Jason Naismith reveals why he was happy to swap top flight football for move to revitalised Kilmarnock

Jason Naismith insists his career hasn’t taken a backward step despite dropping down into the second tier of Scottish football.

Jason Naismith (centre) celebrates his goal against East Kilbride with Kilmarnock team-mates Chris Burke (left) and Brad Lyons (right). (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Jason Naismith (centre) celebrates his goal against East Kilbride with Kilmarnock team-mates Chris Burke (left) and Brad Lyons (right). (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

The experienced defender joined relegated Kilmarnock after being surprisingly released by Premiership survivors Ross County at the end of last season.

Naismith marked his debut for Killie with a goal in their 2-0 Premier Sports Cup win at East Kilbride on Saturday and is relishing the prospect of being part of Tommy Wright’s bid to achieve an immediate return to the top flight.

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"I think everyone knows Killie are really a Premiership club,” said the 27-year-old.

Jason Naismith forces home a close range header to make it 2-0 for Kilmarnock in their Premier Sports Cup match at East Kilbride on Saturday. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“I knew the interest was there from them even before the end of the season.

"This was a chance to work with the manager whose record was really good at St Johnstone. With what he has done in the game, I wanted to work with him.

"Obviously, there are also good players here - both the ones still here from last season and the ones he has brought in.

"This is a new challenge for me now trying to win promotion, whereas when I was at County I was sort of scampering away to avoid relegation so I am looking forward to it."

Full-back Naismith combined impressively with veteran winger Chris Burke on Killie’s right flank as they overcame their Lowland League opponents at K-Park.

Burke will celebrate his 38th birthday in December but was as effective as ever in a solid display by the Rugby Park side. Naismith is delighted to be reunited with a player he encountered briefly at Ross County in the 2016-17 season.

“I never really got a chance to play with Burkey back then because he was ill and didn’t play many games,” he said.

“He is a player I've always looked up to and someone that I can learn from as well. I'm excited to be working with him. I think we linked up well and the more games we play together, the better we will get.

“He's played at the top level and he produced performances last season that were of a very good standard, even at the age he is.”

Naismith’s fellow summer signing Fraser Murray was also on target at East Kilbride, while another former Hibs player, Stephen McGinn, pulled the strings in central midfield. The signs were encouraging for Killie’s revamped squad who will be favourites to win the Championship this season.

“We are a good group for our standard,” added Naismith. “Near the end of the game, we were getting a bit slack and started getting onto each other. We know it's not personal - it's a good group we have got and that's the way it needs to be.

"We need to be relentless in our work this season and try to win as many games as we can.

"We said before the game that we needed to play as a team and I think we showed that. The more games we play together, we will get stronger.

"We've only been together a month or so and the gaffer is still trying to add a few more, but it's a good group. We seem to have bonded well and we all get on with each other. It will hopefully make for a good season for us."

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