We have reached that time of the season when the players and football writers will be asked to choose their players and managers of the year.
While there is plenty of debate about who has performed best ON the pitch there can be no argument about who has delivered the most from the technical area – Steve Clarke.
Yes, even if Brendan Rodgers delivers a back to back treble I’d argue that the Killie gaffer has actually achieved more during the season than his Celtic counterpart.
Sure, football is about winning trophies and competing at the highest level and there is no doubt that a ‘Double Treble’ would be worth shouting about but, when a manager’s impact on a club is as significant as Clarke’s has been, there is no competition.
When he took control of the Rugby Park squad back on October 14th his team sat bottom of the pile without a win from their first eight fixtures, had amassed only three Premiership points and scored just five league goals.
Fast forward five months and Kilmarnock are now sitting in fifth spot and have only tasted defeat on four occasions from the 25 matches he’s presided over.
More importantly, Killie have won 13 of those games and beaten both Celtic and Rangers at Rugby Park. They also won at Ibrox last weekend and had previously picked up draws against Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow.
That’s progress of huge proportions.
From cannon fodder to top-six certainties you would have to say Steve Clarke has worked wonders in Ayrshire in a relatively short period of time.
Brendan Rodgers on the other hand has NOT taken Celtic forward this term.
Of course, an invincible season was always going to be difficult to surpass but there is no doubt that his team have gone back the way and most Celtic fans will recognise that.
How far back will vary from punter to punter but I’d suggest that Rodgers has a major job on his hands to even get his squad back to last year’s levels.
Sure, the Hoops will still win the league by a distance and will ultimately be the power brokers of Scottish football for the foreseeable future but that’s not the manager’s mantra.
No, he wants to develop players and teams by improving individuals. He wants to continually challenge the standards at his club. He has spoken about creating a legacy during his tenure.
And, he wants to provide all of that with an attractive brand of football.
Well, this season was clearly not on the Sat-Nav route to those destinations.
Less impressive performances, a drop in standards by individual players, unresolved defensive frailties, ropey recruitment and a few humblings in Europe are all confirmation of the step backward from that all conquering group of last term.
Let’s face it, it is not likely to be panic stations around Lennoxtown but Brendan Rodgers will know himself that some things have not gone to plan.
For that reason I think Steve Clarke is the pick of the managerial bunch.
In fact, if I was to pick anyone other than Clarke it would be Jack Ross.
The St Mirren gaffer grabbed the Paisley side by the throat and literally dragged it out of the car crash it found itself in last season.
He placed the squad in intensive care and has gradually resuscitated the entire fabric of the club to such an extent that he will take the Saints back into the top flight next term.
That too is progress and in any other year it might just have been enough to get the nod.
Sadly for Jack Ross and the rest of Scottish football’s gaffers Steve Clarke has eclipsed them all.