Kilmarnock star Jordan Jones has opened up about the “mental torture” brought about by being the subject of transfer interest from Rangers.
The winger was heavily linked with a move to Ibrox in the past two transfer windows, the Govan side even submitting a bid in January which was rebuffed by Killie.
The Northern Irishman has thrived under the tutelage of Steve Clarke at Rugby Park however he hasn’t quite hit the heights in nine appearances this season.
Yet, while on international duty, he admitted that dealing with the speculation has been difficult.
He said: “Yes, it does affect you. It is mental torture, really. You are getting told a lot of things and trying to concentrate on football but it is draining.
“Through those two transfer windows were two of the worst times in my life. But you just have to get back to your football as quickly as possible and let that side of the game take care of itself.”
Jones is regarded as one of the most exciting players in the league and was the most prolific dribbler in the league last season.
That comes at a cost, however. He suffered the fifth most fouls during the last campaign and is already in the top 10 this season for most fouled.
“I definitely feel like a marked man now,” he said. “In most games I have noticed two or maybe even three players on me, but I have to adapt to that and try my best to still affect games.
“How I do that is a good question. I just have to keep going and sometimes in the game you will end up one-v-one and make the most of those moments.
“Steve Clarke says to me to take it as a compliment and keep myself in the game, keep concentrated, because there will be times when I get those one-on-ones.
“We’re third in the league so we are doing all right.
Jones is looking to finish higher than the fifth spot Killie reached last season which he said “was way above our expectations”.
Kilmarnock are riding high in the table, two points behind second-placed Celtic and a further three off shock early pacesetters Hearts.
Jones admits he hasn’t hit the heights of last season on a personal level but believes Clarke’s troops can strive for a top-four finish.
He added: “I think the minimum will be to finish fifth this season. But with the manager we have, I don’t see why we can’t finish in the top four.”