Soccer

Derek McInnes confident he has improved his Kilmarnock squad

Derek McInnes is confident he has built a strong Kilmarnock squad (Jane Barlow/PA)
Derek McInnes is confident he has built a strong Kilmarnock squad (Jane Barlow/PA) Derek McInnes is confident he has built a strong Kilmarnock squad (Jane Barlow/PA)

Derek McInnes believes his Kilmarnock squad is “significantly stronger” after Liam Donnelly agreed a new contract with the club.

The 27-year-old midfielder, who joined Killie from Motherwell on a one-year deal last summer, re-signed on a two-year contract and will remain with Killie until 2025.

The Northern Ireland international joins new signings Robbie Deas, Matty Kennedy, Kyle Magennis, Kieran O’Hara, Marley Watkins, Tom Davies, Will Dennis, Stuart Findlay, Corrie Ndaba and Lewis Mayo in a revamped squad.

Kilmarnock finished 10th in the cinch Premiership last season in their return to the top flight and ahead of the league opener against Rangers at Rugby Park on Saturday, boss McInnes said: “There are no guarantees when you sign players but for me, we have made some good signings.

“I feel we have a bit more experience with some of the signings.

“We let a lot of players go to free up the space to give us scope to rebuild the squad.

“A lot of loan players went back but we brought Lewis Mayo back as a permanent signing which is good and we have tried to reduce the amount of loans we have in comparison to last season.

“That would be an indication that we have done the work, trying to give players contracts to become Kilmarnock players so we feel we have a good level of player in the building. The proof will be at the end of the season.

“That demand was met last season with the squad we had,  and now the demand shifts, we are looking for a bit more from everybody and hopefully we can meet the demand that is on us this season.

“We still have a bit to do, we still have forward areas to be dealt with, we are still trying to get at least one in between now and the window closing.

“But if we can get a few of our senior players back who have been out, like Joe Wright, Kyle Vassell and Rory McKenzie, then the squad looks significantly stronger but as I say time will tell with that.”

McInnes is “really pleased” that Donnelly will extend his time at the Ayrshire club.

The Killie boss said: “He said if he was staying in Scotland he would be signing for us.

“We agreed a deal a while ago but he had a lot to consider with his family.

“Even this week there was a club in Scotland offering him more money to sign and he stood by his word so, really good to get him, although he is away behind everyone else (fitness wise) but we sign players for the season.”

Killie start the season with Rangers at home, Hearts away then Celtic at home in the ViaPlay Cup and McInnes revealed he had an Old Firm “itch to scratch” this season.

The former Ibrox midfielder said: “I think it is a great opening fixture for us.

“We beat every team in the cinch Premiership last season except Rangers and Celtic.

“We know what we are capable of but we also have to demonstrate our capabilities of getting results against the best two teams.

“We have to have the confidence, assurance and personality on Saturday to try to do exactly that.

“It is an itch we need to scratch. We need to try to overcome that, the fact that we never took points off Rangers and Celtic last season.

“We expect a tough game on Saturday. It is important Rangers get that as well.”