Kenny Shiels signs for another two years of entertainment in Kilmarnock

IT is difficult to know who is more delighted by the news Kenny Shiels has committed himself to another two years as Kilmarnock manager – the club’s supporters or the Scottish football media.

What’s certain is that life will continue to be a little less dull in the SPL with the eclectic presence of the 56-year-old Ulsterman who, in the season just ended, delivered the first League Cup triumph in the club’s history to Killie fans and provided a regular stream of thought-provoking and headline-grabbing quotes and observations to reporters.

Typically, Shiels was in no mood for anodyne responses to questions at Rugby Park yesterday as his new two-year contract was announced. Outlining his hopes for Kilmarnock’s future, he painted a picture of them as the west of Scotland’s antidote to the sectarianism which has blighted Glasgow’s biggest football rivals.

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Shiels has expressed his frustration in the past at the number of supporters buses which leave Kilmarnock every weekend, bound for Ibrox or Celtic Park, and he is clearly passionate about his bid to persuade greater numbers that there is a preferable local option.

“They have to understand Kilmarnock have a great history that they should be proud of,” said Shiels. “This club is free from prejudice, racism and bigotry. It has so much going for it. If I can try to reach 60 per cent of the football population in the area to support their local club it would be a fantastic achievement.

“We are a West of Scotland club with no baggage. If you are a good parent and want to bring your children up in a way where they understand good values and morals, then they have a local industry here where they can come and have a fun time. They will enjoy it here.

“It doesn’t stink of other external influences and, if those parents want to send them to Kilmarnock, it would be a very good choice, I would have thought. I call this the ‘People’s Club’ and that’s what I want it to be.

“At every club I’ve been at, I build long-term branches that will bear fruit even if I’m not there. The first part of it is to convince and encourage parents that this is a good place to send young people, whether it be to watch the team play or to become a young player here.”

Although he was linked with the managerial vacancy at Bournemouth, Shiels insisted he never had any intention to seek a new challenge elsewhere after his successful first full campaign in charge of Kilmarnock.

“There was never any doubts in my mind that I would sign the contract,” he added. “We had to consolidate seventh position in the SPL and it would have been unfair for the chairman or myself to get in the way of that priority.

“Two years is only the first part of it. It’s the preliminary part of my long-term project for Kilmarnock. I have enough integrity about me that I want to leave a legacy at the club. I’ve always been like that.

“If something happens to me, like I’m not doing my job properly for the first team, I want good stability underneath. That’s important. It’s the honest and honourable thing to do. I’ve worked under so many managers who haven’t done that.

“I would like us to be consolidated in the SPL because, within the progress that is going to be made, lots of things can determine where you finish in the league. Other clubs might come into riches, we could hit a purple patch or a poor patch and there are so many fluctuating things that can happen.

“It would be magnificent to be in the top six in five years’ time. Within that, we could be fourth one year and seventh the next.

“ Developmental programmes can go up and down like any graph. But, if we can be in the top six in five years, having been there for two or three years, that would be a success. I think what is happening in Scottish football is exciting for me. An Edinburgh derby in the final of the Scottish Cup brought great profile. There are other more negative things happening, but there have been lots of positives.

“Ourselves and Hearts have been the highlights of that through winning the League Cup and the Scottish Cup. That is practically unheard of. What we have to offer the people that pay to go and watch us is very, very good.

“It was bordering on miraculous what we have achieved this season. I had been told you don’t beat the Old Firm in the final of a cup competition. You might beat them in the quarter-finals or semis, but what our lads achieved was remarkable when you consider we had been signing them from York, Luton and Yeovil.

“Our achievements have been the most enormous of any club in Scotland this season.”