Kyle Lafferty could be our greatest scorer says Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill has challenged Kyle Lafferty to make his mark again as the nation’s “most proven goalscorer” after handing the Rangers striker a recall.

Lafferty pulled out of the last set of Nations League fixtures with an Achilles injury at short notice.

The Irish Football Association then implemented FIFA’s five-day rule to prevent the 31-year-old from returning to club action for Rangers’ next fixture.

Lafferty has apologised for “an error of judgement”, according to the Irish FA, and O’Neill hopes everyone can now move on from the incident as the group prepare for games with Republic of Ireland and Austria.

“Much was written about Kyle not being available the last time, so it’s good to have him back,” O’Neill said.

“Kyle, when he’s focused, is still our most proven goalscorer at international level.

“He’s our second all-time goal scorer behind David Healy and he still has a few years left in him and I know it’s a target he’d like to get closer to.

“It’s down to him now, really.”

Healy scored 36 goals for his country, with Lafferty in second place on 20.

The Rangers forward, though, is currently carrying a thigh muscle problem which stopped him from being involved in his club’s Europa League trip to Spartak Moscow, so will be assessed.

O’Neill added on the Irish FA website: “He’s got a little bit of an injury concern, so hopefully he plays for Rangers at the weekend and then we’ll see him Sunday and hopefully he gives us what he’s given us in the past.”