RR: So, Kyle Lafferty... what do you think of him as a player?
JB: Lafferty is a player who doesn’t always get the credit he deserves and, though past his best now, he’s the type of player that fans love to see in their club’s shirt. He’ll work hard and put in plenty of effort - even if he looks a bit clumsy and careless at times.
RR: Much is made of Lafferty’s attitude off the pitch. How much of a problem could he be, or is it often overplayed how much of a bad influence he is?
JB: His off-field stuff is a bit unfair on him. He’s definitely someone who has learned the hard way what he can and can’t do as a footballer but he’s never been someone that’s ever been seen as a particularly disruptive player. He gets into some situations that he really should know better than but that’s not too different from players across the planet.
RR: What type of striker is he? We know he’s big, but a quick look on Youtube at the goals he’s scored over his career shows he’s perhaps more versatile than that.
JB: The Northern Irishman is a much more technical player than his gangly frame would suggest. He’s not going to be someone that you shell long balls up to and hope he can bring them down and make something happen. Lafferty is a surprisingly intelligent player who is really good at finding space for himself and turning defences.
RR: Do you think he’s good enough to improve a Sunderland forward line that has struggled to score regularly in League One this season?
JB: Yes. But only if he’s got someone to play alongside him. He’s not a player you’ll get the best out of by playing him as a lone striker. Give him another striker to play with - or at least flood the box in support of him - and he’ll have an impact.
RR: What were the circumstances behind Lafferty leaving Rangers on the two occasions that he has?
JB: His two spells at Ibrox both ended with Lafferty falling out of favour after indifferent performances. His first exit came in 2012 as the club’s financial meltdown went nuclear but he always looked set to go anyway after a training ground ‘bust up’ with manager Ally McCoist a few months earlier.
After returning to Ibrox six years later under Steven Gerrard, the ‘Ulster Gazelle’ never really got going with Alfredo Morelos scoring for fun and then Jermain Defoe arriving on loan. After struggling to get any game time in the second-half of last season, his contract was ‘mutually’ terminated over the summer.
RR: What do Rangers fans think of Lafferty - is he liked?
JB: Rangers fans, generally, like Lafferty - although many would probably accept he could have done a bit more to make a success of either spell.
Being a boyhood Rangers fan probably helps in that regard but he’s certainly not an ex-player who is particularly disliked (like Steven Naismith). He’ll frustrate the life out of fans but he’s got that something that supporters seem to take to.
RR: What would you say to any Sunderland supporters who are unconvinced by the signing of Lafferty?
JB: For any Sunderland fans unconvinced, I’ll be honest here.
Lafferty isn’t going to be the silver bullet to Sunderland’s problems. But, you will see someone who is going to put in a proper shift and help push the Black Cats to the automatic promotion places.
There are going to be times that you’ll want to kill him - christ knows it happened enough to us - but you’ll never come away from a game and accuse him of lacking the fight and ability that’s lacked in recent years.
Wherever he goes, he always seems to end up as one of these ‘cult heroes’ and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he does it at Sunderland too.