Aaron Tshibola feels at home Kilmarnock after bruising experience in Portugal

Midfieler was left without wages at his previous club

Kilmarnock's Aaron Tshibola. Picture: SNS
Kilmarnock's Aaron Tshibola. Picture: SNS

It isn’t just that he is in his third spell with the club that makes Aaron Tshibola feel like Kilmarnock is home. It is the fact the Rugby Park side have looked after him in a way others have not.

The 25-year-old midfielder no longer takes that for granted following his experiences with Portuguese side Aves last season. Tshibola was left with no income to provide for his partner and young son and nowhere to go as the coronavirus lockdown took effect in March. His 18-month contract, signed only two months earlier, suddenly meant nothing. It created a situation that has led him to seek redress through the legal route and football’s governing bodies.

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No wonder the joys of Ayrshire suddenly seem precious. Not least because Tshibola had his previous deal with Belgian side Waasland-Beveren terminated by mutual agreement after spending only half a season there on departing Rugby Park in the summer of 2019.

“I realise now how much Kilmarnock suits me,” he said, having originally moved to the club on loan from Aston Villa in January 2018. “It was quite hard, at the end with Aves, frustrating that because of the situation they said they weren’t able to honour my contract. I just wanted to be playing my football. It’s something that I love and I don’t want anything that gets in the way of that. They still owed salary as I wasn’t paid over 60 days. I’m owed a good amount of my contract at the club. I’ve left that with my solicitors and they’re dealing with that case, which has been discussed with the Portuguese Federation, Fifa and stuff.

“The club was just in a bad situation. It’s never nice to work every single day and not be able to get your hard-earned money. I was going in every day and training and playing football. But we all have families and kids and we have to do what’s best for them. We have to take care of ourselves. But I tried my best to stay as long as I could and overlook these things. It was definitely different to anything I’d experienced before in Britain and I had to hope for the best. But that never really came.

“I was paying rent on a flat. We had agreed for the club to pay for my accommodation but that never got honoured. They gave their word but never honoured it. That’s sad.

“It’s exactly [why I appreciate Killie]. It’s the simple things that matter. Going back to basics. And you forget how lucky you are at times. You go to these other places and then you come back here where everything is in place and you go, “wow”. I feel normal and a professional footballer again. That definitely humbled me and made me grateful for everything I have. I’m just really happy and in a good place at the moment.”That good place is where the only black manager in Scotland, Alex Dyer, can be found. Tshibola believes that in this era of the Black Lives Movement, Kilmarnock are helping show the way forward. As is his former Rugby Park manager Steve Clarke in having Dyer as his assistant in Ayrshire and now Steven Reid as his Scotland No.2.

“It is great, the gaffer [Dyer] is an amazing guy. Obviously having worked with him previously under Steve Clarke, it is great for him. There is a demand for more opportunities for black managers and black coaches and it is great to see that in Scotland, to give the gaffer the job is an amazing opportunity and an amazing step in the right direction.

“Regards with what’s going on in the world right now, it has been a situation that has gone on for decades and to be heard right now is an amazing step. There is still a lot of work to be done but we are making a lot of progress, and for me that is what matters. It is amazing for me to know that my peers around me support Black Lives Matter and all together we can move forward.

“With Steven Reid in the Scotland set-up, and the gaffer now being manager at Killie, we are being heard. And all we can do is continue to be heard. All we want are equal opportunities. All we can do is fight for equality.”

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