Derek McInnes out to emulate his Aberdeen success at Kilmarnock and revive his career and the Rugby Park club

THE circumstances that led to his departure from Pittodrie last March after eight years in charge of Aberdeen may, privately at least, still rankle Derek McInnes slightly.

The cinch Premiership club had sold Scott McKenna, Sam Cosgrove and Scott Wright for over £5m in the preceding months and McInnes, who came under pressure from supporters as results dried up, believed they were not adequately replaced.

Yet, when he reflects on his lengthy tenure in the north-east overall, the 50-year-old feels, with some justification, a sense of pride at everything he achieved.

The new Kilmarnock manager will be striving to replicate those accomplishments at Rugby Park in the months ahead and is confident that if he can do so he will resurrect both his career and the club.

“I think in time people will look back favourably on my record and what we did at Aberdeen,” he said. “I felt as though we did good work there. We managed to get the club going again, we managed to get it respected again, we managed to get competitive again. 

“Although you have obvious advantages over other clubs, I thought what we managed to do there was good work. We’ve improved clubs as we’ve gone along as a staff. It was a full club working in the right direction. 

“Clearly we would have wanted to win more trophies because that’s how success is normally gauged. But there was also success in terms of turning a club that was heavily in debt into a profitable club, generating millions in prize money every year, developing and nurturing so many good players.

“There is pressure in this job as there was at Aberdeen. But part of the attraction here is to try and meet that demand. Hopefully we can be as successful as we felt we were at Aberdeen.”

McInnes will have to perform similar feats in Ayrshire as he did in Aberdeen in the months ahead.

Kilmarnock parted company with Tommy Wright last month following a disappointing run of form and are currently in fourth place in the Championship table. They must improve, and quickly, if they are to secure promotion come April.

Their new manager, who led St Johnstone to the old First Division title at the end of his first full season in the dugout in 2009, is well aware both of the challenges that await him in the second tier and the demands there will be on him to turn things around.  

“Kilmarnock have shown their capabilities as a Premiership club over the last wee while,” he said. “It’s important we get them back in the top flight. Ultimately, that’s why I’m here. I don’t want to be in the Championship any more than Kilmarnock do, but this is where we are. 

“There has been a bit of instability of late, with a lot of managerial changes, and it’s important we try and give the confidence to everyone that we can achieve this season.  The last time we won promotion with St Johnstone the club had been outwith the top flight for numerous years.”  

McInnes continued: “It’s not going to be a magic wand. It’s going to be getting our hands dirty, rolling our sleeves up and getting on with the job. Working harder than all our competitors has to be something to strive for.

“Hopefully we can show over the course the remaining part of the season that we are good enough to be a Premiership club again. It’s one thing it being the psyche of the club, but it’s about what you do with it.”

McInnes took in the top-of-the-table encounter between Arbroath and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Gayfield on Sunday and is under no illusions about how intense the competition will be both for the title and the play-off positions.

“I think there are always challenges,” he said. “There was and a pressure to get St Johnstone up when I was player-manager and I felt that then. There was a wee bit of pressure at Aberdeen too over the years.

“But you want to work for clubs that have that demand, and now that demand and pressure is on us at Kilmarnock to get the club back. I think it’s fair to say the league is going to be a challenge. If Partick Thistle win their game in hand we’ll drop to fifth. So there are five teams who will all have the same aspirations.

“There are some clubs doing exceptionally well, but the perception is that Kilmarnock are not doing as well as we can. So we still feel there is so much of the season to play for, and control what happens for us. Ultimately, that’s all I’m interested in at the minute with our first game on Saturday (against Queen of the South at Palmerston).

“Arbroath are top at the moment. They are up there on merit, but we can only be concerned by ourselves. If we do that we’ll give ourselves a chance.”

McInnes has received assurances from the Kilmarnock board that he will be able to strengthen his squad during the January transfer window and will be looking to make additions who can resurrect their promotion bid.   

“There’s a guarantee there’s going to be help,” he said. “But you have to be realistic and sensible with that. I’m trying to get to know the players as quickly as I can and through games I’ll get to see them first hand. The first game on Saturday will be very important for us.

“But ask any manager whether they’ve just started in January or whatever the January window always gives you that flexibility and chance to make necessary changes.

“The fact of where we are sitting in the league suggests that if something different is going to happen then we do need to make changes be it with people in the building or trying to get people from outwith to help us with the challenge remains to be seen.”

“Kilmarnock for me provides an opportunity to go and make progress right away. To go and try and win a title, to go and work with good people. To work for a good club with a lot of tradition and a good support.

“So there are a lot of things which made this feel more right than not. And certainly after meeting the board I felt there was something that could be done here.”

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