferty had been disrespectful by not meeting with representatives of the Hibees.
Speaking for the first time since his compatriot’s blast, the 29-year-old acknowledges that he did snub Lennon – but is adamant he was morally right to choose Hearts after several days of talks.
“I spoke to Lenny on the Thursday night but I had been speaking to Hearts for four days, from 10am to 6pm, trying to sort out a contract. It is difficult to go elsewhere because the club has done a lot to get me here and I wanted to come to Hearts.
“Things were said in the media – some of which was and wasn’t true – and it was a difficult time in terms of wanting to speak to people, but I showed my respect to Hearts because they busted a gut to get me.
“They moved things around to get me in the door early to speak to them and I had to show respect to them to listen to them.”
Lafferty, fittingly, made his first start for the Jambos at Windsor Park on Saturday and, while the man who boasts 20 goals for Northern Ireland failed to open his account, he did strike up a promising rapport with Isma Goncalves and Jamie Walker.
With Ian Cathro deploying a 3-4-3 throughout pre-season, it is a mouth-watering attacking trio – and one which tormented Linfield in a 4-1 win.
Walker gave Hearts the lead after precocious Hearts teenager Harry Cochrane had cancelled out Jamie Mulgrew’s opener, while Goncalves found the net in the second period with a deft clip beyond Roy Carroll. Cole Stockton’s close-range finish in the dying embers added gloss to the scoreline.
“It is early days but that’s the plan, to click as a three,” continued Lafferty. “We have been having a bit of banter off the field and we are getting really close. We have our things that we do off the park.
“On my second day with the lads I was invited to play a game of Uno rather than poker. I don’t know what kind of club I have joined – playing Uno instead of poker!
“We have got an Uno school going on here and I feel like I am 12 years old talking about it.
“I did read Isma [Goncalves] slagging off my singing this week. Well, he doesn’t understand ‘I’ll Tell Me Ma’ for a start! Singing might not be my strongest point – my dancing is slightly better.
“Isma is a good player and I did not know much about him or Jamie but I have seen them in training and the two of them are guys that I want to get on well with and strike up a good partnership.
“I am excited to play alongside these guys and I am sure we can score the goals that puts Hearts in a comfortable position.
“It is a close knit group and there are exciting times ahead for us. We have linked up a few times against Linfield and, come the first game of the season hopefully we will be right on point.”
Having helped to dismantle Linfield, Lafferty knows the task facing the Blues when Celtic visit Windsor Park on Champions League duty on Friday is mammoth.
“Linfield did the treble in Northern Ireland I was surprised at the way they played against us at times, and with some of the players they had in the team,” added Lafferty. “Windsor Park will be a tough place for Celtic to come to though.
“I am not going to say who I’d like to win . . . but I think most people will know.”