Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes has high hopes winger Matty Kennedy can take the season by storm with goals and assists.
He has also challenged the January signing to force his way into the Northern Ireland squad.
Kennedy last week returned to full training after a minor ankle operation.
McInnes believes Kennedy, who signed from St Johnstone in the winter window, was hitting form just as the coronavirus pandemic derailed football on March 13.
After five months in cold storage, the Dons will face Rangers in a Premiership opener on Saturday August 1. And McInnes wants Kennedy to hit such a high level he breaks into new Northern Ireland boss Ian Baraclough’s squad.
Baraclough is set to travel to Scotland this weekend to meet backroom staff Austin McPhee and Jimmy Nicholl.
They will discuss Scotland-based players.
McInnes said: “I have high hopes for Matty. He will be all that we expect of him and more in the new season.
“There are loads of incentives personally for Matty.
“He wants to go on to be that goalscoring creative forward player who we set targets for with goals and assists.
“We want him to try to establish himself and become more relevant at the international squad for Northern Ireland.”
Kennedy has been capped for Scotland at every youth level up to Under-21, but switched allegiance last year.
The winger was born in Dundonald, Northern Ireland, but his parents are Scots.
He has yet to be capped for Northern Ireland, but was an unused substitute in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Netherlands (3-1 loss) and Germany (6-1 loss) in late 2019.
Since then, Northern Ireland have changed manager with Baraclough promoted from Under-21 coach to replace Michael O’Neill, who moved to Stoke City.
Baraclough’s first two matches in charge will be in the Nations League – away to Romania (September 4) and home to Norway (September 7).
Northern Ireland then have the all-or-nothing Euro play-off semi-final away to Bosnia-Herzegovina on October 8.
McInnes believes joining Aberdeen in January on a three-and-a-half-year contract will give the winger the platform to break into the international team.
He said: “Matty is the type of player we want more of.
“We will help him push on while at Aberdeen to be the best player he possibly can be.
“We will certainly be trying to get those improvements from Matty this season.”
In January Kennedy initially agreed a pre-contract to join Aberdeen this summer.
However, with the Dons struggling to find an attacking spark following the winter break, McInnes opted to secure Kennedy six months early.
An added bonus was that Kennedy missed St Johnstone’s 3-0 defeat of Morton in the Scottish Cup on January 18 due to a minor injury. That ensured the winger was not cup tied on joining Aberdeen and he netted in the 4-3 replay defeat of Kilmarnock at Rugby Park.
The Reds have still to face Celtic in the 2019-20 Scottish Cup semi as that game was postponed due to the pandemic.
The SFA have committed to completing last season’s Scottish Cup in the upcoming campaign.
McInnes said: “Matty is a boy who has made such a big impact off the pitch and was starting to show that on the pitch before the season finished.
“He put in some brilliant performances.
“Matty is the type of signing that fans and players can relate to because he is so industrious.
“He provides moments of real quality and is fully committed.”