Former Rangers striker would walk through brick wall for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill



Former Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty admits he would walk through a brick wall for Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

The Norwich City player will lead his country’s attack at Euro 2016 after netting an impressive seven goals during their historic qualifying group victory.

It has been a different story at club level with Lafferty, who spent two months on loan at Birmingham City during the second half of last season, struggling for game time at Alex Neil’s Canaries.

Kyle LaffertyBut the marksman, who played for Rangers for four years until 2012, insists one-time Hibs and Dundee United midfielder O’Neill brings out the best in him.

Lafferty said: “What Michael says to me every game before I go out to warm up, it gives me belief and makes me feel like I want to run through a brick wall for him.

“The belief he gives me that I can go out and score against anyone is amazing. The way he’s man-managed me in the last two years has been superb.

“I’ve always given 110 per cent for Northern Ireland, for my country.

“I’ll never throw in the towel. I came close to it, but I decided I couldn’t because I love playing for them and scoring a goal for them is the best feeling ever.

“Seeing young boys wearing your country’s shirt with your name on it is the best feeling you can probably have.

“To go on to be the second-highest goalscorer of all time is a massive feeling for myself.”

Lafferty was substituted as a precaution in Saturday’s goal-less draw with Slovakia as Northern Ireland completed their preparations for the finals.

O’Neill’s side face Poland in their Group C opener on Sunday before clashes against the Ukraine and Germany.

O’Neill, who also took off Watford defender Craig Cathcart, said: “Kyle just had a little bit of a tight calf from a kick.

“We had planned to take off Kyle on 60-65 minutes. He wanted to stay on but there was no sense in it, and the same with Craig.

“If it was the Poland game in that situation and we needed them, they wouldn’t have come off.”