Kyle Lafferty has arrived at Tynecastle keen to get his World Cup ambitions back on track. But while he is aware that the move provides him with the platform he needs to force his way back into the Northern Ireland side, those who know him say the club will benefit as well.
“He ticks so many boxes,” says David Weir, who played alongside the rangy striker during a successful spell at Rangers. “He has a bit of everything. He has physical presence, a good touch, he can run at defences, get in behind them and finish. He has always had those attributes but it was about putting them together. Hearts are getting him at a good age. He can be a big assist to them .”
At Rangers, his ability was often overshadowed by lapses in judgement which saw him in the headlines in 2009 when he feigned being headbutted by Charlie Mulgrew and was fined by his Ibrox manager Walter Smith and banned for two games by the SFA, for simulation. He was also banned for two weeks under Ally McCoist following a training ground bust up but in between he did weigh in with vital title-sealing goals, earning a league winners’ medal in his first three seasons at the club.
Weir does not expect Hearts will have to deal with the kind of errors in judgement that dogged the 29-year-old in Glasgow and says the fact they are signing a older, more mature version is something that should prove beneficial to their own ambitions.
“When you are at Rangers you you are always in the spotlight and every transgression will be highlighted and he did have that side to his nature. We all know the things that went on back then but he has been around the leagues and around the world and has played international football. He was a young lad back then and he will have learned what he can and can’t do.
“He will be a more mature person and player and he won’t look back. The future is more important to him now, especially if he wants to play for his country. I’m sure that will be a big part of his decision to move to Hearts because there is that potential for going to a World Cup if he can get back playing regularly.”
At Rangers that was not always the case. In competition with the likes of Nikica Jelavic, Kenny Miller, Kris Boyd, Nacho Novo and Steven Naismith for a place in the front line, Weir says the Northern Irishman was sometimes forced out. A winner and a big game competitor, that tested his mettle and sometimes proved problematic as he struggled to channel his frustrations in the right manner.
“The fact Hearts have made him the highest earner at the club would indicate that he will have a key role in the team and he will be able to get on a run and that will help him, so that shouldn’t be an issue and after you have been at a club like Rangers, where strikers are expected to score and the team is expected to win every week, he will not be fazed by playing at Hearts, where fans are also demanding. He knows Scottish football and knows the league and that will help Hearts and should help him settle quickly and get off to a good start.”
John Robertson is acutely aware of the problems the Tynecastle club have had in luring prolific strikers to Gorgie or keeping hold of them in recent years but believes that Lafferty could be one of the missing pieces of the jigsaw.
With Isma Goncalves, new signing Cole Stockton and Rory Currie, his arrival offers manager Ian Cathro several attacking options and flexibility in formations.
“There is quite a bit of pedigree in that strikeforce,” said the new Inverness Caledonian Thistle manager, who is well-versed in what it takes to becoming a goalscoring legend at the capital club.
Hearts have set out their ambitions to add more silverware this season and Robertson says that Lafferty’s international targets could help bolster the bid for domestic honours. The Northern Ireland striker has scored three goals in this World Cup qualifying campaign but has struggled to stay at the forefront of international gaffer Michael O’Neill’s plans.
“But because Michael lives in Edinburgh he regularly watches Hearts so Kyle will have plenty of opportunities to impress. The fact that Austin MacPhee [the Hearts assistant manager] is also part of the Northern Ireland coaching set up can’t help either if he is putting in the performances and banging in goals.”