Danske Bank Premiership

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Linfield’s Shayne Lavery, with the former Glenavon trainee making a name for himself with four goals in the Europa League. Although his strikes were unable to prevent The Blues from crashing out of the competition on the away goals rule, he’s certainly caught the eye, and he’s been rewarded with a call-up to the Northern Ireland squad.

Linfield may not be universally popular, but the club’s valiant efforts in Europe haven’t gone unnoticed, and their recent run to the play-offs is likely to inspire other Danske Bank Premiership sides in the future. Lavery netted twice against Qarabag on August 22nd to help his side chalk up a 3-2 victory, with his well-timed brace briefly giving fans hope that the Belfast-based club may be able to book their place in the group stage of the competition. Qarabag’s injury-time penalty at the end of the first leg proved to be the difference between the two sides, and Linfield’s dream run was ended by the smallest of margins.

Lavery joined the club from Everton at the end of May, and despite having never made a senior appearance for the Toffees, he’s hit the ground running at Windsor Park. Following his arrival, David Healy spoke enthusiastically about how the striker will improve competition within the squad, but on current form, the 20-year-old will surely be one of the first names on the team sheet.

The former Falkirk-loanee has to prove that he can do it on a consistent basis, and he will only be deemed a success if he can find the net regularly in the Premiership. He netted in the club’s recent 4-2 defeat to Coleraine, and that bodes well for future fixtures. The Blues have played just twice so far, with many of their games having been postponed in order to help them concentrate on their Europa League commitments.

He played six times in the Scottish Championship last season, but was unable to find the back of the net. Prior to his strike against Sutjeska, he’d managed just one senior goal, which came in the EFL Trophy for Everton Under-21s. It’s vitally important that the fans don’t get carried away, and Lavery himself must ensure that he keeps his feet on the ground. He’s got huge potential, and is clearly a confidence player, who has now netted in five consecutive contests.

At the end of August, it was announced that the striker’s efforts have been recognised by Michael O’Neill. He replaced the injured Paul Smyth in the Northern Ireland squad for September’s double-header, and this is highly likely to be the first of many inclusions. He will be part of the squad which will be hoping to book their place at Euro 2020, although they’ve been handed a tough-looking section. O’Neill’s men are drawn alongside Germany, Holland, Estonia and Belarus, and are currently third favourites in the International football betting markets at 5/1 to finish in the top two of Group C.

Lavery may have to be patient when it comes to getting his chance at international level, but he will surely be a regular starter for David Healy’s men. The County Antrim-born forward will have to ensure that he keeps up his superb strike rate in order to help guide Linfield to consecutive Danske Banke Premiership titles, and to prove that he doesn’t just save his best performances for the Europa League.