Celtic’s Kris Ajer happy to take step back with Kilmarnock

Kristoffer Ajer has joined Kilmarnock on loan from Celtic. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS
Kristoffer Ajer has joined Kilmarnock on loan from Celtic. Picture: Ross Brownlee/SNS
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Kristoffer Ajer is already enjoying a different type 
of football education at 

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers encouraged the 18-year-old Norwegian to make a loan move to Rugby Park for the second half of the season and develop as a defender.

Ajer played primarily as a midfielder in Norway with Start but was happy to move back with Killie in order to move forward with Celtic.

Despite having a fine debut against Hamilton in the William Hill Scottish Cup at Rugby Park last week, the teenager found how much tougher life is away from Parkhead when Accies won with an injury-time penalty.

Ahead of the visit of Ross County in the Ladbrokes Premiership this afternoon, Ajer spoke enthusiastically about his new role.

He said: “The gaffer thinks it is good for me to get half a season at centre half, which is important for my experience. I haven’t played there before and he told me half a year here, perform well and we will see in the summer.

“I think it is good to play as a centre-half here, to learn the physical type of game, to get the ball kicked towards you and try to head it and everything around that.

“The first week has been brilliant, just to just learn and experience what you have to do as a centre-half in Scotland.

“Of course it is different types of games every time. When you play for Celtic every team just sits in and goes for a 0-0. Here at Kilmarnock they will press you, they will go to win battles against you, so it is good for me.

“Obviously the 1-0 loss [to Hamilton] was disappointing. But we are only thinking about the Ross County
game which we will take three points, hopefully.

“As a team we aim to get into the top six, which is the main target.”

County manager Jim McIntyre, meanwhile, is looking for a repeat of last week’s heroics.

The Dingwall side travel to Ayrshire buoyed by the 6-2 thrashing they handed out to Dundee United in the 
Scottish Cup fourth round last weekend.

But McIntyre is worried any drop-off in performance level will play into the hands of Killie.

A win for the home side would move them level with sixth-placed County on 23 points, and McIntyre said: “Dundee United have got good players and we played exceptionally well against them. But we know that when you go into the Premiership, if you are not at 100 per cent in any game, then you are going to get turned over.

“That’s the way it panned out during the first half of the season when you see how tight the league is from sixth place down.

“We know we need to go to Kilmarnock and try to keep the levels that we have been at lately. If we do that, we have a great chance of 
winning the game.”

McIntyre has added right-back Jason Naismith, midfielders Jim O’Brien and Oscar Gobern and forward Milan Lalkovic to his squad during January, while defender Erik Cikos has been released.