‘Clown’ Kyle Lafferty needs to show serious side for Norwich City

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (front) and Hungary's Tamas Kadar battle for the ball during the UE

Northern Ireland's Kyle Lafferty (front) and Hungary's Tamas Kadar battle for the ball during the UEFA European Championship Qualifying match at Windsor Park, Belfast. Photo: Niall Carsony/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Kyle Lafferty is up among Europe's elite marksmen after another goalscoring display for Northern Ireland. MARK ARMSTRONG looks at whether the striker could have a future at Carrow Road.

Lafferty has turned from Northern Ireland's 'clown' to their jewel in the crown.

The 27-year-old's late strike, which rescued a point for his country against Hungary on Monday, took his tally to seven during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign – that's more than Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Speak to a Northern Ireland fan and they will tell you his performances for the Irish see him deserve to be mentioned in that exalted company. Speak to a Norwich City fan and you will get a different answer.

It is a source of frustration for City supporters and the question remains: why can't he produce the goals and performances he gets for Northern Ireland at club level?

The clinical edge he has shown for his country would undoubtedly be useful to manager Alex Neil as he plots a Premier League path for his side.

The predatory instinct he showed against Hungary is exactly the kind of quality that has been lacking at times in City's return to the top flight so far.

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However, it would come as a big surprise if Lafferty was catapulted into City's starting XI against Bournemouth this weekend.

From the outside, it looks like recent signing Dieumerci Mbokani, Cameron Jerome and Gary Hooper are ahead of him in the pecking order. Special circumstances surround Lewis Grabban after being labelled a 'silly boy' by Neil for his behaviour in pushing for a move to Bournemouth during the transfer window. But if, and it's a big if, Grabban can be brought back into the fold, you feel that he too would be in front of Lafferty.

The former Rangers and Burnley man undoubtedly benefits from the Northern Ireland team being set up to his strengths but you have to be a very special player for a Premier League club to do that.

With Neil harnessing such success on the collective merits of his squad, the Scot is not going to solely rely upon the talents of an individual, especially one as enigmatic as Lafferty.

So what does the future hold for Lafferty?

The loan window re-opens today and the forward has offered a timely reminder to clubs outside the Premier League of the qualities he possesses. There is unlikely to be a shortage of takers.

But could there be a role for him at Norwich?

With Neil handing him just two starts last season before sanctioning a loan move to Turkish club Rizespor you get the impression he has a lot of work to do.

The striker offered an interesting insight in to explaining his international success in an interview recently.

'The team (Northern Ireland) and the country needs the Kyle Lafferty with the head screwed on, not the clown.'

The City boss has always insisted that if a player has the right attitude and the right attributes then he will include them in his first team thinking. Sebastien Bassong can testify to that.

But attitude appears to be the key word – has Neil only seen the clown? Does Lafferty have the same mindset when he is training at Colney to the one he has when away with Northern Ireland?

Only Lafferty can answer that one.