Kyle Lafferty: Northern Ireland striker wants to score against USA for sister who was 'his biggest fan'

Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty wore a t-shirt in memory of his sister during the warm-up for the play-off final against Slovakia

Kyle Lafferty has said he will be aiming to score a goal for his sister when he takes on the USA with Northern Ireland in Sunday's friendly.

The Kilmarnock striker's sister Sonia passed away soon before NI's Euro play-off final defeat by Slovakia, the side's last home game, in November.

Lafferty, who came on as substitute and hit the post late on against the Slovaks, spoke about wanting to make her proud.

"It will always be tough," he said.

"I don't think anyone can prepare themselves to lose a loved one. I was very close to my sister, she was my biggest fan.

"To be on the pitch to represent her at that time was important to me and I think she would have wanted me to be there.

"You lose someone that you are close to and love, but she would have wanted me to play football and every single game I go out now thinking about her and trying to score goals for her.

Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty had to be comforted at full-time of the Slovakia play-off defeat

"Hopefully I can go out and get a goal for her on Sunday night. It's always going to be tough, especially for my mum and dad to lose one of their children, but we stick together.

"We are a very close family who are always helping each other out and are there for each other. She will be proud of me no matter what I do but I obviously have to make her proud."

'Hungrier than ever' to play for NI

Lafferty will wear the captain's armband for Sunday's friendly with the USA as he seeks to end a four-year international goal drought which stretches back to November 2016.

He came off the bench late on in Northern Ireland's 2-0 defeat away to Italy in Thursday's opening World Cup qualifier in Parma.

It was an 80th international cap for the 33-year-old but, ahead of Sunday's friendly at Windsor Park and their next qualifier at the Belfast venue against Bulgaria on Wednesday, he said his hunger for international football is stronger than ever.

Having joined Kilmarnock recently, he added that he is enjoying being back in the UK and playing for former NI goalkeeper Tommy Wright.

"I'm probably even hungrier than the first time I pulled on the Northern Ireland shirt," continued Lafferty, who is Northern Ireland's second-highest goalscorer with 20 goals.

Kyle Lafferty
Lafferty has scored three goals in four appearances for Kilmarnock

"I'm getting old but I'm still trying to play a part in the team and be involved in the squad. It doesn't matter how many years I've been involved, the hunger to play for your country will always be there no matter what age you are.

"Tommy is playing me, giving me game time. Every manager who has put their faith in me I have gone out and performed. Obviously Michael put a massive amount of trust in me and I rewarded him with goals.

"I'm back in the UK, back close to my family which plays a massive part and I'm happy off the field, which will make me perform to my highest levels. We're in a relegation battle so it's all to play for."

Northern Ireland are without a win during 90 minutes in manager Ian Baraclough's nine games in charge, but Lafferty said there are positives to take from the defeat by Italy and that the players are behind the boss.

"The whole squad of players are behind the manager, we see how hard he works on and off the pitch for players and we want to get him that win sooner rather than later," he said.

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