So, what have we learnt from Friday’s internationals?
My personal summary would be as follows:
1. Against the very best, Roy Hodgson has the tactical nous of a turtle – that much was already sadly obvious from Brazil.
2. Wales without Gareth Bale are like crumpets without butter.
3. The French are nailed on to be champions of Europe next summer.
4. Robbie Brady does have the foggiest.
5. Kyle Lafferty doesn’t always score for his country.
Quite how Robbie Brady managed to squeeze his shot in through the thick Bosnian fog blanket is anyone’s guess. I couldn’t see it on my TV.
Fingers crossed that he and Wes can make the difference in the second-leg and propel the Irish to the finals. They both deserve the biggest stage on which to display their talents.
Brady has proved a big hit at Carrow Road and will be on the transfer radars of the Premiership’s richest clubs next summer. Alex Neil and David McNally will have a fight on their hands to keep him in this neck of the woods.
As for Lafferty, he wasn’t able to penetrate the Latvian defence and add to his impressive Northern Ireland tally of the past 12 months.
He’s had a purple patch in the Euro qualifiers while left to fidget frustratedly on his club bench and sometimes not even make it that far.
It’s a paradox that has left some City fans scratching their head and launching their displeasure online.
“How can Alex Neil not see that he’s a better player than Jerome, Mbokani?”. Or [biggest sin of all] “how is he not better that stroppy traitor Lewis Grabban?”
Perfectly legitimate question maybe but (as my colleague Jon Punt pointed out on Sunday) Lafferty is a thorny subject of taste and context clearly, and is proving himself to be a bit of an enigma.
Almost deified in the northern part of Ireland, the big man has not found the folks of Norfolk quite so accommodating. In theory, he has to the summer of 2017 to find his feet here but the odds don’t look good.
Neil Adams fancied him – bought him – and played him to start with although never in the main central striker role in which he has inflicted damage on the likes of the Faroe Islands, Greece and Finland.
For context, those sides are currently ranked 89th, 37th and 56th respectively. They would struggle to give a Bolton or Rotherham a decent game.
Conclusion? Adams thought Cameron Jerome and Grabban were the better options to get us out of the Championship swamp.
Lafferty then embarked on a Turkish loan odyssey for the rest of last season after just one goal in 18 appearances in the yellow and green.
Returning to Norfolk with a new, young and ‘no bullshit taken, no bullshit given’ manager in position, Lafferty has clearly failed to impress Alex Neil as he tinkers with formation and tactics to get a grip on his first season in the English top flight.
Adams has been vindicated, although it took someone else in his job to ultimately prove the point. His mistake was to sign Lafferty in the first place but that’s hindsight.
Fair to say that Alex Neil would not have signed Lafferty had he been in place last summer?
None of this though is good enough for those who, with Ricky van Wolfswinkel’s departure to Spain, seem to have adopted Lafferty as the new great missed opportunity for Norwich City.
While the big Irish fella’s crazy off-field antics have been much publicised and seem to bring him an adoring fan club as a result, his club record on the field is all you really need to study to understand why he’s not become the mainstay of the Canaries’ attack.
The best seasons he’s had in terms of goal return were at Rangers in 2010-11 just prior to the Glasgow giant’s tumble off the financial precipice, and at Palermo in Italy’s second tier in 2013-14.
Pretty modest totals – 11 in both league campaigns – hardly a ringing endorsement.
He struggled to make an impact in the Swiss Super League with FC Sion in the season between Scotland and Italy.
I have been lucky enough to live in Switzerland for a year. I spent a day’s sight-seeing in Sion. It’s a beautiful area, but to call it a “sleepy backwater” would be under egging the pudding .
Even on his Turkish loan to a club few will have heard of, only two goals were forthcoming in a handful of appearances.
Clearly, Lafferty likes to travel.
My unsensational prediction is that he will shortly be packing his bags once more.
Leeds seem interested. We owe them one after raiding their treasure trove of Bradley Johnson, Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass. I won’t mention a certain Argentinean who made the same trip. Equally they won’t be thanking us for shipping Steve Morison their way.
If he does indeed make West Yorkshire his next port of entry, then with that club’s endless trials and tribulations, Lafferty’s time there would not be dull. Steve Evans could just get the best out of him.
I’m jumping the gun though. For now he is a Canary. The calls for his inclusion in the team will continue up to the transfer window no doubt.
But if you’re one of those championing his cause, don’t hold your breath.