Billy Hamilton believes Kyle Lafferty’s international career could be over after he withdrew himself from the Northern Ireland national team.
Ahead of NI’s double-header against Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lafferty opted out of the team which manager Michael O’Neill called “disappointing”, and Hamilton doesn’t believe “there is any way back for him”.
As per the Daily Record, Hamilton said: “I was very disappointed to hear about what happened. Lafferty’s international performances have helped him get the moves he has got in his career and he should be forever grateful to Michael for sticking by him and playing him.
“This is a bit of a kick in the teeth to Michael. Unless there is a really good explanation I don’t think there is any way back for him. It seems like a loss of trust and respect. It was ridiculously late to tell him. We don’t know what is going on with Kyle.”
The 31-year-old reportedly contracted his O’Neill to tell him he would be absent for the upcoming fixtures. He’s made 68 appearances for the Northern Ireland national team, scoring 20 goals. Rotherham’s Kyle Vassell has replaced Lafferty in the squad.
It would be a bitterly disappointing way to end his national career in this manner, with Lafferty being the country’s second-highest all-time goalscorer, behind David Healy (32). He scored seven goals during the Euro 2016 qualifiers to help Northern Ireland qualify for the finals.
It’s a big call to turn down a country’s call-up and one that could have big consequences in the future for the 31-year-old. Hamilton might be right in his assertion that Lafferty could have hammered the final nail in the coffin for his international future, but O’Neill was quick not to make any such claim in a recent press conference.
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