Lafferty may delay wedding

Date published: Thursday 11th June 2015 6:55

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Lafferty and his fiancée Vanessa Chung had earmarked a June 2016 date for their big day, but his goals have been a significant factor in edging Michael O’Neill’s side closer to an historic achievement.

“To be thinking the wedding can’t be on this day because we could be in France with my country playing in the finals is a good feeling,” Lafferty told Sky Sports News HQ reporter Paul Gilmour ahead of the crucial Group F European Qualifier against Romania in Belfast on Saturday night.

“My fiancée has been absolutely fantastic. I’ve said in the past about Michael (O’Neill) bringing the best out of me but she has taught me to go out and prove people wrong. She doesn’t want me to have any regrets.”

There has certainly been no looking back for the Norwich striker. Since falling out of favour with O’Neill following a red card against Portugal in 2013, Lafferty has made a spectacular return to the international scene and is currently joint-second in the European Qualifying scoring charts with Germany’s Thomas Muller.

“I put it down to the trust and confidence Michael has shown in me. He told me I can play anyone off the park when I’m at my best but that I haven’t shown it enough,” Lafferty added.

“He said to go onto the pitch and give it my all, and that it’s going to have a massive say in the how the result goes. He has helped me believe in myself.”

“If I don’t score another goal in this campaign and we reach France I’ll take that because although I’m scoring and getting the headlines there’s a number of players who could have picked up the man of the match awards in the games. It’s a team game and everyone wants each other to achieve the maximum.”

‘Performance’

Lafferty spent the final four months of last season in Turkey – helping Caykur Rizespor finish 14th but is keen to transfer his international form to promoted Norwich after their return to the Premier League.

“I’ll report back to pre-season in early July and I’m hoping to be in the manager’s (Alex Neil) plans. Another good performance against Romania and hopefully another goal or two will put my name in his head.

“I’ve never played in the Premier League before and I’d love the opportunity to see what it’s like and how I do against some of the best players in the world.” 

Northern Ireland’s only defeat in Group F was in Bucharest against Romania, but they missed influential duo Steven Davis and Jonny Evans, as well as Jamie Ward that day.

“It’s the biggest game of the campaign,” said Lafferty. “Romania are top of the league for a reason. They play good football and they are tough to break down but if we play to our maximum ability it’ll take us over the finishing line.”

A win for Northern Ireland would mean they leapfrog the Romanians into top spot with four games remaining, taking them to 15 points. If that happens, along with a Finland win against Hungary, Lafferty and company could confirm qualification on September 4 against the Faroe Islands, providing further results go their way.

“As a squad we’re bonding like I’ve never seen it before, but we’re still not there. Everyone believes we can qualify. We just need to keep performing the way we are.”

Watch N Ireland v Romania on Sky Sports 5 from 7.30pm on Saturday

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