New Kilmarnock signing Niko Hamalainen aims to follow Finland team-mate Glen Kamara’s lead and use his time in Scotland as a springboard to better things.
The QPR left-back has moved to Rugby Park on a season-long loan in search of first-team action.
Despite being 22, the Florida-born defender has racked up just 11 senior appearances, the three most recent of which came during a brief loan stint at MLS outfit Los Angeles FC.
But he believes the example of international colleague Kamara – who moved to Dundee after being released by Arsenal but did well enough at Dens Park to land a move to Rangers – is proof of what can happen if he can finally get the run of games he believes his talents deserve.
Hamalainen – who hopes to make his debut when Killie host Aberdeen on Saturday – said: “I’ve known Glen since we played in the Finnish Under-21s. We’re close friends.
“I spoke to him briefly and he said he thought I’d settle in. Once I do that, he told me I just need to do my thing because he knows what I can bring.
“Hopefully I can follow his example. I believe this can be a stepping stone to bigger things for me, 100 per cent.
“This is a chance to fulfil my potential. Playing first-team football brings out other opportunities and could make other teams interested or help me go back to QPR to become the first-choice left-back there.”
Hamalainen spoke to Loftus Road boss and former Rangers manager Mark Warburton as well as ex-Ibrox skipper Lee Wallace about Scottish football before making his move north.
And their feedback has only convinced him he can compete with Greg Taylor for the left-back slot in Angelo Alessio’s team if the Ayrshire outfit manage to fend off interest from Celtic in the £3million-rated Scotland defender.
Asked if he believed he could take Taylor’s jersey, he said: “I think so but that’s totally down to the manager.
“He has faith in me and I have faith in myself.
“I spoke to Mark Warburton before coming here. He obviously knows about Scottish football from his time at Rangers and thought it would be a good test for me to play first-team football.
“I also spoke to Lee Wallace and he told me he knew I was capable of playing at the top level and told me just to go show everyone what I can do.
“It has been frustrating, especially recently but I think I have what it takes to push on and play first-team football, especially at a higher level. I just have to show I can do it.
“Now I just can’t wait to get started and hopefully it’s this weekend.”
And Hamalainen believes his spell in America has toughened him up for the challenge ahead.
Having faced former Arsenal star Carlos Vela every day in training with LAFC, he said: “He’s probably one of the best players I’ve played against. I was playing against him a lot in training and I had to defend against a top, top player.
“Honestly he can do anything he wants with his left foot but that taught me a lot.
“Getting the chance to play against a guy like that, even in training, is an invaluable lesson.
“You do have to get stuck in against a guy like him but if you get too tight he will drop a shoulder and be gone. You have to work him out. It took me a couple of weeks but after that I got him a couple of times.”
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