Kilmarnock’s Steve Clarke distances himself from Celtic job

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke has distanced himself from taking over at Celtic, insisting his next move will be a return to England.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke. Picture: SNS

The 55-year-old is under contract with the Ayrshire club until 2021 – he and his assistant Alex Dyer signed improved deals last summer – and he expects to see that out.

Clarke revealed last week that he had been approached by Rangers last year with a view to replacing Pedro Caixinha but he has no intention of leaving Kilmarnock for another Scottish club.

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An enquiry as to whether that remained his view in the light of Rodgers’ resignation, his reply was an unequivocal “Yes.”

Clarke’s remarkable transformation of the Ayrshire club had seen him installed as a 5/1 second favourite to fill the void left by Rodgers, but he dismissed the short odds.

“No, listen, you’ll always have that speculation – I’ve come back to Scotland and done a pretty decent job with Kilmarnock,” he said. “When that happens you’re always going to be linked with other jobs. I hadn’t been in the building here for eight weeks before I was being touted for the Scotland job. Four weeks after that it was Rangers. So if I’m doing well and the team’s doing well there will always be speculation. When I came to Kilmarnock it was for my own personal reasons – it fitted well into where I saw myself next and that’s still the case. The speculation is a distraction you don’t need, especially when you’re clear about what you’re going to do.”

Clarke believes Rodgers’ decision to jump ship merely proves the financial pulling power of even mid-ranking Premier League clubs.

“It probably does; it’s a huge league and most people would want to be involved in it if they possibly could,” he said. “I’m a little surprised that Brendan has gone during the season but maybe there are other reasons behind the scenes which nobody knows about. But it is a big attraction and I’m sure that if you asked most people working in the game if they would like to go there then the answer would be yes. Brendan has been there already and knows what it’s all about and it looks as though he’s going to take the big step of leaving Celtic.”

Clarke had spent 30 years in England as player, coach and manager before being appointed by Kilmarnock 16 months ago. However, his wife remains down south, as do his children and grandchildren, and he will return there when his current arrangement expires. “It’s 100 per cent certain that I’ll go back to England,” he said. “That’s where my family and my life is. But right now I’m concentrating on Kilmarnock and, while we’ve already achieved our primary objective, we haven’t achieved our secondary one, which is to finish in the top six.”