Sheffield United: Michael O’Neill explains Daniel Lafferty decision

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill

Daniel Lafferty has been placed on stand-by for Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Norway later this month after Michael O’Neill, the Group C hopefuls’ manager, admitted he did not want to interrupt Sheffield United’s push for promotion from League One.

Lafferty, the former Burnley defender, hoped to be selected for the tie after impressing for Chris Wilder’s side this term.

Danny Lafferty is mobbed by his team mates after scoring against Rochdale: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Danny Lafferty is mobbed by his team mates after scoring against Rochdale: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

Although O’Neill omitted him from the squad which hosts Lars Lagerbäck’s side on March 26, the 47-year-old explained: “We watched Daniel a couple of weeks ago against Bolton. He’s very much in the equation, but we left him on standby.

“For players at that level of football, they have to miss their club games, so I don’t want to bring them for the sake of bringing them along. If they come, I want them to have a real opportunity to push to start.”

United, who are eight points clear at the top of the table, are scheduled to face Oldham Athletic a day before the meeting at Windsor Park. Lafferty, aged 27, last represented his country during a 1-1 draw with Wales a year ago. Athletic’s Ryan McLaughlin has been called-up and is expected to miss United’s visit to Boundary Park as a result.

“With Daniel doing as well as he is and Sheffield United going well in their league, I didn’t think it was right to name him, but he is on standby,” O’Neill added. “Depending on what happens between now and meeting up next Monday, we’ll see if he is an option for us.”

United return to action against Swindon on Tuesday after this afternoon’s game with Millwall was postponed.