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Gordon Smith on Kilmarnock: McCulloch, loan stars & top-half tilt

| 02.03.2017

Kilmarnock’s travelling fans were treated to quite the performance at McDiarmid Park on Saturday, as the visitors enjoyed a 2-0 victory over St Johnstone, making it four games unbeaten on the road.

With the Ladbrokes Premiership so tight from sixth place down, March is likely to be a crucial month for Killie.

Here’s what I reckon to the top-six hopes and new arrivals at my old club, as well as why I’d like to see the caretaker boss get the gig full time.

Recent resurgence

The change of manager seems to have heralded a revival at Killie. They’ve been inconsistent this season, but the current run of eight points from the last five Ladbrokes Premiership games is very pleasing.

Caretaker boss Lee McCulloch led the team to a very good 2-0 win away at St Johnstone, which is such a tough place to get a result. So that leaves Kilmarnock in a good position, and I think there’s a real chance of the club giving him the job permanently.

I’d like to see Lee get the job. He’s someone the players clearly respond to, even though he didn’t feel he was ready to take the role full-time when the opportunity last arose.

But he’s now been assistant at the club for about 18 months and with his knowledge and experience of the game, I think this could be the ideal time for him to get the manager’s job.

Young blood

I think it’s important to have hungry, talented guys like Adam Frizzell and Greg Taylor coming through the youth set-up at Rugby Park and getting that chance in the first team – and they’ve both responded well to getting a lot of game time this season.

The turnover during last summer concerned me a bit, with 20 players exiting and 22 joining. So I was a bit concerned about whether that would affect the academy – but they’ve brought some excellent young guys from there into the side, and I think it’s a vital part of building success at a club like Killie.

It’s historically been a club where you get a chance as a young guy coming through the ranks. I personally had the chance to go to Kilmarnock, Rangers or Celtic as a boy, and I chose Killie, because you knew you’d get the opportunities.

Top-half hopes

I think Kilmarnock have a good chance of getting into the top-six, but it’s all about consistency. The league’s so tight right now that if they were to have a bit of a blip – and go three or four games without winning – then they could slip down the table pretty quickly.

Inverness and the other sides in the bottom few places are also beginning to pick up points, and Hamilton Academical got a great win against Aberdeen on Tuesday night. So while top-six would be great, I actually think the primary aim is avoiding the bottom two spots and surviving in the Premiership.

Loan stars state their case

One of the benefits of bringing in a few loan players is that it provides competition to the guys who are already in the squad. And very often that triggers better form, with players realising that they really have to fight for their spot in the side.

Six guys have come in on loan in January – but for me, the biggest addition among them is clearly Connor Sammon. He’s got so much experience and he’s a man who can make a crucial impact in games. You saw that with his goal against St Johnstone last weekend.

If he can replicate the form he had in his last stint at Rugby Park [from 2008-2011], then the club have an excellent signing on their hands.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing



Gordon Smith

Former Rangers and Kilmarnock forward Gordon Smith is a name synonymous with Scottish football having enjoyed a successful playing career before being appointed head of the SFA and then working as a highly respected pundit.

Read his exclusive thoughts on the SPFL at Ladbrokes News.