This piece is an extract from yesterday's The Rugby Road Gates newsletter, which is emailed out at 6pm every Wednesday. To receive our full, free Kilmarnock newsletter straight to your email inbox, click here.

We’re on our way, as the chant goes. European football, here we go!

In my view, a return to Europe is in the bag after Kilmarnock opened up an eight-point gap over St Mirren at the weekend. The superb performance at McDiarmid Park saw the boys secure a comfortable 2-0 win on the road. It really should’ve been more, but all that mattered was the additional three points on the board. Of course, Celtic defeated the Buddies 3-0 too, and so the gap was extended between Killie in fourth, and the Paisley side in fifth.

While nothing is set in stone mathematically, with 15 points still to play for post-split, Killie’s current form (11 points from the last six games) compared to that of Stephen Robinson’s men (five from six) would suggest that St Mirren gaining nine more points than Ayrshire’s finest is pie in the sky. So, a fantastic fourth-place finish will be sealed in the coming weeks, and then everyone associated can properly begin to celebrate. With the way the top six games have fallen, fingers crossed we can officially settle the matter on Matchday 34.

As the campaign comes to a close, naturally, the attention of supporters turns to the end-of-season awards. I will produce a full end-of-season review when all is said and done, but with the club’s own awards night approaching in mid-May, now seems a reasonable time to put forward some potential nominees.

So, without further ado, here are my four picks for Killie’s Player of the Year...

Danny Armstrong

The 26-year-old was the winner of this award last year, and rightly so. To reference the manager, he single-handled carried the fight for the club as it staved off the threat of relegation. If it wasn’t for him, then it realistically would’ve been a different story. This term, the challenge was to show his form wasn’t a flash in the pan. He’s risen to that task and more, with nine goals and 14 assists in 42 appearances so far. As well as his phenomenal productivity levels, with numbers such a massive part of the modern game, he also passes the eye test with his ability to beat a man, great close control, and pinpoint delivery. He doesn’t boast blistering pace unlike most wingers, but he’s no slouch and eight or nine times out of 10, he gets the better of his opponent. He faces stiffer competition for POTY this season, but undoubtedly he should be considered.

Lewis Mayo

The best bit of business the club has conducted in the last decade. Mayo, like Armstrong, was here last season and, after a slow start, became a key figure in Derek McInnes’ side. Of course, he wasn’t our player, though, as he returned to his parent club Rangers last summer. It wasn’t long until he was back in the stripes, as Killie forked out six figures to sign the former Scotland Under-21 international. Some believe the fee was slightly lower, but whatever sum Billy Bowie sanctioned, it was a smart decision from the get-go. He’s already worth seven figures. He’s part of the value on the pitch we’ve so badly lacked until the last 12 months. Mayo has been a near-ever-present this term and aside from two or three games in late February, he’s been a clear standout either on the right, or centre of defence. His reading of the game and positioning are excellent, as is his recovery pace.

Marley Watkins

The acquisition of Watkins was a surprise to no one. Reflecting back, it didn’t happen straight away during the summer transfer window, but in mid-to-late July, the 33-year-old signed a one-year deal at Rugby Park. Stating nothing new here, but the impact he’s had on the team has been nothing short of sensational. The Wales cap has 13 goals in 38 appearances, and one assist. His form in front of goal has propelled the club into the position it's in where things are comfortable in fourth, and the top six was secured with two games to spare. He’s broken his personal goalscoring record for a season, when he scored 11 for Barnsley in the 2016/17 campaign so that speaks volumes for how impressive Watkins has been with being able to rely on him in big moments. Winners against Celtic, Aberdeen, Livingston & St Mirren to name a few. It’s hard to see past the striker for this accolade.

Matty Kennedy

Okay, now THIS was the most predictable signing of all time. McInnes signed the winger for Aberdeen, where he enjoyed varied success. His time there was blighted by injuries, particularly with a serious back issue. So, considering the 29-year-old has missed only two games all season, through illness, then huge credit needs to go to the medical team and the player for their professionalism in eradicating any previous problems. His numbers of three goals and four assists in 39 appearances don’t stand out on paper, but football isn’t played on paper. Anyone who has watched Killie this season will know just how talented Kennedy is. Adding his threat to the left wing to balance out Armstrong’s on the right has been a crucial piece in the puzzle. His one-on-one skills are second to none and right up there with the best in the Premiership. A real joy to watch and I’m glad he’s signed until 2026. The kind of player fans pay money to watch.

Honourable mentions: Brad Lyons, Stuart Findlay, David Watson & Liam Polworth.