Hearts manager Ian Cathro believes that Kyle Lafferty’s best days are ahead of him.
The 29-year-old sampled the 2016 European Championship with Northern Ireland and won titles and trophies with Rangers in his first stint in Scottish football but his new boss says he expects the striker to build on those experiences.
“I reckon that the brightest days of his football career are ahead of him and I think he is at a point in his life and career where he is very, very hungry to play. He has a hunger for the ball, a desire to work and it is well known that when you are on the pitch with him, no matter how the game is going, you know he is helping you. That is so important. That is something we want in the team so I wanted to be able to bring Kyle to the club.”
The Tynecastle head coach said that he had been keen to enlist Lafferty’s services for some time but had to remain patient. Limited options when recruiting in January undermined his first few months at the club but, having offloaded many of those short-term signings, he has moved quickly to bring in replacements. He is now confident that he can win over sceptical fans, unhappy with the way the season fizzled out, and says his team for the new campaign will have a strong backbone.
“People forget that we already have some guys in the group who have a real drive even when it is maybe difficult. We have Don Cowie and some others but then we were able to announce that Christophe Berra would be joining us and he has already made a great impact. Now we have added Kyle.
“We wanted to bring Kyle and we showed him the reasons why and what we want him to be every day and what we want from him on the pitch and how we want to help him improve so that he can fight for all the things he wants as well. From that we saw we wanted the same things.”
Lafferty spoke of his desire to win silverware and would not rule out challenging at the top of the Premiership table for honours and a European place. He is also determined to impress Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill and help his nation to next summer’s World Cup, in Russia. To do all that he will need to deliver week in, week out and weigh in with goals.
“Athletically, he is probably one of the best and then there is his movement in the box and his willingness to work,” said Cathro, adamant that his latest striking recruit has what it takes to realise his dreams. “He is a strong character and has personality on the pitch and these are all things I wanted to bring to the team in that position. He is also someone who is completely ready and at a stage of his life and career where he has a lot of motivation for a whole lot of reasons and he will take a lead role and handle a wee bit of pressure and the expectations. He has the personality that is needed to wear that number 9 shirt.”