Steve Clarke keen to bring Rugby Park crowds back to Kilmarnock games

New Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke hopes to reconnect the Rugby Park outfit with the Ayrshire public and send attendances soaring.
Steve Clarke is aiming to bring the crowds back to Rugby Park. Picture: SNS GroupSteve Clarke is aiming to bring the crowds back to Rugby Park. Picture: SNS Group
Steve Clarke is aiming to bring the crowds back to Rugby Park. Picture: SNS Group

While the town itself has suffered in recent years following the closure of the Johnnie Walker whisky plant, so has its club where crowds have plummeted.

In 1999, Killie boasted an average attendance of more than 11,000.

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But last season only their three visits from the Old Firm pushed their average gate above 5,000.

The decline can be blamed on a combination of the local economy’s decline and fan opposition to former chairman Michael Johnston but now Clarke hopes to lure stay-away supporters back.

Jose Mourinho’s former right-hand man at Chelsea said: “Kilmarnock, as far back as I can remember, was always a club for the community but maybe there has been a slight disconnect for various reasons.

“Now it’s up to us, with the help of the players, to put a smile back on everybody’s faces and try to get the fans back in supporting this great club.

“Attendances have dropped in a number of places over the years but Kilmarnock has been particularly badly hit economically.

“The only way you get people back through the doors of your football club is by getting an attractive, winning team on the pitch.

“Now that’s not going to happen this week or next, or maybe not even next year, but that’s what we want to achieve.

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“You saw a tiny microcosm at Firhill on Saturday where almost 1,000 people turned out to support the team against Partick Thistle. Fortunately the team backed that up with a good performance and three points.

“That was just a small step but it was a step in the right direction for this club.”

Killie’s appointment of the former West Brom and Reading boss has been applauded from all corners.

Now director Billy Bowie hopes the supporter base will respond.

“It’s always been my ambition to get a manger of Steve’s calibre here but these things take time,” he said.

“Now we’ve reached that point though and I’m really happy. It’s a new exciting era for the club.

“We’ve done everything we can to get back in touch with the community and hopefully now Steve has come along and the promise of a good 90 minutes on the pitch will bring people back.”