Kenny Shiels says he is ready to embark on a new love affair with Greenock Morton after finally laying to rest his emotional bond with former club Kilmarnock.
The Northern Irishman was officially appointed manager of the Scottish Championship outfit yesterday, five months after admitting he was “heartbroken” by his sacking at Rugby Park.
The 57-year-old led Kilmarnock to a League Cup success in 2012 but was axed by chairman Michael Johnston at the end of last season following a string of outspoken comments in the media and a disappointing ninth-place Premiership finish.
But Shiels admits he still felt a close bond with his old side up until last week and even visited Kilmarnock’s Glasgow training base to say goodbye one last time.
“I fell in love with Kilmarnock,” he said. “I actually went to the training ground on Friday morning because I needed an emotional detachment from my previous job.
“I was there at half six in the morning because I wanted to say goodbye to people and to that training ground. I was really connected to that club. I loved the people and I loved the club.
“This is a new love affair here at Morton, though. I am going to fall in love with the people here because that’s what you do when you work with a club.”
Shiels was sacked by Kilmarnock in June just days after he was given a four-match ban, with two of the games suspended, for bringing the game into disrepute for questioning the impartiality of the Scottish Football Association’s judicial panel and the integrity of Celtic.
But he has vowed to continue speaking his mind if he feels his new club is under attack.
He said: “My record at Kilmarnock speaks for itself. That’s very important to me, that I’m successful as a manager.
“I will stick up for my club when I feel it is justified. That’s the way I am. It’s important that people realise that this club is the most important thing for my future and I will reciprocate that trust they have given me with every ounce of energy that I have.”
The former Northern Ireland youth coach’s first game in charge of Morton comes at home to Falkirk on Saturday, but he will have to watch from the stands as his touchline ban finally kicks in.
He takes over from former manager Allan Moore with the Cappielow side five points adrift of Cowdenbeath at the bottom of the second tier. But Shiels – who will be assisted by interim manager David Hopkin – hopes he can lead the side to safety.
“That’s a realistic goal,” he said. “We have an inferior goal difference, so we need six points to get into the play-off spot and ten for complete safety. But it’s not an insurmountable challenge.”
Shiels has been told that he will have to work with the squad he has but Cappielow chairman Douglas Rae is certain he has picked the right man for the job.
He said: “Our problems have not just come from the fact we are not scoring goals, it’s also a lack of confidence.
“But Kenny is the man, I am sure, that will lead a rebirth of confidence amongst the boys.
“We had several very good candidates but of all of them, Kenny was at the top of the list. More or less he ticked all the boxes. We share the same ambitions, we both want to eventually get to the Premier League and I’m sure that he will be a very successful manager here.”
Shiels also revealed that he undertook considerable research on Morton as a club before taking up his new post.
“It’s quite obvious that Morton are a club with great tradition and ambition,” he added. “I’m joining a club with an impetus, a drive and desire to move up. I studied the club a lot and spoke with the chairman to find out whether he was ambitious to move up, which he certainly is.
“It’s important when you go for a job that you do some research on the people you will be working for, just as it’s important they do some research on me to find out whether I tick the right boxes as the chairman said. I did all that research and liked what I saw. I can feel there’s already a good trust between the chairman and myself.”