Northern Ireland’s Kyle Lafferty has paid tribute to his manager, in spite of being dropped to the bench this weekend.
Michael O’Neill left the Norwich man out of the starting XI for the 4-0 win over San Marino, only for the forward to come on as a substitute and score two late goals.
“I respect Michael and every decision he makes, whether it disappoints me or not,” said Lafferty.
“It has probably played in my favour coming off the bench and scoring two and getting an assist.
“There are players playing club football and if I was in their shoes I’d be asking questions why I wasn’t starting.”
Lafferty’s brace on Saturday evening takes his international tally to 19 goals in 53 games for Northern Ireland, a total which he says is much down to the man who left him out.
“I have a manager who has a lot of faith in me,” the forward added.
“He has made me the focal point of the team and put a lot of trust in me. When you have someone like that behind you, it gives you a confidence boost and someone to go out and please. It’s always good.
“I’m repaying Michael by getting goals and getting three points.”
Lafferty understands the predicament O’Neill is in, with his own club career at a low ebb, failing to get regular first team football at Norwich.
“It probably is the toughest time of my career,” Lafferty admitted.
“I want to play as many games for Northern Ireland as I can. With not starting, I’m always going to be disappointed. I have to respect my team-mates and the decision of the manager.
“If he says I’m not fit enough, if he sees I’m going to be better for the team playing 30 minutes and not starting, I have to respect that.”
O’Neill, meanwhile, was content that Lafferty’s pleasing cameo role vindicated his decision to start Josh Magennis instead.
“When I look at Kyle’s situation, it’s about how we can maximise his use to the team,” said the boss. “He came on when the game was stretched and we needed that second goal. He proved what a huge asset he is to the team but we need him more match ready than he is and I think he knows that.
“What Kyle has to do is that when it comes round that we’re here again in November, whatever way possible, he has to get more minutes into his body than he has coming into this game.”