Kilmarnock skipper hopeful Europa League qualification is start of special spell for club

Kilmarnock's Kyle Vassell celebrates at full-time after his side's win over St Mirren -Credit:SNS Group
Kilmarnock's Kyle Vassell celebrates at full-time after his side's win over St Mirren -Credit:SNS Group

Kyle Vassell fired Kilmarnock into the Europa League and promptly declared that this could just be the start of a special spell of the club.

The 31-year-old netted his 11th goal of the campaign to spark scenes of delight at the SMISA Stadium in Paisley as they secured fourth place in the Premiership.

The Englishman has tasted promotion success down south at both Blackpool and Rotherham United - including a play-off win at Wembley with the former.

But he insists qualifying for Europe with Killie, coming just 12 months after scrambling to survive in the top flight, is every bit as good and he’s confident this won’t be the end of the journey for the Rugby Park side.

He said: “I’ve had a few promotions and I’ve won at Wembley but finishing fourth with Kilmarnock is like a promotion, with the teams in this league and how hard it is.

“This is right up there for me – perfect way, perfect place, perfect day. I’m so happy for everyone involved – the players, fans, staff, everyone at the club.

“I can’t explain how hard the season has been. For me personally, I’ve been playing with injuries for quite a while now.

“It’s been a dream, an ambition to play in Europe, and now I’ll be able to tell my family and kids when they grow up that hopefully I’ll play in the Europa League. It’s a dream come true.”

Asked if there could be plenty more to come for this group of players, he said: “I hope so. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. It’s one game at a time, it’s keeping hold of the boys who are going to have some interest in them now.

“It’s about sticking to what we’re doing, to our blueprint.”

While the gaffer Derek McInnes heaped praise on his captain following their success, Vassell was equally quick to point out that McInnes is the architect, saying: “It’s all him. I’m so grateful to him. He’s been brilliant for me. He’s helped me flourish and given me the responsibility of being captain.

“I’ve taken that with two hands and I’ve got nothing but great things to say about him. What is the key? Togetherness with the group. We’re genuinely friends outside of football, spend so much time together away from football.

“And the mentality. The boys are winners and don’t really care how we win.

“The manager has brought in good players, but he’s brought in the right mentality too. I can’t tell you how important that is, just boys who do it right every single day, and that’s what he’s brought into the building.”

He added: “It’s a joy to go into training. I feel so privileged to play with some of the boys and achieve that this season.

“We were here last season for completely different reasons and the win was just as important. But this is far more special.”

Killie bring the curtain down on their season on Saturday with an away trip to Dundee (12.30pm kick-off) after having welcomed Celtic to Rugby Park on Wednesday night (7.30pm kick-off).

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