Scottish Daily Mail
Now Akinyemi wants Ayr to take plaudits
Award-winning striker is aiming to send Honest Men into top flight
DIPO AKINYEMI has vowed to show why he’s been crowned the best player in the Championship by shooting down Partick Thistle in the play-offs.
The fearsome Ayr United frontman has notched 24 goals in his first season at Somerset Park.
Last Sunday night, the 25-year-old Englishman was named PFA Scotland’s Championship Player of the Year by his fellow professionals at Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel.
Ayr travel to Firhill tomorrow night to take on Partick Thistle in the first leg of the Premiership play-off semi-final before hosting the return leg a week later.
And Akinyemi is ready to showcase his goal-grabbing talents on the big stage to round off a season to remember.
Asked if the award gives him more belief ahead of the play-offs, he said: ‘One hundred per cent. Partick Thistle are a good team. But now these awards are done, I’ve got one focus and that’s to try and get to the Premiership.
‘My tail’s wagging even more knowing I’m the best player in the league this season.
‘I’m going into the play-offs firing and I will try and show it again in the games on live TV.
‘Good players always try and be consistent and show up in the big games. And there’s nothing better than the play-offs to show that. I’m going to try and snatch it with two hands.
‘If I score, brilliant. If I assist, brilliant. But as long as we win the game and can push through to the next round then that’s all good with me.
‘Winning this award is up there with the highest moments in my career. To get it from my fellow professionals is an honour and it shows what sort of player I’ve developed into. I’ll cherish it heavily. I’m very happy.’
Akinyemi was signed last summer from National League South side Welling United.
He has become the latest prolific striker at Somerset Park, with Ayr having previously acted as a springboard for strikers such as Lawrence Shankland and Tomi Adeloye.
Akinyemi credits his boss, Lee Bullen, with helping take his game to another level, while his own motivation came from a desire to take his big chance and not drop back down to non-league football.
Speculation may be building over the forward’s future but he has vowed to shut it out and focus on the play-offs.
‘The gaffer’s given me a platform to play,’ he said. ‘When I came in, there weren’t too many demands. He just told me to go and show people why I had come up here.
‘I did well playing non-league last year and I earned this chance up here.
‘I have a lot of focus because football is a short career, and things like this can happen when you put in the right work.
‘It wasn’t easy. I’ve had to work my backside off to get here. Now I’m here, I had to say I wasn’t going back to playing non-league.
‘I play like it’s my last game or like I’ve got a point to prove. And I did have a point to prove for myself, for my family.
‘Coming up here, I’ve haven’t seen much of my friends and family all season. Coming to the end now, though, it’s all worth it.’
Asked about talk linking him with a move elsewhere, Akinyemi replied: ‘It’s just speculation, isn’t it? Until anything has been set in stone or agreed, I’m an Ayr United player.
‘Until I’m told any different, I’ll be putting my heart out on the pitch for the team.’
In the last game of the league season, Ayr required a late winner from Mark McKenzie at Inverness to go from fifth place in the Championship — and their campaign being over — to shoot up to second and into the play-off semi-finals.
Akinyemi now believes that, under the management of former Sheffield Wednesday defender Bullen, the team are ready to go up.
‘I think so. I think we deserve to be where we are,’ he said.
‘We were top three for much of the season and got there by merit. We worked our socks off.
‘We have to go into these games with a lot of confidence. We’ve had some time off, a little break, but now it’s time to really finish off at the business end of the season.
‘When the opportunity comes, you just have to try and take it with both hands — whether you are ready or not — because not many people get to play in the Premiership. I’m just really excited for Friday.’