Rory McKenzie may not be ready to dream of a Kilmarnock title push, but he is willing to contemplate an end to the Old Firm’s three-decade grasp on the Scottish crown.
Four wins in a row has seen Steve Clarke’s side climb to joint second in the Premiership and they can cut the gap on leaders Hearts to three points if they beat Hamilton today.
With 29 games still to be played, midfielder McKenzie is not getting carried away just yet. However, he is willing to predict that, with Hearts, Hibernian and Killie now providing a stiffer level of competition, this might just be the year Scotland sees one of its lesser lights emerge, Leicester City-style, to wrest the title away from Glasgow for the first time in 33 years.
He said: “In all honesty, I’ve not thought about the title at all until being asked the question now. We’re not thinking about that. Things can change in an instant. We’ll just see where our start takes us.
“But there definitely seems to be something different happening this season.
“I think the league has been great this season. Teams are taking points off everybody. Rangers and Celtic aren’t where they want to be and Hearts are flying. Hibs are up there, too. That’s better for everybody. Could this be the season somebody else emerges to win the title? I’d like to think so. It’s not been done in a while but all you have to do is look at Leicester and how they did it.
“I don’t see why that can’t happen up here. You look at Hearts, they just keep winning. We keep winning and if we continue that, it will be a fun season.”
Today, Killie face an Accies side who have shipped 12 goals in their last three games. But manager Clarke is taking nothing for granted. “I saw them against St Mirren and they were excellent,” he said. “I then sent a scout to watch them against Hibs and he said they weren’t very good that day, so it’s been a mixed bag.
“But against Rangers they competed very well and looked like they could nick the three points at one stage.
“Under Martin Canning, normally when they need a result they get one, so they are dangerous opponents and we give them full respect.”
Hamilton lost 4-1 to Rangers last time out but put in a much improved and hard-working performance, and Accies captain Darian MacKinnon wants more of that effort.
“Listen, football is simple, if you put the work in, nine times out of ten you’ll get a good performance,” said MacKinnon. “People think this is a rubbish league but if you don’t put the graft in, you’ll get battered.”