EURO 2016: Danny Lafferty glad to be back in Michael O'Neill's squad
A terrible knee ligament injury suffered by Chris Brunt may give former Derry City man Danny Lafferty a chance to force his way into Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 squad.
The West Brom defender ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament during last month’s victory over Crystal Palace.
The injury will keep Brunt out for six months meaning he will miss this summer’s European Championships in France.
This could give Lafferty an opportunity to figure in Michael O’Neill’s plans.
The one-time Celtic starlet has been in the international wilderness for after almost a year but is delighted to be back in the squad.
Lafferty last donned the green and white kit last March when he played 90 minutes in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Scotland, before being an unused substitute in the European qualifying win over Finland a few days later at Windsor Park.
Now that the Burnley man is back in Michael O’Neill’s squad he’s keeping his fingers crossed that he gets some game time in either the friendly against Wales this Thursday or the following fixture at Windsor Park next Monday evening against Slovenia.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be back in the squad,” he said.
“I haven’t been in the squad for a while and I missed most of the qualifying campaign, but I’m going in with the mentality that I’m a new player getting into the squad and hopefully I can do well.
“I’m feeling good having had quite a few games under my belt by playing at Oldham so I’m looking forward to meeting up with lads and I’m hoping to make a good impression with Michael and see where it takes me.”
Lafferty feels that now he has got his foot back in the squad door so to speak, he wants to remain in O’Neill’s plans but he doesn’t feel there’s any pressure on him.
“There’s no pressure on me but obviously everyone has got their own personal agendas in terms of trying to be in Michael’s squad that goes to France,” he added.
“I feel you should be going into every squad trying to make an impression and giving him something to think about.
“My plan for the week, is train well and if I play at all, obviously, I want to play well and then see what happens from there.
“Then head back to England and try to finish the season off strongly and hopefully do enough to force my way into Michael’s plans for the squad which goes to France.”
After having a very good pre-season the talented left-back missed the start of this season for Championship leaders Burnley after breaking his collar bone.
However since then he has had a successful loan spell with League One side Oldham Athletic.
The 26-year-old made a big impact during his stint at SportsDirect.com Park, making 15 appearances and scoring once for John Sheridan’s side.
“It was very frustrating as I broke my collar bone twice in the space of six months and it meant it was a kind of stop-start season for me, which was frustrating,” he added.
“I had done all of pre-season and I felt I had a really good pre-season under my belt, but the aim was to get back, get games and get match fit and obviously I got the opportunity to do that at Oldham and by playing games that’s the only way you are going to get yourself back into the international set-up.
“I have had a number of games under my belt now and with the season coming to an end I’m looking to get some more games.”
As for O’Neill he too wants the talented left-back to step up to the mark and give him a selection headache.
“Daniel has come back into the squad having been injury in the early part of the season and I’m sure he’ll be wanting to stake his claim for a place in France.”
Joining Lafferty in the squad with a North West connection are duo Shane Ferguson and ex-Derry City winger Niall McGinn.