Striker hoping Scottish Premiership form can help reignite Northern Ireland career

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After finishing last season by scoring four goals in as many Scottish Premiership matches to help keep Kilmarnock in the top-flight, Kyle Vassell is hoping a continuation of that fine form can reignite his Northern Ireland career.

The 30-year-old, who was born in Milton Keynes but qualifies for Northern Ireland through his grandfather from County Fermanagh, has earned two international caps after receiving his first call-up in October 2018 for Nations League matches against Austria and Bosnia while playing in the Championship for Rotherham United.

Vassell has since enjoyed spells with Fleetwood Town, Cheltenham Town and American outfit San Diego Loyal SC before switching to Kilmarnock in January.

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He scored six times in all competitions as Derek McInnes' side survived the drop by finishing 10th – six points clear of Ross County – and has his targets set on getting another opportunity on the international stage under Michael O’Neill.

Kyle VassellKyle Vassell
Kyle Vassell

Northern Ireland suffered two defeats in their recent Euro 2024 qualifying double-header against Denmark and Kazakhstan and are next in action in September when they travel to both Slovenia and Kazakhstan.

O’Neill’s striking options in that squad included Dion Charles, Shayne Lavery, Dale Taylor, Callum Marshall and Lee Bonis, but Vassell says the national team boss is keeping tabs on his progress in Scotland.

“You suspect it is gone, but that’s where your inner drive comes from and your ambition,” Vassell told Record Sport. “I never let go of it.

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"Never gave up and thought that’s it. Even when I went to America, I went to that league because I wanted to play in the MLS. If I’d done that, I’d definitely have got back in the squad. Now I’m in the SPFL, that is going to help me.

“I thought it would be difficult because there are some really good young players coming through, but I always knew if I am doing the right things at the right time then sometimes it is impossible not to bring players back.

"The squads I was in, it was a slightly weird one because the boys were still on a massive high because they had just reached Euro 2016 which was a massive thing for a country like Northern Ireland.

"And they did well at the Finals. But I think my first squad came after a qualification had just been missed. There was a bit of low just as I was getting into it.

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“My last squad was just as Michael was leaving. Now, with him being back, I feel everyone believes the squad can get back to the same sort of heights.

“I think he is in contact with the gaffer (McInnes) because there are obviously a few boys who qualify.

"That will help me if I keep impressing the gaffer here because he will then put in a good word for me and everything could fall into place.”

Former Irish League stars Liam Donnelly and Brad Lyons both play for Kilmarnock while Northern Ireland international Jordan Jones spent last season on loan at Rugby Park.