DANNY Lafferty will not forget the 2012 St. Patrick’s Day weekend in a hurry, the 22-year-old having made his Championship debut with Burnley on Sunday.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
And the former Derry City full-back comfortably held his own in the scoreless result in Cardiff, a result which boosted the morale of “Clarets” boss, Eddie Howe.
But for Lafferty, it was a pivotal point in his Championship career at Turf Moor. Having spent the past few weeks in the Reserves set-up as he recovered from a hamstring problem, Lafferty was surprised to learn that he was to occupy the left-back berth after last Saturday’s training session.
“When we lined out for training on Saturday the manager pulled what’s normally the starting XI to one side and I was called into that group,” he declared.
“At first, I felt he may have made a mistake but the manager then told me I was in for the Cardiff game and the news certainly came as a bolt out of the blue. After training it was straight onto the coach and off to Wales, so I didn’t get too much time to think about it,” laughed Danny.
“I think I handled everything okay and while I was on a high throughout the day, I remained focused and I don’t think I let myself down during the game. Afterwards, the manager congratulated me on making my Championship debut, so now it’s time to push on and keep my place in the first team.”
Tough Matches on Horizon
Interestingly, Lafferty’s graduation comes at a very tough time for the “Clarets” who face a series of tough matches over the next few weeks. In fact, it all starts tomorrow night when Burnley travel to Ipswich and this Saturday, Lafferty will be hopeful of keeping his place in what’s another very tough encounter against West Ham at Turf Moor.
“The games are now coming at us and I’m just delighted to be involved. I felt okay playing against Cardiff and while I always believed I would be okay at this level, it was also important that I be tested.
“To be honest, I felt my hamstring tighten a bit and it was a wee bit sore after the game, but that’s down to playing at a higher tempo than what I was used to with the reserves.
“The important thing for me was that I got through the 90 minutes without any difficulty. The fact that we didn’t concede a goal was another great bonus as we had been leaking goals recently.
“All in all, I think it was a good day for me, so now I’ve got to try and build on that and make sure I’m in the first team for the remaining games this season.”
Told to be “brave when on the ball” and “comfortable in passing it from defence,” Danny believes the tactics deployed by Howe suits his attacking style of play.
“We have a young right-back who is keen to get forward at every opportunity and I think the boss wants me to reflect that on the left flank. He believes in the passing game, from defence through midfield and that certainly suits me.
“He wants us to express ourselves and pass the ball well and I think Cardiff found it difficult to come to terms with our tactics on Sunday,” continued Danny.
“We dominated the possession throughout the first half and while there were very few clear-cut scoring chances in the game, we created the lion’s share of the half chances and could have actually won the match.
“However, given that Cardiff are up there challenging and the match was at their place, we’re happy with the share of the spoils and the clean sheet in particular.”
Took One For Team!
Of course, this left-back always likes to make an impression and, with that in mind, he “took one for the team” in the 88th minute when given a yellow card caution for a professional foul.
“I got booked two minutes from time for a professional foul. It took place 30 yards from their goal and when their right-back attempted to go on the attack, I decided to nip it in the bud and take one for the team,” he laughed.
Happy to have worked his way into the manager’s plans, the Carnhill man agreed that he had received a good boost in confidence and was focussed on playing his part in helping Burnley finish the season on a high.
“I’ve got to keep working at my game and keeping myself to the forefront of the manager’s plans. We may be a bit too far off to make the play-offs this season, so I think the manager will now attempt to try something new towards the end of the campaign and I hope to be involved in those plans.”
Did he believe the hamstring injury - the first in his career - had worked in his favour since joining the “Clarets?”
“The injury took a bit of pressure off me and probably bought me a bit of time. It was something I had to deal with and now that I’m involved, I think it was better to feel my way into the first team squad.
“But now that I’ve made my debut, I want to remain involved every week and play in every game between now and the end of the season. Hopefully that will be the case and it’s up to me to keep my head down and work hard.
“Making my Championship debut was very important to me, but keeping my place in the first team now becomes the priority,” he concluded.