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Why Killie’s Steve Clarke Deserves The Top Manager’s Award

Date: 27th April 2018

Scottish football is in a bit of a golden era when it comes to managers in our leagues.

At Celtic, Brendan Rodgers could be about to secure a unique back to back treble with the Hoops. His performance as the Parkhead gaffer has now seen his name being linked with the Arsenal job.

Neil Lennon’s Hibs have been extremely resilient this term and have been particularly strong in the bigger games. Lennon guided The Hibees to the Scottish Championship title last term and now they’re very much in the hunt to finish behind Celtic in this season’s top flight.

Motherwell are the only side now standing in Celtic’s way of that second domestic treble in a row. Stephen Robinson will lead his side out at Hampden for the second time this season on the 19th of May. They lost out to the same opponents in the League Cup final back in late November.

St Mirren charged towards the Scottish Championship title this year under the guidance of a good young Scottish boss in Jack Ross. The former defender has dragged his team from their lowest ebb when he first took over and has now shaped them into a very exciting side.

Forty-seven year old David Hopkin has taken to management like a duck to water after a few years in various other coaching roles. Hopkin’s season isn’t over and he’ll be hopeful that he can navigate his Livingston side through the Play-off stages and into the Scottish Premiership.

Yet I don’t think you can look past Kilmarnock gaffer Steve Clarke when it comes to picking this season’s coach of the year. Not bad going when you look at the stiff competition and when you think that Clarke didn’t take the Killie job until October of last year.

When Lee McCulloch left Rugby Park, he left the Ayrshire club bottom of the league after eight games. At that time it looked like Killie were going to be in a relegation battle for the rest of the season.

The Kilmarnock board were ambitious in their managerial search, they identified the best possible candidate and brought him in. That saw highly regarded coach Clarke walk through the doors at Rugby Park. Steve had worked under the likes of Jose Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish at top teams. In the West Brom hot-seat, Clarke would guide them to their highest finish in the English Premier League.

In his previous jobs at West Brom and Reading, he started off well at both teams before circumstances off the pitch began to hamper things on it.

You could tell that the manager wanted to prove his credentials and that’s why he took the job in Kilmarnock:

“I’m delighted to be back in football and I’m especially delighted to be named Kilmarnock manager,”

His impact has been immediate and sustained. Kilmarnock are now a strong side that play as a disciplined unit. They are tactically aware and fit enough to see out games too.

Players like Jamie MacDonald, Kirk Boradfoot and Kris Boyd seem to be playing with a new lease of life. Boyd in particular looks to be back to his best as he leads the league’s scoring charts and has just been nominated for the PFA player of the year award.

Stephen O’Donnell has been another top performer and the right back is now being tipped for a Scotland call up.

Clarke has managed to mix youth stars with older players in his starting line-ups and it’s worked wonders. It should also be noted that Clarke has only brought in two new players since his arrival, showing you how good the coach is on the training ground.

The fifty-four year old has now taken charge of twenty-nine games at Killie (at time of writing) and he’s won sixteen of those and drawn nine, that’s a 55% win ratio. Those victories include triumphs over Celtic, Rangers and Hearts.

Steve Clarke has taken Kilmarnock from last place to fifth spot in the Premiership table. That’s an incredible achievement, especially when you consider that most of that is down to the manager; his training methods, man management style and his tactics.

That’s why I’d give the Killie gaffer the manager of the year award!

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