Some seasons have been a success, some have flirted with
disaster, but whatever has happened during the nine months of a Scottish Premier
League season Kilmarnock’s place in the top
flight has stayed constant. However, there have been a few years, following the
Kris Boyd and Stevie Naismith days, that have been particularly hard to take
for those in Ayrshire; giving us plenty of dross to pick from. Craig Anderson writes.
Goalkeeper – Chad
Killie have generally had dependable goalkeepers during the
SPL era, with Gordon Marshall, Alan Combe and Cammy Bell all doing the business
between the sticks. Fortunately for us, that means that our worst keepers made
didn’t have the chance to inflict too much pain on our supporters. The winner
in this category is Chad Harpur, a fat South African who couldn’t have looked
less like a footballer if he had tried. He made his one and only SPL appearance
in a 4-2 defeat to Gretna,
which says it all.
Left-back – Iain Campbell
With Garry Hay making the left-back spot his own for most of
the SPL era, there have been few opportunities for other players in this
position. Fittingly, my choice for our worst left-back in the SPL era is a guy
who didn’t actually play a game for the club. Jim Jefferies actually paid Dunfermline a small undisclosed fee for Iain Campbell,
son of Dick, only for him to spend his entire Killie career gathering
splinters. He is now in the 2nd Division playing under his dad at Forfar.
Centre-back – Steven Old
The excitement of signing an international centre-back was
soon tempered when we released that Steven Old’s international caps had come
for New Zealand against the
likes of Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
He had the height and build of a good central defender, but unfortunately looks
were deceiving – he was clumsy and lacking in physical strength and even being
shunted to right-back couldn’t save his career. He did go to the 2009
Confederations Cup as a Killie player, but unsurprisingly he failed to make an
appearance. Has found his level at Sutton United in English Conference South.
Centre-back – Patrick Ada
joined from Crewe Alexandra as one of a number of signings Kenny Shiels made
after his permanent appointment in the summer of 2011. He made three
appearances in the first month of the season before rumours of a dressing room
bust-up after a late defeat away to Inverness.
On the last day of the summer transfer window, two months after he joined,
Kenny Shiels confirmed that Ada
was available on a free transfer. He eventually left for Burton Albion in
January. In December 2012, he was convicted of rape and jailed for five years
following an incident in London
that March. A thoroughly unpleasant individual.
Right-back – Billy Berntsson
Berntsson became something of a cult hero in his spell at Rugby Park,
with many fans questioning his very existence. One of a number of bizarre
signings made by Mixu Paatelainen in the January 2011 transfer window, Billy
joined from a second division Swedish side on a two and a half year deal, but
disappeared off the face of the earth after a handful of cameo appearances as a
sub. He eventually left for Hammarby last January, but will never be forgotten
amongst his loyal fanbase.
Central-midfield – Gavin Skelton
A harsh inclusion, but Skelton summed up the Killie team at
the end of the Jim Jefferies era – hardworking but severely lacking in talent.
Gavin was at the heart of the Gretna
side which won three consecutive promotions from the 3rd Division to the SPL,
and even scored the club’s last ever goal in a 1-0 win over Hearts. He joined
Killie after Gretna went bust, and made over 50
appearances at Rugby
Park – mainly in midfield
but he also filled in at left-back. He could never be faulted for effort, but
even basic skills like passing seemed beyond him at times. Now lighting up the
Conference with Barrow.
Central-midfield –Gary Locke
A good player when he was fit. Unfortunately, that was
almost never. Locke was clearly a favourite of Jim Jefferies, playing under him
at three different clubs, and Jefferies assured us that he was great in the
dressing room. Despite his fitness issues, Jefferies continued to award him new
contracts each year, and by the end of his Killie career Locke was one of the
highest paid social convenors of all time, something which didn’t go down well
with the support.
Central-midfield – Momo Sylla
A loose cannon. Sylla joined Killie from Leicester City
in 2007, and was always entertaining but rarely effective. A personal favourite
was his performance in the League Cup semi-final against Falkirk at Fir Park
– Sylla started the game at right-back but, not one to be constrained by
tactics, he galloped around the pitch as he saw fit, lunging in with rash
tackles at seemingly random intervals. This virtuoso performance was curtailed
after 35 minutes when he picked up an injury, being replaced by the more
dependable but much less exciting Grant Murray. His career at Killie was a
brief one – he fell out with Jim Jefferies and left around six months after
Striker – David Merdy
Merdy was signed by Bobby Williamson after scoring four
goals in a trial match set up by an agent trying to showcase his out of
contract players. Given how his Killie career went, you have to wonder about
the quality of the defenders on the opposing team. Merdy made his debut for
Killie in a European tie away to Glenavon, and was subbed after 55 minutes.
Looking out of your depth against Northern Irish opposition is never a good
sign, and indeed that proved to be his one and only appearance for the club.
Striker – Aime Koudou
“Koudou, Koudou, Koudou is on fire”. A song which would have
been much more effective if the player in question had actually been any good.
Jim Jefferies signed him from Airdrie after he turned in an impressive
performance against Motherwell in a Scottish Cup tie, but that sort of
performance was never replicated in a Killie shirt. He scored his only goal
from all of five inches in a 2-2 draw with Inverness at Rugby Park
– it would have been difficult to miss even if he had tried.
Striker – Mark Burchill
Once dubbed the “Scottish Michael Owen”, by the time he
arrived at Killie he was more like the Scottish Michael Jackson (“Because I’m bad, come on”). His
only season at Killie was our worst in recent memory – only a nervy 0-0 draw
against Falkirk on the last day of the season
kept us in the SPL. Burchill made a far from sterling contribution to that
season – he scored once in 17 matches and his playing still seemed to involve
running around whilst paying as little attention to the ball as possible. His
last game for the club came in a 1-0 defeat at St Mirren Park, when he was
subbed at half time having quite possibly not touched the ball in the entire
first half. This story does have a happy ending though – Burchill moved to Cyprus and
recommended an ex-teammate to Killie. That teammate was Dieter van Tornhout,
who famously scored the winning goal in last season’s League Cup final.
Manager – Jim Jefferies (2007-2010)
Jim Jefferies’ time at Killie can be split into two periods
– a good one and a painfully bad one. He took over in 2002 and in his first few
seasons he produced sides which played entertaining football and achieved some
good finishes in the league. However, things started to go stale towards the
end of his time at the club, with dull, uninspiring signings and eye-gougingly
awful long-ball football which almost got us relegated. The rot can probably be
traced to the 2007 League Cup final against Hibs. Killie, inspired by Steven
Naismith and Allan Johnston, had been playing some great stuff that season, and
while a very talented Hibs side were favourites, most Killie fans went into the
game with high hopes of a win. Thousands of fans turned up, but the team
didn’t, with Hibs thrashing us 5-1. A few months later, Naismith joined
Rangers, accelerating the decline. Only the signing of Kevin Kyle saved us in
the 2008/09 season, and I think Jefferies would probably have taken us down in
2009/10 had he not been sacked in January. In hindsight, I’m sure he’d be the
first to say that he hung around for too long.
If you’d like to read more from Craig then you must follow
him, and his handle of SPL Stats, on twitter. Be sure to check out the blog
page as well for some interesting trivia and statistical analysis of Scottish