Wednesday 24 October 2018

Celtic scalp puts Clarke in frame for Scotland job

In his 11 years as a Chelsea defender, Clarke won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals and made six appearances for Scotland. Photo credit: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire.
In his 11 years as a Chelsea defender, Clarke won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup medals and made six appearances for Scotland. Photo credit: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire.

Roddy Forsyth

Steve Clarke has already played down speculation linking him with the vacant position of Scotland manager but his lustre will be enhanced by Kilmarnock's unexpected 1-0 victory over Celtic at Rugby Park, where Youssouf Mulumbu scored the only goal.

The Ayrshire side remain closer to the relegation zone than the top of the Scottish Premiership but Saturday's win saw them into the top half of the division.

That prospect looked remote during Lee McCulloch's spell in charge earlier in the season, when Killie lost 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead in the Scottish League Cup and 2-0 at home in the league, but under Clarke they have now drawn with Celtic and Rangers in Glasgow and beaten both Old Firm teams at Rugby Park.

In his 11 years as a Chelsea defender, Clarke won FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup medals and made six appearances for Scotland.

Coaching and management experience followed at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom, Reading and Aston Villa, so it would be no surprise if the Scottish FA took more than a passing interest in the 54-year-old.

Pressed to identify how Clarke has transformed Kilmarnock's fortunes, goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald said: "He just makes everything so simple in terms of knowing what you're doing.

Combat

"We worked on our shape all week, what we were going to do to combat Celtic, what we would do when we got the ball back - little simple things - but the manager doesn't overdo it. Players need to take in only little bits at a time."

Kilmarnock had not beaten Celtic since October 2012 and Mulumbu - who was the subject of a transfer bid from Bordeaux last week - had not scored since March 15, 2014, when he was on target for West Brom in a 2-1 win at Swansea.

Celtic could have cited reasons for what was only their second domestic defeat during Brendan Rodgers' 20 months in charge.

The early loss to injury of two of their three starting central defenders - Dedryck Boyata and Kristoffer Ajer - plus the inhibiting tendencies of Rugby Park's much-used artificial 3G pitch were undoubtedly disruptive, but it is a measure of the mindset instilled by Rodgers that Celtic declined to use those factors to excuse a performance which was their poorest against domestic opposition under his supervision.

Celtic had 69per cent of possession but it took them until the 87th minute to force the first of two corner kicks and their single shot on target came in the 90th minute. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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