Why it doesn’t
The news of this prospective signing was not met with unanimous approval from the Ibrox faithful. There are those who still look unfavourably on the man for leaving Rangers in their hour of need, while others don’t rate him highly enough as a player. During his first spell he certainly had his moments, particularly in the 2010-2011 season where he netted 15 goals in all competitions, including a hat-trick in a league-clinching final day victory over Kilmarnock, but overall he epitomised inconsistency. And that was the player in his prime. What can he bring as a 30-year-old that will lift Rangers above the rest of the league and back alongside Celtic?
The familiarity is perhaps why some are underwhelmed. There remain question marks over Alfredo Morelos’ mental toughness and whether he can put last season’s low points behind him to fire 20-25 goals in a single league campaign. And while the early signs surrounding Umar Sadiq are positive, few know exactly what they’re going to get from the on loan Roma striker.
The Ibrox support are desperate for a forward with the right pedigree and knowledge of the British game to join the ranks so they can feel better about their side’s hopes of challenging for a title. Lafferty fits this to an extent. But throughout his career he’s been a goalscorer who hasn’t been prolific for very long. Prior to last season the most he’d scored in a single campaign was the aforementioned season with Rangers, and even last term when he bagged 19 for Hearts, seven of those came in cup competitions.
Though his achievements at Tynecastle should not be belittled, a repeat of last season’s exploits still wouldn’t be enough to lift Steven Gerrard’s men closer to Celtic.
Why it does
Rangers have spent a bit of money this summer and, as they’re still looking to sign a centre-back, are likely to spend a little bit more before it’s all said and done. However, we all know this is not a bottomless war-chest. They are limited in what they can do in the transfer market, hence the loan deals from England to compliment the more experienced transfers made thus far.
With that in mind, spending big on what would appear to be a third-choice striker (in a team that mainly plays with one) would not represent prudent use of whatever is left in the transfer budget. And yet, they still require another option to lead the line.
They could certainly do a lot worse than welcoming back their prodigal son. While his goal tally from last term may have been inflated somewhat by a fruitful Betfred Cup campaign against lower league opponents, he still managed to get close to 20 goals on a Hearts team that was described as “dugs***e” by its own supporters.
He’s also the anti-Morelos. While his play outside the area, in terms of touch, link-up play and overall work rate, may not match the Colombian, Lafferty has ice in his veins when it comes to chances around the penalty box. He netted three times against Celtic last season, all of which were terrific finishes. If the Light Blues are chasing a game and just need an attacker to come off the bench and make the most of a chance, there are few players in this country you’d want more than the Northern Irishman.
There is the worry of whether he’ll be able to replicate his scoring prowess for a team that won’t revere him quite as much. Even if he is playing well, he’ll spend time on the bench, and when he’s not performing as a member of the starting XI he’ll be hooked with greater frequency than he was at Hearts. Of course, he’s already used to this from his first spell at the club.
Lafferty showed last season that he’s a big game player. Aside from his goals, he was much more engaged in matches against Celtic and Hibs, as he would battle defenders and scrap for loose balls in the final third. If he can bring the same intensity for every opponent he faces in a Rangers shirt, knowing he’ll be right out of the team otherwise, then he’ll represent a decent piece of business at just a few hundred thousand pounds.
That’s without considering the possibility that, with more creative talents around him, he starts banging them in every week and climbs above Morelos and Sadiq in the pecking order.