The Sunday Post (Inverness)
Manager of the Year – it’s in the bag already!
We’re only halfway through the season.
But I reckon the contest for Scotland’s manager of the year title is already over.
Somebody should just present Steve Clarke with his prize now.
Irrespective of yesterday’s result at Celtic Park.
Forget about the fact that Brendan Rodgers is going for a treble-treble.
Clarke’s league record speaks for itself. Since Steve took charge of Killie in October, 2017, his side have played 46 Premiership games.
Of those they have won 24, drawn 12 and lost only 10.
That means Clarke has a win percentage of 52%.
Some of the best managers in the world would bite your hand off for a record like that!
And to achieve it at Kilmarnock is nothing short of remarkable.
The fact that Clarke had his team at Celtic Park in December as the Premiership’s top team says it all.
Steve Clarke isn’t going to get carried away – because he is a top, top coach
Let’s be honest, we’d be surprised if Hearts, Hibs or Aberdeen had been top of the table this far into the season.
But Kilmarnock? That’s almost unbelievable. So for Killie fans who, with no disrespect intended, aren’t used to success, this must be a dream come true.
They’re entitled to enjoy themselves.
But Steve Clarke isn’t going to get carried away – because he’s a top, top coach. When he got the Kilmarnock job, I was told by people in London that he would make a success of it.
Folk who worked with him at Chelsea told me his training-ground work was top notch.
It would have to be for Jose Mourinho to pick him as his Chelsea assistant back in 2004.
Clarke’s coaching pedigree is absolutely first-class.
His first season as a manager, when he led West Bromwich Albion to their best Premier League finish, was pretty spectacular, too.
But from that point on, there wasn’t much success.
So there was a slight question mark over whether Steve would make a go of it at Kilmarnock.
Talk about answering the sceptics!
He has made everyone sit up and take notice – and Killie fans may fear losing him as a result.
But I’m not so sure Clarke is quite so desperate to jump ship.
He was heavily linked with Rangers before Steven Gerrard got the Ibrox job.
Yet he didn’t look or sound, at any point, like a man who was keen to make a move.
I think he’s comfortable at Killie.
And, more importantly, I think he’s enjoying his football and his life.
But there is one thing . . .
As good as Steve clearly is, I don’t think Killie will last the pace in terms of challenging for the title.
At this critical point of the season, when games start coming thick and fast, I just don’t think they’ll have the depth of squad to cope.
This is when Celtic have come into their own over the last few seasons – when they’ve really put the pedal to the metal.
I suspect Rangers could do something similar this season.
So Killie will find it difficult to hang on. But I also think, having watched Hearts, Hibs and Aberdeen stumble a wee bit, that Steve Clarke’s men could easily finish third.
I reckon he’s already proved himself worthy of awards.
If he keeps his side ticking over for the rest of the season, he will surely have proved it to everyone else too.