26 August ~ When Rangers pipped Celtic to sign Kyle Lafferty from Burnley in the summer of 2008, few could have expected the impact he would have on Scottish football. Lafferty’s reputation as a controversial figure has only been enhanced by his sending-off against Hibernian last Sunday. The incident, a dangerous tackle on Liam Miller and the subsequent brawl with Hibs' Kevin McBride, is the latest in an incident-prone Rangers career.
The gangly striker has been ridiculed for his haircuts (last season it was a Chris Waddle-inspired mullet, this season a skunk-like ginger stripe) and a robotic goal celebration that is similar but less charming than the one made famous by Peter Crouch. Lafferty is known for being an enthusiastic participant in Glasgow’s nightlife, something which isn’t recommended for an Old Firm footballer, regardless of their popularity.
These antics would be almost forgiven if he contributed positively to Rangers, yet his spell at Ibrox has been dogged by controversy. Towards the end of the 2008-09 season, in a vital match against Aberdeen, Lafferty had a spat with Dons defender Charlie Mulgrew (now with Celtic) and fell to the ground holding his face, suggesting that he had been headbutted. Mulgrew was sent off, yet television pictures showed that Lafferty had indeed dived, thus earning him a two-match ban. A year later in an Old Firm derby Celtic captain Scott Brown was sent off after a tussle with Lafferty.
Rangers went on to win each of these matches so it could be said that Lafferty has almost become an asset for the wrong reasons, through his ability to distract opponents. His scoring record isn’t great, just 13 goals in two seasons, although this may be because Walter Smith has opted to play him in a left-midfield position. He occasionally shows glimpses of why Rangers spent £4 million on him, such as his strike against Hibernian last season that clinched the league title. Too often, however, his temper and his attitude have overshadowed the ability that made him the centre of a tug-of-war between Celtic and Rangers.
As it stands, many Rangers fans struggle to see how he could have carried such a hefty price tag at a time where the club don’t have much money to spend. Reports in the Scottish press this week suggest that Lafferty is worrying about his future at Ibrox – you'd have to think that much of this pressure is self-induced. David Childs