New Kilmarnock manager Derek McInnes has targeted promotion back to the Premiership this year and hopes to be challenging for a European place a year from now.
The former Aberdeen boss was appointed as Tommy Wright’s successor at Rugby Park earlier this week, with the clear remit to restore the team’s fortunes after relegation from the top flight last season and inconsistent results this term.
Kilmarnock are currently in fourth place in the Championship table but only five points behind leaders Arbroath with a game in hand. McInnes says the immediate priority is to get the promotion push into top gear and then look upwards once again.
He said: “I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’ve got high regard for the club and a high regard for the people at the club, having met them last week.
“There’s work to be done here. The club don’t want to find themselves in the Championship like they have done. It’s up to me and the players not to take the responsibility to get the club out.
“We were proud of being a Premiership club for so long and now we want to get back there. That’s the challenge.”
McInnes said he and his staff Tony Docherty and Paul Sheerin know the challenge ahead and “can’t wait to get going”, with the manager acknowledging the competition in the league but targeting promotion as champions.
The manager said he treated the nine months out of work since leaving Aberdeen as a welcome break and had been looking for the right opportunity with the right club and owners before taking on a new role.
Though starting in the second tier after leaving a Premiership side, he aims to be back in the top flight at the first chance.
“I don’t want to be in the Championship any more than the club want to be in the Championship,” he said. “it’s up to us all now to try and work to be a Premiership club.
“I think we can all safely say that when Kilmarnock are a Premiership club, they’re up there ahead of a lot of clubs with what they can provide, the potential, the support and everything else.
“It’s important that we respect the league and work hard, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
“Hopefully this time next year we’re talking about a Premiership club in the top six and trying to fight for Europe. That’s what can be done, and it’s been done here before.”
The club competed at the top end of Scottish football and qualified for Europe under Steve Clarke and McInnes believes the Scotland manager, and the late Tommy Burns, who managed the club in the 1990s, show what can be achieved at Rugby Park.
“I played against Kilmarnock when it was really thriving under Tommy Burns,” he said. “Tommy Burns lit the fire here and got the supporters engaged.
“Stevie did it again more recently and we saw the capabilities of the team so it can be done.
“First things first, while it’s good to have a long-term plan, short-term is to win the game on Saturday, get confidence in the team and build momentum between now and the end of the season.
While McInnes deals with the immediate demands of the upcoming game against Queen of the South, he also has the chance to go out and sign players to help with his aims.
The manager said the squad will all be given a chance to impress him, but that he intends to look for signings that can help to further the club’s ambitions.
“I’ve only had one full day with the players and obviously there’s some lads I’m familiar with, some I’m not so familiar with, and through time you get to know them,” he said.
“When you’re in a January window, regardless of when you take over as manager, there’s an opportunity to try and make those adjustments to the squad. I think you’ve also got to be fair to the lads that are here, we’re obviously mindful that we need to get off to a winning start as soon as possible.
“There’s some good players here and they’ve shown that they are a capable side for the majority of the season but what’s also clear is that we might need a bit more if we’re going to get the confidence to get out of the league.”