Kilmarnock boss Derek McInnes says his side have a clear target in mind for the Premier Sports Cup and won’t be treating the group stage as pre-season games.
This weekend sees the Rugby Park side travel to play Fraserburgh in their first competitive fixture of the season, with Group B games against Montrose, Partick Thistle and Stenhousemuir to come.
For the newly-promoted side, the return to the Premiership and the beginning of the league campaign may be looking large on the horizon, but McInnes says that’s no reason to treat the League Cup fixtures with anything other than full focus.
The Kilmarnock manager believes the final at the national stadium is what should be fixed in everyone’s minds as they begin their season.
“I know a lot of Premiership teams in the past have come unstuck, maybe going into these games a wee bit undercooked, maybe looking at these games as part of their pre-season fixtures,” McInnes said.
“We can’t see it that way. We don’t pretend to be that good that we can just stroll up and treat these games like pre-season friendlies.
“We have to be competitive from the get-go and the intention, despite some tricky ties in the group with some decent teams in there, is to win the group.
“When you enter a cup competition, clubs like Kilmarnock should have the feeling that we can go all the way to Hampden.
“The bigger picture is to try to get to Hampden. We are a long way from that playing away to Fraserburgh on Saturday, with the greatest respect.
“It is going to be a tough challenge for us but, when they go into a cup competition, players have got to picture and see themselves walking out at Hampden in front of 50,000 in a cup final and I don’t want my players to feel any different than that.”
While preparation for the competitive games continues, so does recruitment for the challenges ahead. Five players have already arrived at Rugby Park this summer, and McInnes hopes to pretty much double that before the window closes and thinks the next few weeks could see fresh additions.
“Probably still at least another four, maybe five,” he said. “We still need more speed, more creativity and better options at the top end of the pitch.
“But we are working hard to try to make that happen.
“We are trying to be really specific about the positions we are looking for and the profile of player and will try to wait as long as we can.
“It is starting to get a bit busier this week, English clubs are starting to return back as well and I think there will be more players available over the next two or three weeks.”