Kilmarnock’s victory over Rangers at Ibrox yesterday even had the typically sober Steve Clarke embracing the joie de vivre his management prowess has injected into the Rugby Park club.
“I don’t take any credit, I give it to the people I work with,” he said. “My staff are excellent, my players have been magnificent and the crowd have been great as well. We maybe didn’t have as many here today but you could hear them shouting and screaming and getting all a little bit excited. Trust me, when your two brothers are Kilmarnock fans you know how excited they’re getting at the moment.
“The run of wins, the way we compete with all the top teams, it’s got to be great for the Kilmarnock supporters to watch us. Because I know as a coach standing on the sidelines I’m really proud of the players and they should be proud of their efforts as well.”
For all that Kilmarnock played to protect their goal in what Clarke pointed out was their seventh game in 21 days, his smart game management was reflected in his decision to go with two up front only days after playing with a single striker in the penalty shoot-out defeat at home to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup quarter-final replay. The reward proving a Kris Boyd tap-in that took the 34-year-old predator’s total to 20 for the season. Clarke even joked about the veteran’s struggles to race in on goal when sent in behind in the first period.
“Every game is different,” Clarke said. “You have to read the game and give your players the best chance of winning. I knew that coming there with Boyd and [Eamonn] Brophy up front would give Rangers problems and that proved to be the case. It’s good for me and even better for the players. Kris actually had two chances. I don’t know if you saw his turn of pace in the first half when he went into reverse!
“When the ball falls in the six-yard box he’s normally the guy who will take the chance. He doesn’t always get pretty goals but the best strikers will tell you that the best goals are the ugly ones.”