THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

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

Comments (6)
Comment by Afrikaams 2010-08-26 12:42:55

There wasn't really anything controversial about Brown's sending off as far as Lafferty is concerned but the Mulgrew incident continues to dog him. It would be a shame if that was seen as his defining contribution though as he does have ability.

He comes across as being immature, a newspaper interview where he boasted about his Bentley was cringe-worthy and displayed a lack of self awareness and tact.

He's been unlucky with injuries but on the whole he's been played out of his preferred position which hasn't helped him. He still has a bit to do before he wins over his own fans far less those of other teams. Rangers small squad should ensure he has ample opportunity to display what talent he has.

Comment by kbmac 2010-08-26 13:20:00

"It would be a shame if that was seen as his defining contribution though as he does have ability."

Until he contributes something more positive - not just to his team - I suspect that will be the impression people have of him. It is certainly the first thing that springs to my mind. Maybe it is a club thing though as the latest example with Allan McGregor was almost an exact replica of the Lafferty incident which we were told had embarassed and shamed the club. That McGregor escaped punishment because the referee had not been conned was a joke. Whether it's Lafferty or McGregor the cheating, the boozing the flash cars - "toe-rag" springs to mind. I must be getting old.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2010-08-26 14:25:48

Okay, I'll bite.

PART 1

So, his hair-do is a bit naff, his goal celebrations aren't very sexy, he's gone out to a night club of an evening and he was once involved in an incident which saw Scott Brown sent off (sorry - it's the phrase "Celtic captain" which is really important in loading that otherwise totally empty statement of fact, isn't it. Old Firm games 'n all that). Take all this vacuous piffle away from this piece - What next? "That t-shirt Lafferty was wearing when I saw him walking down Buchanan Street really DID NOT match his jeans ..."?! - and what we're left with is a player who has won two titles in his two seasons with Rangers, scoring the goals which clinched EACH of those titles and all this while not being played, as you state, in his correct position. Players tend to get frustrated when played out of position or consigned to sub appearances. They then tend to go OTT in attempting to make some sort of impact. And, as we saw when Roman Pavlyuchenko almost crippled someone within 30 seconds of coming off the bench for Spurs last night, that desperation leads to desperate measures.

That was a black moment for him and Rangers. He was totally out of order. So too was Alan McGegor when he tried the same with Derek Riordan on Sunday. So was Peter Lovenkrands when he did likewise to Alan Thompson god knows how many years ago. So now that we're all up to date and out in the open about every bit of cheating and injury-feigning ever to take place in Scottish football, can we acknowledge that Walter Smith was as unhappy about the first two instances as anyone else. The Rangers manager publicly censured Lafferty for his antics against Mulgrew and his even more public slaughtering of Alan McGregor after "Viccies-gate" - when the keeper was on Scotland duty - makes it perfectly clear that no-one at Ibrox allows such infractions of sportsmanship to go un-punished.

Lafferty is aggressive. You have to be to survive in the SPL. That's all sunday last's "controversy" was about. Hibs were playing well so Lafferty stopped them. Because he cares. Because he gives it his all. Both he and McBride could just as easily have walked away with yellow cards for what was all a bit of silliness but Kyle will need to pay the price for his disgraceful ONE-OFF feigning of a head injury against Mulgrew 2 years ago. It's only fair he's made to suffer for that but I think he will deal with it...

Comment by Alex Anderson 2010-08-26 14:26:25

... still biting ...

PART 2


The continuing hysteria around Lafferty from both the media and the more football-ignorant among the Rangers support, gives him more to prove and may make him more desperate. The spotlight he's been living under - perpetuated by folk like yourself - has made his clear contributions to a miraculous couple of seasons for cash-starpped Rangers all the more admirable. Against Aberdeen in April of last season he turned a vital mid-week game on the run-in to the title. In the equally tight title race the previous season he came on against Dundee United at Ibrox and did what Kris Boyd could not - while many around me booed Walter Smith for making such an un-sexy substitution, big Kyle simply rant through United's previously unbreached high-line defence with a speed and boldness Boyd could only dream of. He had one chalked off, set up the crucial first for Fleck and scored the winner in the final minute. Last Saturday against Kilmarnock he was man of the match. He didn't score. You don't have to to contribute.

Neil Lennon is, for me, the most influential single figure in the short, overblown history of the SPL. He too was "controversial". He too was despised by many of his own team's fans - I cite the Parkhead faitheful booing him all through the first European semi-final at Parkhead in 31 years - and he too was guilty of feigning injury to have an opponent dismissed (versus Inverness CT at Pittodrie)but he also managed to "distract opponents". I feel you see this as a minor aspect of Lafferty's play, and you name it as the wrong reason for being picked - I feel it's the basic job of every professional player. You know - to fool your opponent, to beat them.

The number of times in which Neil Lennon would suddenly become embattled and embroiled seemed to coincide with the number of times Celtic were under pressure or toiling. Nine times out of ten his "controversial incident" precipitated a Celtic comeback. He even managed it as a coach when re-joining Gordon Strachan's ailing stewardship half-way through the 2007/2008 season. I'm not for one second suggesting Lafferty will become as influential or central as Lennon - and neither am I for one second hoping to see Rangers fans lauding his more pathetic misdemeanours in banner form as the Celtic fans did with their "fiery Ulsterman" - but it has to be noted, indeed emphasised for the hard of thinking, that Lafferty's dismissal on Sunday was both further, ongoing punishment for the Mulgrew incident AND the point at which Hibs lost it and Ranges began cruising to victory.

Craig Bellamy seems to have done alright off the back of being "controversial" and Cardiff fans wouldn't have it any other way. Ally McCoist was told by the whole of Ibrox to "get to fu**" during his second season. Mark Hateley wasn't accepted for at least a year. Andy Goram even took time to be appreciated. Hold on to Lafferty and the £4million wil be cheap at half the price. Though not anywere near as cheap as this ambulance-chasing, tabloid-pandering article.

Comment by Alex Anderson 2010-08-26 14:32:00

PART 3

funny illustration, mind you.

Comment by Duncan Gardner 2010-08-26 17:39:58

I know Lafferty best from NI games, where many us now see him as a liability. For every vital goal (Sweden, Poland) there's a pointless booking or half-hearted going through the motions. He'll probably play in a dogged 5-4-1 against Slovenia, although we might be better off with the lower-level but more reliable Feeney or one of the Pat(t)ersons. Otherwise I'll go with Afrikaams above.

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