New signing Lafferty eager to impress
The exciting left-back, who put pen to paper on a two-and-a-half year deal at Turf Moor on Monday following a successful trial spell, played alongside the winger at Derry City in the League of Ireland Premier Division.
McClean’s talent attracted the attention of former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, who signed the youngster in August for £350,000, though he wasn’t handed his chance in the first team until Martin O’Neill’s arrival at the Stadium of Light.
And after seeing what his close friend has achieved, Lafferty is eager to make his mark on the English stage.
“It does spur me on actually,” he said. “James was one of my best mates so it does inspire me.
“Having played with him for so long and see what level he’s at, away in the Premier League and he’s flying, it does make me feel like I’m not a million miles away from that. It does give you that wee incentive to push on.”
The Clarets have a rich tradition with Irish football players stretching back from Jimmy McIlroy and Alex Elder to the modern crop including club captain Chris McCann.
Lafferty is keen to follow suit. He said: “Burnley have got a rich tradition with Irish footballers.
“Personally I’m looking to do as well as I can and in the short-term force my way in to the manager’s plans.
“It’s tough trying to get out of Ireland, but thankfully the chance came about and I’ve grasped it with both hands. I just want to make the most of my time here.”
The attack-minded left-back started his career with Celtic though finding his opportunities limited at Parkhead. Former Claret Danny Fox, signed by Tony Mowbray at Celtic, secured the left-back slot before doing the same with the Clarets.
Lafferty is confident he can fill Fox’s boots at Turf Moor.
“I was there when Tony Mowbray brought Danny in. He’s a neat and tidy full-back with a great left foot, and he also likes to get forward.
“I guess there are similarities there with me. We’re both modern-day full-backs – you have to be dynamic, athletic and show desire to get forward. In some ways we’re similar.”
After a loan spell with Ayr United, Lafferty was released by Celtic at the end of the 2009/10 season, and joined his home-town team and helped them to League of Ireland Cup success last season, as well as a third-place league finish.
Lafferty said: “It was disheartening leaving Celtic after being there for five years but there just came a point where I realised I needed to play first-team football.
“I wanted to get out there and start enjoying my football and Derry City gave me that opportunity.”
The permanent capture of Kieran Trippier showcased Clarets boss Eddie Howe’s desire for dynamic full-backs.
And Lafferty’s nine goals for Derry last season helped fuel Howe’s pursuit for the 22-year-old.
He said: “The manager here put a big emphasis on young players, and his style suits my kind of football, so it was a no-brainer. In was a dream move for me to come over here and play at this level.”
Lafferty’s form attracted interest from a few English clubs, and he spent time at Derby – a trial interrupted by injury – and Brighton, before the Northern Ireland Under-21 international impressed Howe in a behind-closed-doors friendly at Wolves last week.
He added: “I came here with a minor injury so I haven’t really been training yet with the lads.
“But I’ve settled in okay and been made very welcome, so I just want to get fit and get back training again in the next couple of days.
“Then I can try to force my way in to the team.
“We are looking like one of the form teams in the league at the minute, so it will make it even tougher for me to get in to the team. There’s a lot of great players here.
“The back four have been excellent the last number of games, conceding only a few goals, so you can’t expect to turn up here and walk in to the team.”
Tomorrow’s clash with Peterborough at Turf Moor will be Lafferty’s first taste of live Championship football.
He said: “I’ve never even been to watch a Championship game before in my life so it will be a new experience.
“I’ve been to see the stadium and it’s a lovely place, you can sense it’s a passionate kind of place.
“I’m sure tomorrow when it’s packed to the rafters it will be jumping.
“I’ll be doing my best to get involved in that kind of scenario.”