It was an inspired and ambitious appointment and one which lifted Kilmarnock from the bottom of the league to a place in the top six. Now Steve Clarke’s remarkable rejuvenation of the Rugby Park side has been recognised by him being voted Manager of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.
Clarke saw off competition from Celtic’s Brendan Rodgers and Hibernian’s Neil Lennon to land the award which he will receive at a dinner in Glasgow tonight.
The former West Bromwich Albion and Reading boss took over a side rock bottom of the table when he was appointed in October. They will finish in fifth place and although Killie’s remarkable season has tailed off, with just one point gained since the split, Clarke has breathed new life into a club which had been moribund for too long.
And, even if they slip again in their final game of the season today at home against Hearts, Clarke is still satisfied with what his men have achieved.
“I’m not going to put any pressure on ourselves, but it would be nice to finish with a positive result,” he said. “If we could finish on a win it would be nice, but, if we don’t, it will still have been a great season.”
Clarke has urged the Rugby Park faithful to turn out and savour what could be Youssouf Mulumbu’s final Kilmarnock appearance.
The former West Brom midfielder has been a sensation since Clarke handed him the chance to relaunch his career with Killie back in November.
But his short-term deal expires at the end of the season and the 31-year-old DR Congo international could move on in search of one last big pay day.
Clarke said: “I don’t know if it’s Youssouf’s last game or not. I know he’s loved his time up here in Scotland and he’s been very important for us. But if a bigger offer was to come along and Youssouf thought it was a better offer then I’d expect him to move on.
“Youssouf has been good for us and we’ve been good for him as well. He’s much more marketable than he was this time last year when he didn’t have a club.
“We talk regularly. He probably says he doesn’t get much sense out of me and I could say the same in return.
“But we both know what’s happening and he’s very grateful to have had the chance to play here at Kilmarnock.
“He understands we’ve helped him a lot. He doesn’t want to be disrespectful and say he’s going to leave. I do know that he is hoping something with a little more money comes along and he can get a chance to finish with one last bumper contract and we respect that.
“I said when he came that the Kilmarnock fans should just enjoy him while he is here and if they come along at the weekend they can enjoy him for at least one more game.”