Derek McInnes was bursting with pride as Kilmarnock midfielder Brad Lyons earned his first cap in Northern Ireland’s game against Slovenia.
Michael O’Neill’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat at Windsor Park in Belfast that leaves them second bottom of Group H.
But the Rugby Park boss was a keen observer as Lyons was rewarded by his form this season with a starting place in the side.
It came after the 26-year-old, who signed for Killie from Blackburn two years ago, was an unused sub in the 3-0 victory over San Marino three days earlier.
Speaking to the media on Thursday, McInnes, who is preparing his side for a return to league action this weekend, said: “It was a big thing for us for Brad to become and internationalist, we were all invested in that and we were so keen for him to come back with a cap and play his part.
“It shows you the rewards you get for perseverance, professionalism and determination. I don’t think I’ve worked with a more popular boy, his teammates, myself and everybody were all just so keen for him to come back with that cap.
“It was a real positive for him. It’s my job as manager to try and push and encourage as many players as possible and you always that kind of reward for them.
“Rewards come in so many different ways, whether it’s international recognition like Brad or financial rewards and going on to bigger and better things, I think as a staff we all want to invest in our players and make them feel important.
“Brad deserves all the credit, he’s done his job particularly well and the best part of him is the fact that a few months ago if someone had said that to him he would have thought it was such a long way off. And I think that is a reminder to everybody, whether they are in the team or out of the team, that is you apply yourself properly, and you have that confidence and self belief then the rewards are there for you.
“It’s great to see that recognised by Michael in the international setup and all of us are so happy for Brad and his family.”
Kilmarnock host Livingston at Rugby Park as they look to get back to winning ways after seven league games without victory.
Rangers and Celtic remain the only two Premiership sides the Ayrshire club have tasted victory against this season and they currently sit ninth in the table after eight games.
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