Chris Stokes thriving off promotion pressure at Kilmarnock

‘We have got to be big enough and strong enough to say this is what we get paid for, and go out and do our jobs,’ he said.

By Press Association Published: 21 April 2022 - 3.40pm

Chris Stokes will lean on his experience of winning promotion with Coventry as he looks to help Kilmarnock get over the line on Friday.

Stokes played in the Wembley League Two play-off final win over Exeter in 2018 in front of 50,000 fans to help the Sky Blues get out of the bottom tier of English football.

The 31-year-old faces another crucial promotion clash on Friday as cinch Championship leaders Killie host second-placed Arbroath in the penultimate game of the season.

Victory will send Killie back into the top flight at the first time of asking but part-timers Arbroath can move two points clear with a win of their own.

Stokes signed a two-year deal when he moved from Forest Green last summer and is determined to secure Premiership football for next term.

The defender said: “That’s what a lot of players were attracted to at this football club, to win the title and then get to play in the Premiership. We have had a few players come up from England and other clubs.

“This is a big football club and it’s striving for success. I have been at clubs before where they have been in leagues they shouldn’t have been in and you are under pressure to get back up. That’s exactly the same here.

“I can lean on that. I played at Coventry where we found ourselves in League Two. That was horrible because every game the fans were demanding three points regardless of who you were playing.

“If you weren’t winning after five minutes you were getting booed. That’s just the pressure involved in getting a team back up where they should be.

“It was the same here, the pressure at the start of the season when results weren’t going our way, you could feel that nervousness and edginess.

“That’s when you need the senior players to help the younger players and calm everything down and put their arms round the younger ones and get them through those games.”

Killie have sold out their three home stands for Friday’s televised game, with Arbroath expecting to take about 2,000 supporters.

Rugby Park will be close to its 18,000 capacity and Stokes is ready to deal with the expectation.

“This is the pressure of playing for a big football club, that’s what you want to be doing,” he said. “You don’t want to be playing in front of 300 fans and not playing for anything. Playing in front of a sell-put crowd, that’s what you want to be playing in.

“Winning games is going to bring positivity. Our home form has been fantastic recently and we are all coming out on the pitch bouncing and can’t wait to get going.

“That’s what we have to lean on, our experience of winning at Rugby Park in the last few games.

“There is naturally going to be nervousness from the crowd, we have got to be big enough and strong enough to say this is what we get paid for, and go out and do our jobs.”

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