MICHAEL O’NEILL: Northern Ireland boss backing Rangers’ Kyle Lafferty to shine for club and country

Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire
Rangers' Kyle Lafferty in action during the UEFA Europa League play-off, first leg match at Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 23, 2018. See PA story SOCCER Rangers. Photo credit should read: Ian Rutherford/PA Wire

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is backing Kyle Lafferty’s return to Rangers to benefit both club and country.

Lafferty was back in Ibrox blue last night for the first time in over six seasons following completion of his transfer from Hearts.

The striker started on the substitutes’ bench for Rangers’ Europa League tie with Ufa on the same day he was named in O’Neill’s 25-strong panel for September tests at home to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Israel.

“The most important thing for me is the happiness of the player and he’s delighted with the move,” said O’Neill. “It’s about him coming to the international squad in the right frame of mind and, having gone to Rangers, that will certainly be the case.

“He’s had a new baby so everything’s falling into place and he’s coming off the back of a very strong season, having virtually played no first-team football for three years.

“Last season was great so he just needs to bring to Rangers what he brought to Hearts and I’m sure he’ll be a huge success.

“The club he is at is where he wants to be, in his previous Rangers stint there were highs and lows but there’s a whole new management team and ownership model.

“Living in Scotland I’ve seen the excitement around the appointment of Steven Gerrard as Rangers manager and that strong start to the season.

“I’ve had conversations with Gary McAllister, who I know well, regarding Kyle and you can tell they felt he was a good fit and I don’t think it would have been too difficult to sell it to him.

“Our squad’s always a brighter place when Kyle’s in it and there was a real hunger in his play at Hearts, he has a real focus in everything.

“It’s testament to him that he managed to rebuild things in the space of 12 months from not being an automatic starter for us or playing club football.

“We want the Kyle that was a big part of propelling us to EURO 2016, that’s what we want and what Rangers want as well.”