Derek McInnes has challenged Danny Armstrong to show he’s not a one-season wonder in Scotland’s top flight. 

The winger was undoubtedly Kilmarnock’s best player last term, chipping in with 12 goals and ten assists across the campaign.  

It was the 25-year-old’s first taste of Premiership football, and out of nowhere, he took to it like a duck to water. 

The issue for Armstrong now is he’s a closely watched man. He’s no longer a shock for opposing teams. But if he’s proven anything during his time in Ayrshire, it’s that he has the resilience required to do it all again. 

“The challenge for him is to replicate his form of last season,” McInnes explained. “He’s not a surprise anymore. Even in the last part of last season, I felt teams were recognising Danny’s qualities. There were some games where his influence wasn’t quite the same. He has to make sure that he comes up with the performances he’s capable of.  

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“He carried the fight for us brilliantly. In the last game, he gets the penalty and then scores. He is vitally important for us, in terms of goals and assists, but we were, at times, too overly dependent on Danny. He was magnificent, but the challenge for him is to go do it and more again. You don’t sit back, and I know he’s not.  

“He’s not a surprise package anymore, it was his first season in the Premiership. He probably caught a few out. His levels were really good. It’s important that he tries to be that again for us.” 

Meanwhile, the boss admits Lewis Mayo is a player the club is keen to reunite with this summer.  

The defender, 23, spent last season on loan at Rugby Park from Rangers. After a rocky start, the former Scotland under-21 international became an integral part of McInnes’ backline. 

However, it’s understood that some pre-season injury issues in central defence for Michael Beale’s side could delay a deal for Mayo to move anywhere this summer, with cover required in the short term. 

McInnes said: “There are a few loan players that we would like to bring back if we could, but we’re at the hands of the parent clubs. We need to go at their pace. If the one or two that we had become available, if there’s that opportunity, we would take that. It’s just whether we wait that long or whether we act on it before then.  

“Every manager wants a squad as strong as it can be, with all the work done before the first game, but experience tells you that sometimes your better options come in the last week of the window.

“If you go all in too early then you maybe wish you’d held on. It’s about trying to get that balance right. Unfortunately, the League Cup puts that added pressure on you very early. All of our group games are difficult. We’re not that good as a team to take any of these games lightly.” 

It was well documented last season that two-thirds of McInnes’ transfer budget was occupied by players already under contract following promotion from the Championship. 

With that situation no longer an issue for the 52-year-old, Killie have their sights on the likes of St Mirren, given their achievements last term.

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He added: “You can't do everything that needs to be done in this window, but you can make good strides. The difference between this season and last is clear to me, I've got more support in terms of recruitment. We have a recruitment department who have been working non-stop for the last seven months to get ourselves ready for this stage

"People only see the players you do get in, there's umpteen more that you miss out on, you've done all the work and had the conversations but at least we've got viable options. 

"The scale of it is massive, nine players going back from a loan and more moving on, it's daunting, but with that comes opportunity and it's important we take advantage of that. 

"We've done some good work, no one is patting ourselves on the back but we are pleased so far, it's important that we try and make the right additions and sign up more Kilmarnock players rather than relying on loans. 

"It's important that we can utilise the budget afforded to us in the best way possible. The club has always been supportive of that, I took over in January and it wasn't just about getting the team up, I'd realised that we still had so many under contract. I never created that situation, but we had to deal with it as best as we could, we just did it, I felt like we always had enough to stay up, it was so important. 

"Now we have the chance to step forward, we don't want to have another season like we did last term. We want to be far more competitive, get to 40 points a lot earlier, and kick on from that, looking up the table hopefully. 

"If we can be more like the team that finished the season and more consistent then we can strive to be like St Mirren were last season, wrestling into the top-six and fighting for Europe.”