Two decades of almost uninterrupted success as a coach and manager down south were consigned to the history books when he and Roberto Di Matteo were dismissed by Aston Villa in October of last year.
Clarke, who had worked alongside Ruud Gullit, Jose Mourinho, Gianfranco Zola and Kenny Dalglish as well as managing West Bromwich Albion and Reading, was out of work for a year before Killie called.
For once, though, the short memories of those in the English game have worked in his favour with the arrival of Youssouf Mulumbu at Rugby Park. The 30-year-old midfielder, who played under Clarke at the Hawthorns, had been without a club since being released by Norwich City in May. Fortunately for his mentor, nobody called Mulumbu – who has 30 caps for the Democratic Republic of Congo – and now he could make his debut when Aberdeen visit today.
“It’s obviously going to take Youssouf a few weeks to get up to full speed because he hasn’t played since February,” said Clarke. “If we can utilise him short-term, maybe off the bench for a few matches, working him hard in training and getting him to a level of fitness as soon as possible then that would be the aim.
“Being honest, I was surprised nobody else came in for him but, in football, you can be quickly forgotten. I’ve spoken to him about it and nothing really happened for him over the summer. He feels that he’s got something to prove, which can only be beneficial to us.
“You tend to look out for players you’ve worked with in the past – those who are doing well but also those doing not so well.”
Winger Dominic Thomas has struggled for game time since Clarke succeeded Lee McCulloch but the Scotland Under-21 winger can’t praise him highly enough.
“I’ve not played as much as I’d have liked under the new gaffer but his training’s been good and I’m learning a lot every day under him and [assistant] Alex Dyer,” he said.