AVOIDING a double bout of relegation in high profile, cross-Channel football is high on the priority list of Danny Lafferty as the season draws to a close.
The 25-years-old former Derry City defender, contracted to Barclays Premiership side Burnley for another two years, has recently gone out on loan to Championship side, Rotherham.
And with “The Clarets” currently battling hard against relegation in the top flight, Lafferty’s woes have been compounded as he plays his role in attempting to keep Steve Evans’ side positioned above the relegation zone.
However, since returning to active service after so long on the sidelines at Turf Moor, the Derry man received another late season confidence boost when called back into the Northern Ireland side for forthcoming games against Scotland (in Glasgow) and Finland (in Belfast).
“It’s been a frustrating season having made just one Premiership appearance against Southampton as a substitute and featuring in an FA Cup tie against Spurs,” lamented Danny.
“However, I’m not going to get carried away as I continue to battle for my place and, to be fair, the manager (Sean Dyche) has kept his faith in me even though I’ve played very little in the Premiership.
I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve always been confident in my own ability. I realise it’s all about hard work and learning...Danny Lafferty
“I’ve managed to get out on loan, a deal which suits both clubs and, no doubt, my progress will be monitored by Burnley as the season draws to an end,” added the defender.
One of three left-backs on Burnley’s books, Republic of Ireland international, Stephen Ward has also been placed on the bench as Ben Mee has managed to dominate the first team jersey this season.
“It’s been a steep learning curve for us all, but the lads have put in some fantastic performances. Last week the 1-0 defeat of Manchester City was special as was the draw earlier at the Etihaad.
“We’ve also held Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and we were very unlucky to lose to a late goal at Old Trafford, so the team really rises to the occasion when facing the fashionable sides,” he noted.
Now with Rotherham, Lafferty has focused his attentions on playing his part to keep the club in the Championship.
“I’ve played three games since I arrived - against Huddersfield, Wigan Athletic and Nottingham Forest in midweek - and I’ve had to settle in quickly.
“The club is involved in a battle and, hopefully, Rotherham will be able to remain in the Championship after two promotions over the last two seasons.
“My initial loan deal was up until April 3rd, but as far as I know Rotherham are seeking to have that extended until the end of the season.”
Recalled to the Northern Ireland squad last week following the withdrawal due to injury of Eglinton’s Shane Ferguson, Lafferty was delighted to get the call-up.
“I was disappointed I wasn’t called up initially but I can understand Michael O’Neill’s decision given that I haven’t been playing regularly.
“So it’s a nice boost as the season draws to a close and I would be very happy if I’m involved in the friendly against Scotland this Wednesday. Indeed, do well in that game and who knows, I could figure against Finland in the Euro qualifying match in Belfast.”
Frustrated but prepared to continue his battle to nail down a first team jersey at Burnley, Lafferty has taken recent developments in his stride and he refuses to give up on his dream of playing regularly in football’s top tier.
“Yes, I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve always been confident in my own ability. I realise it’s all about hard work and learning and at 25 I don’t think I’m ready to throw in the towel just yet,” he laughed.
“This has been disappointing and also frustrating at times, but I believe I must move up next year if I’m to fulfill my potential. I’m happy and well settled in England, so the future is within my own hands and it’s up to me to get there.”