The incredible rise of Salim Kouider-Aissa hit a bump in the road last season but he’s determined to bounce back in style.
In 15 months, the prolific striker went from playing in the Juniors with Kilsyth Rangers to playing against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
Kouider-Aissa banged in 41 goals during a remarkable season at Kilsyth which earned him a move to Queen’s Park.
What next? 17 goals for the Spiders as his reputation skyrocketed and attracted the attention of Premiership side Livingston last summer.
“It was a bit surreal,” said Kouider-Aissa. “I never really thought too much about it at the time because I’m confident and I knew how hard I had worked to get that opportunity.”
“You always need to back yourself because there is no point taking that massive jump if you don’t believe you can do it.
“I felt really confident in myself. I was buzzing at the start and I was flying but I found myself not playing that many minutes which was frustrating.
“You end up trying too hard almost and doing things that you aren’t really used to.
After joining the West Lothian side last summer, the 25-year-old ended up going on loan to Partick Thistle in League One.
Jag fans were hugely optimistic about the signing but his spell was ended prematurely by a freak injury.
Kouider-Aissa added: “Brian Graham got sent off in the last Betfred Cup game and Zak Rudden was injured so I was told that I’d be starting the first game of the season.
“We were doing a crossing and finishing drill on the Friday before the Clyde game and that’s when I did my knee initially.
“But I knew that I was starting and that was my opportunity, plus I didn’t want to let the team down as we were short on bodies.
“I’m the type of player to play through niggles and I’ll never miss a game with a slight knock - I’m happy to play through pain.
“So I just played the game but I ended up breaking my nose in a crazy incident but two weeks later my knee completely went in training.
“It was just a five-yard pass in a possession drill and I was out for three or four months. It was brutal because I’d worked so hard to get back up the ladder and it was a proper kick in the teeth.”
Everything that Kouider-Aissa has achieved in his rise through the Scottish football pyramid is through hard work and he’s ready to pull up his sleeves again for Airdrie.
He’s signed a two-year contract with the Diamonds and he’s champing at the bit to prove his worth in League One.
“It’s a massive season for me,” said Kouider-Aissa. “I want to regain my form after a difficult season last year and I’ve loved every minute since signing with Airdrie.
“I want to get back to my best, which is scoring goals. I believe that when I score one goal then they will start to flood in.
“My match fitness is improving and my performances have been decent. The gaffer has been brilliant with me, he’s put a lot of faith in me and I feel like I will get chances at Airdrie because we’ve got a good squad.
Kouider-Aissa will likely form a strike partnership with Calum Gallagher at Airdrie and he believes their understanding is already blossoming.
He added: “We linked really well in our first game and he’s a great lad. We bounce off each other pretty well and we are constantly talking to each other.
“Hopefully we can help each other bang in the goals because that’ll only be good for the team and club.
“Even if we aren’t scoring, we need to make sure we are helping the other players and making an impact.”
The former Livingston striker isn’t the tallest player in League One but he’s surprisingly excellent in the air and he loves the physicality of Scottish football.
The Diamonds star said: “I like to put myself about and I’m well up for the physical battle. It probably brings the best out of me to get stuck in.
“I like to get a sore one early on because it fires me up and it helps motivate me for the game.
“I’m capable of holding the ball up which allows the team to get up the park. I also like to run in behind because it’s important to mix up your game.
“You want a challenging game but the most important thing is that I come about.”
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