KILLIE are back in the Premiership after a one-year hiatus.

Their journey to Championship glory was a slog, but for everyone connected to the club it was a case of job done.

Until their relegation at the end of the 2020/21 campaign, the Ayrshire side had been in the top flight for 28 consecutive seasons. Only Celtic, Aberdeen and Motherwell could match such a record.

Killie belong in Scotland’s top tier. Some will think differently, but the division missed the club last season. While they are of similar stature to Dundee, there is no way they will be as poor as the Dens Park side were last season.

They will bring a much more competitive edge to an already competitive league. They will be hard to beat and will fancy themselves to give any team a game, especially under Derek McInnes. Their fans always turn up when the club needs them most, as proven against Arbroath. They’ll all be very excited to be back amongst the big boys this year.

The ex-Aberdeen boss is gearing up for his first full season in charge of the Rugby Park outfit. He joined mid-way through last term with Killie languishing five-points off the pace in the Championship.

The highly experienced gaffer made some key additions such as Kyle Lafferty and Ash Taylor to his ranks. There’s little doubt that without Lafferty, or indeed McInnes himself, the club would probably still be in the second tier.

As well as making those key signings, McInnes improved the players he inherited. This is the sign of any good coach. Fraser Murray was electric, Blair Alston – who won the league at Rugby Park – had a new lease of life. Oli Shaw truly came out of his shell scoring many important goals and Rory McKenzie grabbed the bull by the horns and became the club’s player of the year.

The aforementioned names are all still at Rugby Park. While there has been an expected large turnover of players during the off-season, there is a core group in the building who McInnes trusts and knows will do everything for the team.

Retaining Zach Hemming was a huge coup for Killie. The 22-year-old goalkeeper was a standout performer last season and was in the Championship Team of the Year. The on-loan Middlesbrough stopper will miss the opening weeks of the campaign with a groin injury, which is a big blow for McInnes. When he’s back between the sticks though, Hemming will be worth between an extra ten and 12-points for the club.

The most notable name in the team is of course Lafferty. He’s been sensational during his time at Killie and there’s no reason he can’t be the difference again. Outside of Rangers and Celtic, there aren’t many strikers in the league who boast the kind of goalscoring record he has. The first ambition for Killie is to stay clear of the relegation spots, after all, it is their first season back. However, with Lafferty likely to bang in the goals, he could be the man to fire McInnes’ men up the table.

Billy Bowie claimed McInnes would be handed the largest transfer kitty in Killie’s modern history ahead of the 2022/23 season. With over a month left in the window, Killie have drafted in nine new players with as many having left.

Ryan Alebiosu is one to watch. McInnes admitted himself that the right-back, on loan from Arsenal, put in the best debut he’s ever seen as Killie thumped Stenhousemuir in the Premier Sports Cup. The marauding full-back is athletic, powerful and pacey – all attributes which will see you go far in Scottish football. He can bomb forward at will and is more than capable in a tackle. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles Premiership opposition, but it looks like the 20-year-old could light up the league in Killie’s matches.

Jordan Jones is another loan signing, as he returned to Rugby Park in the hope of getting his career back on track. He enjoyed the best football of his life in Ayrshire a few years ago, so he and McInnes could be good for each other. Alan Power is another to return to Killie while Liam Donnelly and Joe Wright look to be good signings on paper.

Kerr McInroy and Lewis Mayo are two youngsters who impressed in the Championship for Ayr and Partick respectively. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope with the step up in quality.

The primary focus will be to secure survival as early as possible, but McInnes will not just want to settle for avoiding relegation. He said himself that the quality of the league last term wasn’t great, he’ll be quietly confident he can guide Killie towards the top six. With his impressive cup record, you wouldn’t back against him getting Killie to Hampden either.


Manager: Derek McInnes

Captain: Alan Power

Key player: Kyle Lafferty may seem like everyone’s go-to answer for this, but the Northern Ireland star really can be the difference maker for Killie this season. During his two separate spells at Killie, the former Rangers and Hearts man has bagged 21 goals in 28 appearances. That’s stunning form at any level. He’s particularly prolific at Rugby Park. Outside of Glasgow’s big two, there aren’t many better strikers in Scotland. With the right service from Jordan Jones, Fraser Murray and Ryan Alebiosu, Lafferty will likely cause defences all sorts of problems and could well be the man to separate Killie from the rest of the bottom six sides.

In: Liam Donnelly (Motherwell), Gary Woods (Aberdeen), Alan Power (St Mirren), Kerr McInroy (Celtic), Zach Hemming (Middlesbrough, loan), Jordan Jones (Wigan, loan), Lewis Mayo (Rangers, loan), Ryan Alebiosu (Arsenal, loan), Joe Wright.

Out: Brandon Haunstrup (Cambridge United), Stephen McGinn (Falkirk), Euan Murray (Hartlepool), Jason Naismith (Queen’s Park), Colin Doyle (Bradford), Tomas Brindley (Forfar), Euan Deveney (Airdrieonians), Ross Smith (Irvine Meadow), Curtis Lyle (East Kilbride, loan), Chris Burke (now on coaching staff).

Last season: It wasn’t always pretty in the Championship, but Killie got the job done in the end. They earned promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking, which as history shows is no easy task. For all the huffing and puffing throughout the nine-months of the season, the penultimate game against Arbroath to clinch the title will live long in the memory for the Ayrshire side.

Odds: 750/1.