Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill not ready to rest striking talisman Kyle Lafferty in Latvia friendly

Kyle Lafferty starred in Northern Ireland's Euro crusade
Kyle Lafferty starred in Northern Ireland's Euro crusade

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is ready to give Kyle Lafferty some valuable game time in next week’s friendly against Latvia.

Lafferty has featured only twice for Norwich City this season – both times as a substitute.

The 27-year-old scored in a Capital One Cup victory over West Brom, but Canaries boss Alex Neil has been reluctant to use the towering striker in the Barclays Premier League.

Northern Ireland boss O’Neill has voiced his concern at the inactivity at club level.

Lafferty scored seven goals in nine qualifiers as Northern Ireland reached a first-ever Euro finals.

O’Neill wants his talisman firing on all cylinders in France next summer, and admits Lafferty may need to move away from Norwich to retain his cutting edge in front of goal.

“It is a concern for me in terms of how Kyle is,” O’Neill said.

“His opportunities have been very limited and that situation doesn’t seem to be changing.

“He has scored goals at international level, but it hasn’t affected his playing time with his club. His only option at the moment would be going out on emergency loan to a Championship club, but there are probably financial implications for his club.

“Whatever happens between now and January, I think it’s a big thing for Kyle to be settled and playing in January, for his peace of mind as much as anything else.

“He needs to be playing. He has shown for us when he is settled what he is capable of. I just don’t think he’s had the opportunity Norwich, if I’m being honest.

“In normal circumstances you might rest someone like Kyle, but he needs to play. Jonny has had a couple of injuries, so be probably needs to play as well.”

O’Neill has named a 23-man squad for next Friday’s friendly against Latvia at Windsor Park.

Defender Paddy McNair has been left out as he recovers from an abdominal injury, but could join up with the team if his condition improves.

Aaron Hughes will also remain in Australia as he focuses on returning to fitness with Melbourne City.

Northern Ireland squad: Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton Academical), Alan Mannus (St Johnstone).

Defenders: Chris Baird (Derby County), Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), Jonny Evans (West Bromwich Albion), Craig Cathcart (Watford), Shane Fergsuon (Newcastle United), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town).

Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Chris Brunt (West Bromwich Albion), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Patrick McCourt (Luton Town), Stuart Dallas (Leeds United).

Forwards: Kyle Lafferty (Norwich City), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock), Billy McKay (Wigan Athletic, on loan at Dundee United), Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), Liam Boyce (Ross County).