Northern Ireland talisman Kyle Lafferty hopes to find form and fitness ahead of Euro 2016 after finally sealing a loan move away from Norwich.
The 28-year-old forward completed a loan deadline-day switch to Birmingham on Thursday in a season where he has accumulated just 45 minutes of club football in total with the Canaries.
Having fired his country to their first major tournament in 30 years with seven goals in a qualifying campaign where they topped their group, Lafferty knew he needed game time to ensure he was up to speed in France.
“I would have liked a move to have happened before this but that didn’t happen,” he said.
“I had my mind set on wanting to play games before the end of the season to get myself prepared for the Euro finals in France and when the chance came I jumped at it.
“Birmingham are a massive club and having played against them in the past I know how amazing their fans are and I’m looking forward to get going.”
Lafferty played his first minutes since January when Northern Ireland drew 1-1 with Wales on Thursday night – and he displayed some rustiness with a second-half shot that failed to truly trouble debutant Danny Ward in the Dragons’ goal.
It is surprising that Norwich, who have scored only 32 goals in 31 Barclays Premier League games, have not used Lafferty more given how prolific he has been for Northern Ireland.
However, the striker says he harbours no ill feelings towards the Canaries and is merely thinking of impressing at Birmingham ahead of the biggest summer in his career.
“I’m fully focused on playing for Birmingham and getting myself fully fit for the Euros,” Lafferty added.
“I was disappointed that I wasn’t given a chance to play at Norwich but obviously the manager has his reasons for it and I am now a Birmingham City player and will give 110 per cent in every game. Hopefully, come the end of the season, we will be involved in the play-offs.”
Lafferty’s loan deal was supported by national boss Michael O’Neill, who had voiced concerns earlier in the week about his leading marksman’s club situation.
“Any player wants to feel wanted,” O’Neill said.
“His situation at Norwich has been well documented. It’s been difficult for him coming away on international duty.
“Expectation has been high because of the campaign he had. It’s not easy to meet that expectation all the time if you’re not in the right situation at your club.
“The loan thing is something I’m delighted with. He’s going to a club that are pushing for the play-offs. The more football he gets between now and the summer can only benefit him.”