Kyle Lafferty is confident he can continue to deliver for Northern Ireland
Kyle Lafferty is confident he can continue to deliver on the international stage as he looks forward to his first experience of captaining Northern Ireland.
Lafferty will get the armband when he earns his 81st cap in Sunday’s friendly against the United States.
The 33-year-old has appeared in 22 internationals since his last goal came against Azerbaijan in 2016, but having scored three in four since his February move to Kilmarnock, Lafferty came into camp on a high.
Now the challenge is to replicate that on the international level.
“I’m hopeful that if one goal hits the back of the net more goals will follow,” Lafferty said.
“I’m confident in my ability to get more goals for my country again and once the first one hits the net, I expect plenty more to come.”
Lafferty said the move to Kilmarnock has helped him feel settled again after short spells in Norway, Italy and Sunderland since he left Rangers.
Having lost his sister in November, being back close to home has been a major factor for Lafferty.
“Lots of things have happened to me over the last six months so it’s been really important for me to return close to my family and now my football club is just 30 minutes down the road,” he said.
“I think me being settled and happy has been great for my performances because I’m scoring goals and contributing to the team, which is why I was brought in by Tommy Wright.
“I hope to continue my goal-scoring form for my country and I’ll be doing everything I can to score.”
Lafferty admitted he had never captained a side at any level previously. Though players traditionally get the armband on the occasion of their 50th cap, Lafferty passed up his previous opportunity given it came in a vital qualifier against Belarus.
Ian Baraclough is as keen as anyone to get the nation’s second top scorer firing again, and will be hoping this honour can inspire him.
“When Kyle Lafferty is hitting the target regularly he’s going to be a big asset for us,” Baraclough said.
“He’s gone to Kilmarnock, he’s got that move and he’s settled. It’s very good to see him hitting the target so quickly after getting to a new club and that can only be good for us.
“Kyle shot this country to the Euros in 2016. You need a goal-scorer to get six, seven, eight goals in a campaign if you’re going to qualify and Kyle certainly did that and more.
“If you’ve got a goal-scorer who’s hitting the back of the net regularly then you’ve certainly got a chance.”
After nine months and as many games in charge, Baraclough is yet to oversee a win inside 90 minutes, but feels Thursday’s second half against Italy was another sign that his side only need a change in fortune to start getting results.
“The Norway game at home (a 5-1 defeat in September) was the only one since I’ve been in charge where I felt we didn’t perform at all and were never in the game,” Baraclough said of his reign to date.
“All the other games I’ve felt we’ve played well for periods in certain games and the team should have got more rewards for the endeavour and how they played in a lot of the games.
“That just adds to the frustration at the moment because there’s nothing like having that habit of winning games of football and the players deserve to have that feeling.
“I’m sure it’s not far in coming. We’ve got to stay positive and have that belief in ourselves.”