Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke will leave with players’ blessing

Steve Clarke, the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Season, is this week expected to leave Kilmarnock and accept the job of Scotland boss. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Steve Clarke, the Ladbrokes Premiership Manager of the Season, is this week expected to leave Kilmarnock and accept the job of Scotland boss. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
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Greg Taylor does not expect any complaints from the Kilmarnock faithful if and when Steve Clarke quits to become Scotland boss.

The Rugby Park manager is the Scottish Football Association’s preferred candidate to replace Alex McLeish and his appointment is expected this week.

Hampden chiefs are waiting until after today’s final round of Ladbrokes Premiership fixtures before making their move as they give Clarke time and space to focus on his club’s bid to finish in third place.

Kilmarnock only need to match Aberdeen’s result at Easter Road when they host Rangers to clinch their highest league finish since 1966 and with it a guaranteed Europa League ticket.

Clarke will not be around to lead the Ayrshire outfit into European action for the first time since 2002 if he is the man chosen to take over the national team. But Scotland under-21 left-back Taylor reckons his side’s grateful fans will only wish Clarke well if he decides to call time on his Kilmarnock reign.

The young defender – who was tipped for a national team call-up by his boss last week – said: “I don’t think any of the fans could grumble if he was to move on. He’s always been quite open with the supporters and the players that it was never a lifetime job.

“If he does go I’d imagine he’d leave with certainly all of the players and most of the fans’ blessing.

“Third place is now in our hands and we’ve got the chance to secure that on Sunday.

“I read somewhere that Kilmarnock haven’t finished third since the 1960s so what an achievement that would be.

“I think back two years ago to where the club was before Steve came in. Did European football ever seem like a possibility then? No.

“We only had eight points or something so it was never on the agenda. But as we gradually picked up results you began to think who knows where we could end up.”

For Rangers, it is a case of getting today out of the way and looking forward to next season, according to Andy Halliday.

Steven Gerrard’s side failed in their quest for silverware this season but midfielder Halliday is convinced big strides forward have been made.

Rangers head to Rugby Park looking to secure a seventh straight win from their final game. And their recent resurgence, capped off by last week’s Old Firm triumph, has convinced 27-year-old Halliday his team will be at the very least pushing Celtic close for the Ladbrokes Premiership title once the action resumes after the summer.

Halliday, asked if he believed Rangers were on the verge of launching a realistic title tilt, said: “One hundred per cent yes. I think it’s the first time in a long time I’m going into the summer really excited to start again next year.

“The progress has been there for all to see and I think even behind the scenes there has been a lot of progress that maybe the outside world doesn’t quite see.

“It’s well documented the changes we have made to the training ground but I think overall, in terms of the mentality of the playing squad, we’ve brought in a lot of experienced players, a lot of leaders, and overall it’s a better environment around the place.”

Halliday was hit with a one-match ban after his part in the post-match Celtic Park spat with Scott Brown back in March. His place went to Jon Flanagan and the former Liverpool left-back has stubbornly refused to give it up in the weeks since.

Flanagan was due to miss this weekend’s clash with Steve Clarke’s side but a successful appeal against his own two-game suspension for fouling Brown at Ibrox last week means he is now free to face Killie.

And Halliday admits he can have no complaints if the Englishman gets the nod again at Rugby Park.

“It’s certainly not been easy watching the team from the bench but it makes it a lot easier when the team are doing very well and picking up results,” he said.

“Obviously I was in the team at that point when we went to Parkhead and I felt I was doing well. Since then it’s been very hard to get back in, but it’s hard to argue with the manager’s decision, especially with Flanno going into that position and he has done so well for himself having been out for a long period of time.

“All credit to Flanno because when he was out he never complained, he never sulked.

“He just got on with his business every single day and when he got his chance he took it.”

Rangers can complete their first-ever clean sweep of post-split fixtures with victory in Ayrshire