DEPARTING Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels claims he was a “victim” of his love for the club.
It was confirmed yesterday morning that the Northern Irishman had left the Rugby Park outfit “by mutual consent” following days of speculation. Last night around 150 fans gathered at the stadium to protest against the manager’s departure and called for chairman Michael Johnston to resign.
Shiels was dismissed after Kilmarnock’s ninth-place finish in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League, while a four-match ban handed to the 57-year-old by the SFA following outspoken media comments – two of which were suspended – were also taken into consideration by the club.
But Shiels insists he only ever tried to protect the Ayrshire outfit when he expressed his bullish views to the press. He said: “I’m heartbroken but that is football. It’s hard to take but I will just have to get on with it and try to get another job somewhere.
“I think I’ve left Kilmarnock in really good shape. We have got stability and I’ve built the foundations. But I feel that I’ve been the victim of falling in love with the football club.
“I tried to overprotect the club and that was my biggest weakness. I just want to apologise to the supporters for that.
“I treated the club like my family and I love my family. I loved the football club too. I didn’t set out to harm the club but, as I tried to protect it from what I felt where injustices, I became a victim of that.”
Shiels stepped up from assistant manager to replace former boss Mixu Paatelainen in April 2011. He led the club to back-to-back victories over Rangers in 2012 and secured the club’s first victory at Celtic Park in 57 years in October of that year.
But his biggest achievement came seven months before that when Kilmarnock stunned Celtic with a 1-0 win to claim the Scottish League Cup.
However, a clause in his contract, agreed with Johnston, allowed the club to dismiss Shiels if they finished in the top flight’s bottom four.
And they used both that and his latest disciplinary problems as the basis for yesterday’s decision to go their separate ways.
A club statement read: “The Club thanks Kenny for his service over the last three years, firstly as assistant to Mixu Paatelainen, thereafter as interim manager and subsequently as manager. Kenny’s work ethic and his determination to introduce young players into the first team were evident throughout his time with the club.
“Unfortunately, season 2012-13 saw the club exit the League Cup at the first hurdle and go on to record our poorest home record since season 1980-81, culminating in seven matches without a victory at Rugby Park to exit the Scottish Cup and miss out on the ‘top six’ and then drop to ninth place with five defeats in our final six SPL fixtures.
“A difficult relationship with the Scottish FA resulted in several touchline bans and recent comments regarding a fellow SPL club and the Scottish FA Judicial Panel incurred a further suspension, which would have seen Kenny commence next
season in the stand, rather than the dugout.
“As a result, the club was also prosecuted by the Judicial Panel’s Compliance Officer at a hearing on June 6 and will discover the penalty to be imposed on June 21.
“For these reasons, both footballing and regulatory, it was mutually agreed that his contract as manager should end.
“The club wishes Kenny every success in the future and thanks him for delivering the League Cup to Rugby Park in 2012.”
Shiels landed himself in trouble after claiming Celtic were “the monster of Scottish football” following a spat with Neil Lennon, after the Celtic manager bemoaned the fact none of his players had been nominated for the PFA Scotland player of the year award.
Shiels was accused of both bringing the game into disrepute and not acting in the best interests of football by making comments that “call into question the impartiality of the Judicial Panel and the integrity of another member club of the Scottish FA”.
The penalty for Shiels came less than six months since he was banned for four matches for accusing fourth official Andrew Dallas of “fabrication” of evidence. Dallas had been the fourth official when Shiels was dismissed during a match against St Johnstone in November.
But the former Northern Ireland Under-17 coach insisted he had “no regrets”.
He added: “The chairman was good enough to give me the opportunity to manage the oldest [professional] club in Scotland and it was an honour to manage a fantastic club.
“It’s been something I will treasure the rest of my life. I feel in love with it too much and that was my weakness.
“I want to thank Michael for the opportunity to manage the club because without that opportunity I wouldn’t have had some great experiences.”
Kilmarnock have yet to comment on the future of Shiels’ assistant Jimmy Nicholl but the former boss is in no doubt about who should be his successor.
He said: “I would recommend Jimmy to manage the club and Garry Hay to be his assistant.”
Allan Johnston, the Queen of the South manager who won the SPFA Manager of the Year award last month, was last night the bookmakers’ 1-3 favourite, with Paul Hartley, John McGlynn and Mark Roberts at bigger odds.