Sanchez lauds Lafferty
By Graeme Bailey. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Northern Irish boss Lawrie Sanchez is tipping striker Kyle Lafferty to continue to make a big impact.
The 19-year-old Burnley striker is yet to score for his country, but his performances have always drawn big plaudits.
Lafferty was the subject of a bid from Celtic earlier this season, but that was shunned and he has since penned a long-term deal at Turf Moor - and Sanchez feels he was probably right to remain at Burnley.
"Kyle has been given opportunities and thrived on them," said Sanchez as he named a 20-man squad for their forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers with Liechtenstein and Sweden.
"Celtic made a decent bid for him but sometimes it is better for a younger player to stay where he is.
"The manager knows him and has brought him through.
"I have no doubt that longer term Kyle will play at the top level.
"He is still a very young man and the best thing is to stay at a smaller club.
"Kyle is still learning his trade. He has done very well when he has played for us."
Lafferty is set to rekindle his strike-partnership with fit-again David Healy as Sanchez's men face Liechtenstein and Sweden.
Healy has returned to the national fold along with Damien Johnson and Jonny Evans - who all missed their country's last game with Wales - but all three should start in Vaduz on Saturday.
As Sanchez named his squad he confirmed the absence of Chris Baird, Sammy Clingan and Tony Capaldi - who are all injured and will miss both games.
Linfield goalkeeper Alan Mannus, who has one cap to his name, is recalled as Michael Ingham has a hamstring problem - and there is also a shock call for Northampton's James Quinn.
Full squad to face Liechtenstein and Sweden:
Taylor (Birmingham), Carroll (West Ham), Mannus (Linfield), Craigan (Motherwell), Hughes (Aston Villa), Duff (Burnley), Evans (Man Utd, on loan to Sunderland), Webb (Ross County), McCann (Barnsley), Davis (Aston Villa), Gillespie (Sheff Utd), Johnson (Birmingham), Brunt (Sheff Wed), Jones (Burnley), Elliott (Hull), Lafferty (Burnley), Sproule (Hibernian), Feeney (Luton), Healy (Leeds), Quinn (Northampton).