DAN’S THE MAN
How Daniel Lafferty aims to revive his fortunes at Sheffield United
DANIEL Lafferty says the agony of missing out on Euro 2016 convinced him to abandon his Premier League dream to make a fresh start at Sheffield United.
Lafferty, 27, joined Burnley from Derry City in 2012 but stiff competition at Turf Moor saw him feature just once in the last two years.
And despite a loan spell at Oldham and a cameo in Northern Ireland’s final warm-up game against Wales, Michael O’Neill axed Lafferty from his 23-man squad, admitting a lack of game time had cost the full-back his place on the plane.
So while his mates battled through to the last 16, earning an historic victory over Ukraine along the way, Lafferty watched in purgatory from his sofa.
“It was a very bittersweet experience,” explains the leftback. “Obviously you want the lads to do well. I was cheering them on like everybody else.
“But it was very hard to sit at home watching on TV knowing I’d come so close to being a part of it. Every time they played I was thinking ‘I should be out there on that pitch’.
“That was the motivation. My international career has suffered in the last year-and-ahalf. I missed the cut again this weekend.
“Coming here is a chance to get back on track. I just want to get regular games, show that I’m match fit, and hopefully prove to Michael that I merit a place in his team again.”
For Lafferty, signed on a season-long loan, Wednesday’s switch to Bramall Lane represented his first experience of deadline day mayhem.
“It all happened pretty quickly, which I suppose it had to,” says Lafferty, whose Clarets contract expires in May. “As the day went on, it got progressively more likely and at 4pm I got a phone call saying ‘Get in the car and drive to Sheffield’. I hit the road and that was it.
“It’s not particularly enjoyable, though I might think differently if I was flying around in a helicopter and being signed for £50m!”
Lafferty will join fellow new boys Caolan Lavery and Ethan Ebanks-Landell in the squad for today’s clash at Gillingham, with Chris Wilder’s pre-season favourites seeking to banish memories of a woeful start with a second successive win. And the Northern Irishman says it is high time their six-year stint in League One came to an end. “I had other options but once I heard United wanted me, it was a no-brainer,” he says. “It’s an absolutely huge club, a Premier League club really. You just need to look at the fan base and the stature. “They’ve been in this division too long and I can’t wait to get started trying to change that. It’s been extremely frustrating watching other people play these past two years. I just want to remind people what I can do.” Meanwhile, Gillingham boss Justin Edinburgh says he is ready to welcome back both Ryan Jackson and Jamie O’Hara this afternoon, while new signing Baily Cargill could make his debut. Both right-back Jackson and former Spurs central midfielder O’Hara have missed Gillingham’s last two league matches with fitness concerns. But, as the Gills bid for a fourth league win of the season to cement their place in the upper echelons of League One, it would appear Edinburgh has his cavalry to call upon. O’Hara featured in the midweek Checkatrade Trophy clash with Luton and Edinburgh said: “I am pleased he came back in. He got 45 minutes and looked a class act. I can’t remember him giving the ball away. “With another two or three games, we know what we are going to have on our hands.” Though Jackson missed the match with Luton as he continues to recover from a groin injury, he looks set to play his part today along with defender Cargill who has joined from Bournemouth on loan.
TIME TO MAKE UP: Daniel Lafferty, seen here in Burnley colours, is out to impress at Sheffield United