Review of last season – In his first season in charge it is fair to say that Allan Johnston experienced many more negatives than positives. With a heavily altered squad it was difficult for Kilmarnock to gain any kind of momentum last year. The goals of Kris Boyd were vital and kept them going but the fans were left disappointed over the course of the campaign. Off the field issues were again part of the focus for the supporters and the chairman once more felt the anger and frustration from the stands. Kilmarnock flirted with the relegation playoffs but managed to do just enough to secure their place in the Premiership for this season. Other than the goals from Kris Boyd and the return of cult hero Alexei Eremenko Killie fans had very little to shout about last season. There was however some positive news towards the end of the campaign as Kilmarnock managed to strike a deal with the Bank of Scotland to help clear their bank debt.
Players in – Josh Magennis (Striker, Aberdeen), Jamie Hamill (Defender/Midfielder, Hearts), Paul Cairney (Midfielder, Hibernian); Mark Connolly (Defender, Crawley Town), Lee Miller (Striker, Carlisle United), Tope Obadeyi (Winger, Bury)
Players out – Kris Boyd (Rangers), Barry Nicholson (Free), Darren Barr (Free), Ismael Bouzid (Free), Antonio Reguero (Ross County), James Fowler (Queen of the South), Sean Clohessy (Colchester United), Jeroen Tesselaar (Free), Willie Gross (Free), Jude Winchester (Free), Rory McKeown (Raith Rovers), Jackson Irvine (End of Loan), Michael Gardyne (End of Loan), David Moberg Karlsson (End of Loan), Vitalijs Maksimenko (End of Loan)
What they still need – Kilmarnock still have a very unbalanced squad and with a whole host of departures during the close season it still needs work. Allan Johnston will be under pressure to deliver in the transfer market with experienced defenders a priority. They look very weak down the left hand side of their defence and they need a creative presence in the middle of the park as an alternative to Paul Cairney. Kilmarnock are now working with a much tighter budget so need to make sure they make the right signings in the right areas.
Expectations this season – Kilmarnock fans will want some kind of progression and they will want good signings that can produce for the team. Allan Johnston has yet to build a successful Kilmarnock side and last season his transfer dealings were much more miss than hit. The second season for a manager is always a tough one because they have to show some kind of development which will be tough for Johnston given the large squad turnover. Fans will expect them to stay clear of relegation this season and hope that Johnston, along with new assistant Gary Locke, can start to build something at the club.
Key player – You cannot take over 20 goals out of any team and hope that things will be okay. Kilmarnock have tried to cope with the loss of Kris Boyd by bringing in another experienced Scottish striker. In Lee Miller they are getting someone who knows the Scottish game well and is a proven goalscorer at this level. It will be crucial for Kilmarnock that he now becomes the striker that can get them the goals that matter. If Killie want to achieve anything this year they will need Miller to fill some of that gap left by Boyd’s departure.
Young player to look out for – Killie have a few young players to keep an eye out for. Young defenders Ross Barbour and Mark O’Hara will be looking to establish themselves as first team regulars this year but it is a player further up the park that is a real standout. If Dundee United fans were claiming that Ryan Gauld was a ‘mini Messi’ then Kilmarnock fans have similar feelings about their own Messi-esque diminutive forward Chris Johnston. The tiny winger is immensely talented and has a bright future ahead of him. He can beat players comfortably and has scored some stunning goals in his short career. He should have another great year this season for both club and country.
Opinion on Kilmarnock – Kilmarnock have struggled in the last couple of seasons due to the sheer number of players coming and going. There has been little room for progression and very little consistency in the side. The club needs a period of stability both on the pitch and in the boardroom. Allan Johnston has yet to prove himself as a Premiership level manager and his signings have not really worked out as of yet. He faces his biggest challenge this season having lost the goals of Kris Boyd. Working with a small squad and a tight budget will be tough for Kilmarnock this season but what might help them is the fact that the clubs who were in a similar position last season have also struggled to improve their squads.
Prediction for this season – 8th