There is zero doubt Kilmarnock weren’t just a thorn in Rangers’ side last season, but in everyone’s. Deservedly clinching third place, their record over the past campaign was staggering and they earned their shot at Europe.
They repeatedly put Rangers to the sword, and other than a roughshod cup win, Rangers just couldn’t get one over on them.
But there’s quite simply one reason for this – Steve Clarke.
The former Chelsea man elevated Killie to heights they’d never have dreamt of previously, and they now have a crack at Europe – without him.
Clarke is on the verge of being named Scotland manager, and bid an emotional farewell to the supporters at Rugby Park, while taking feeble pot shots at Rangers (and Celtic) in the process – but whatever you think of his personality and style, there’s no arguing with the results he got in Ayrshire.
And just how much of a hole his exit will leave. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to assume Kilmarnock will tumble back to the bottom of the table in his absence – because he is the pure and simple reason they finished third.
Without Clarke Killie are nothing – if you examine their squad, it’s filled with absolute mediocrity and carthorses. Kirk Broadfoot, Alan Power and Youssouf Mulumbu are hardly revered for their smooth silky football, and yet this collection of journeymen became the third best team, getting one over on both of the Old Firm.
Take Clarke away, and they’ll tumble.
In short, Killie won’t be a ‘problem’ after this summer. Regardless of who takes over, we can’t see anyone getting them as tight and organised at Clarke – and that, as much as it is a compliment to him, does mean the rest of the SPL is going to gain a lot more points as a result.
Scotland’s gain will be Killie’s colossal loss, and the biggest compliment we can give to Clarke, regardless of his demeanour and some of his conduct, is we won’t miss him on the pitch as their manager.