Daniel Lafferty knows all about camaraderie.
He understands, having played his part in Northern Ireland’s renaissance, how comradeship can overcome supposedly superior teams.
So, after joining Sheffield United on loan from Burnley last month, the former Celtic defender was pleased to discover that Chris Wilder and Michael O’Neill share similar ideals.
“The manager talks a lot about creating a really strong spirit. And that was really good to hear. It’s obviously worked for us at international level and, when everything comes together, it’s the most powerful thing you can have.”
Lafferty is scheduled to spend the rest of the season in South Yorkshire following a deadline day move from Turf Moor. The 27-year-old, who made his debut against Gillingham last weekend, drew further parallels between Bramall Lane and Windsor Park when he discussed the transfer at United’s training complex earlier this week.
“When you talk about what’s happening with Northern Ireland, it’s all about everybody pulling in the same direction with one goal in mind. Everybody involved in the group being upbeat, ready to help each other out and work hard. If you get the right people, then it becomes second nature and I think that’s what’s going on here. A lot of new lads have come in so it’s always going to take time. But there’s obvious quality and, crucially, that desire to achieve and do well.”
After starting the 2-1 victory at Priestfield, Lafferty is poised to make his second appearance for United when they visit AFC Wimbledon tomorrow. Wilder described the full-back’s acquisition as a “superb” piece of business when it was announced nine days ago. Lafferty, after getting to know his new surroundings, is similarly impressed.
“The club’s huge, the stature is huge and so is the size of the fan base,” he said. “The city is great too. I was probably a little bit taken aback by how big this place is when I first came in. I didn’t think my phone and social media stuff would be so busy. I’m buzzing about being here.”
“There’s a good manager here with a good vision,” Lafferty continued. “It’s the same at Burnley and with Northern Ireland too. Managers and coaches who like to build from the bottom up and put a lot of emphasis on the mentality of players. Getting the right foundations in place.”
After making a chequered start to the new season - losing three and drawing one of their opening four league games - United travel to the capital searching for a third successive victory after beating Oxford at home last month. With his future in Lancashire uncertain, Lafferty knows performing well at domestic level could serve a dual purpose; persuading Wilder to offer a permanent contract and, following his omission from Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad, convincing O’Neill to recall him too.
“I want to be playing football and this was a fantastic opportunity for me,” Lafferty, who has been capped 13 times by his country, said. “Everyone wants to be involved because it creates new pathways and helps me internationally too. If I’m not playing for a club, at club level, then I can’t really be involved properly with Northern Ireland. Especially when the lads are doing so well.”
“I haven’t spoken to Michael personally,” he added. “But I do speak to people who are in contact with him so it all gets fed back. So it’s just a case of getting my head down and getting back in. I’m fully confident that I can get back in there. It’s not a case of door closed or anything like that.”