And so, the Ulster Gazelle has limped meekly out of the Hummel Training Centre. His tail firmly between his legs after a Kris Boyd-esque second spell at Ibrox. Redemption and righteousness was the carrot being dangled last summer by Rangers only for him to (again) give in to temptation. At nearly 32, one suspects he will never learn. Here we have a player analysis of how and what went wrong,
The second chance
Kyle Joseph George Lafferty really should know better. For a start he’s a grown man and we all know you’re supposed to learn from your mistakes. Not many get a second chance with the club they love at the tail end of their career. His form at Hearts deserved it though. Rangers needed a back-up striker, somebody who was versatile. Lafferty had just scored 19 goals in 41 games, his best ever return. He knew the pressures of playing for Rangers and how to win trophies. A man for the biggest of occasions. It was the proverbial no-brainer.
A downward spiral
So, what went wrong? For me there was a chain effect. He scored a few goals in August and September and things were looking decent. Nobody expected 20-30 goals but he was certainly on target for 15 or more. He was busy, working harder for the team than in his first spell but there was a problem. Where to play him? On his debut he scored a double as Rangers went 3-5-2 against Motherwell but we all know how that ended. He was tried wide left and when Morelos was rested (suspended) he played centrally. The warning signs were never more blatant than at Livingston away.
Lafferty just wasn’t adapting to Steven Gerrard’s attempted style of play and stuck out like a sore thumb. Again, I’ll re-iterate, it wasn’t for the lack of trying, but nothing went his way. Lafferty had two games in December that defined his season. One against Hamilton, at Ibrox and the other against Dundee, away from home. Alfredo Morelos had been (wrongly, and not for the first time) sent off against Aberdeen, this was Lafferty’s chance.
Over the two games that Morelos served his suspension and Lafferty was given a central role, his luck deserted him. Rangers won just 1-0 v Hamilton and drew 1-1 with Dundee. He was hard working, involved in link up play, did the donkey work. All greatly appreciated but he was there to replace Morelos and score his goals against two relative whipping boys. Against Hamilton he did everything but score, he hit the post, missed decent chances and the keeper made at least one worldie save. The greater injustice was against Dundee where he scored a perfectly good and what would’ve been winning goal. It was given offside. With that one decision, Lafferty’s Rangers career was over.
Leopard, spots, etc etc
There had already been stories about various ‘indiscretions’, stuff you wouldn’t even expect a youth player to be getting up to. It became evident he couldn’t adapt, adjust or perform to the required standard and there was only one outcome. For a man in the last chance saloon with his jacket on things could only get better, eh?
The now infamous, closed doors friendly with Liverpool under-23s gave Lafferty another last chance. He blew it. Badly. Rangers were 4-0 down at half-time and Gerrard was fuming. The fact that the kids came on at half-time and managed to draw level says it all. Eros Grezda was another to suffer a similar fate. Borna Barisic held his hands up, apologised to the manager and fought his way back, showing the attitude that previously had been questionable. Gerrard’s mind had been made up, Lafferty would be leaving in the summer.
What might’ve been
It could’ve been so good. The writing was on the wall when Jermain Defoe arrived in January and almost instantly showed what Lafferty should’ve been doing despite being six years older and seriously out of match fitness. I genuinely believe, initially, his heart and head were in the right place. When he stopped scoring goals, missing chances, keepers saving decent efforts and goals being disallowed his head went and so did his effort levels. Not just in games but evidently, also in training.
Most of us, as Rangers fans, would kill to get that one chance. Lafferty got two. He hasn’t tarnished his reputation in a way that Kris Boyd did because we knew what Lafferty was like. He’s a wealthy man but you can’t help but almost feel sorry for him. His departure wasn’t met with any real abuse, more pity and how wasteful he had been. If he regretted the way he left the first time, he’ll not be getting much sleep at how it ended this time. You wonder if he ever looked at how Defoe conducts himself on and off the park and thought “maybe I should give that a bash”.
Like an ex-lover you know isn’t good for you but just can’t help it, there will always be Kilmarnock….