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Killie FC

Derek McInnes First 100 Games

This piece is an extract from the Feb 15th 2024 ... "The Rugby Road Gates" newsletter, which is emailed out weekly. To receive this, free Kilmarnock newsletter straight to your email inbox, click here. Piece was written by sports writer Ewan Paton@epates_22

Saturday’s win over Cove Rangers on Feb 10th 2024, marked Derek McInnes’ 100th game in charge of Killie. It’s quite hard to fathom how he’s been at the club for so long already.

There have been plenty of highs and lows. Thankfully, it seems the club is now in a position to ensure the future has more of the former than the latter, with its Premiership status solidified after a rocky couple of seasons, and the prospect of European football very much real - something McInnes deserves lots of praise for.

Rather than previewing the club’s next game for about the 15th time since I started this column, I wanted to reflect on McInnes’ tenure after reaching his latest managerial milestone. In no particular order, I’ve picked some of the good, the bad and the ugly moments we fans have witnessed under his watch. Hopefully, I’ve not missed your favourite highlights. Enjoy, and here's to the next 100


Demolition job at Somerset

I don’t know if I’ll ever experience a more enthralling start to a game. If you were in the away end that night, you’d understand. Everyone seemed to be in disbelief. And just when you thought you’d got your breath back, Killie scored again. Three goals inside 16 minutes from Rory McKenzie, Oli Shaw and Jack Sanders saw McInnes redeem himself in the Ayrshire derby.

 It was an incredible night – one that was well overdue given some of the turgid stuff on display during the Covid season and after relegation.

Alston won the league

What more needs to be said? I could write my entire newsletter and then some about the night Killie won the title against Arbroath, but it would be nothing that no one hasn’t said before. It was just the perfect ending. As Scott McClymont told me in the days that followed, it genuinely couldn’t have been scripted any better.

The mixture of pure joy and relief was palpable from all 10,000 Killie supporters, but what an unbelievable moment, one that was essential to where we are today.

Hampden calling

There wasn’t much to shout about in the 2022/23 season as I’ll soon touch upon, but reaching the semi-finals of the Viaplay Cup was up there. The excitement was there from the second we knocked Dundee United out. With the World Cup break thrown in, we were made to wait for months for the big day out at the national stadium. 

While it ended in defeat, the boys did us proud, running the best Celtic team in recent memory close, with the chance to take the game to extra time denied only by some poor officiating.

Toppling the Old Firm

Killie made a flying start to this season by stealing the headlines on the opening weekend with a 1-0 win over Rangers.

 As if that wasn’t enough for McInnes, he only went and topped that by beating Celtic not once, but twice! Each of these victories merits its own sub-heading, but with the need to adhere to a word count, they’re all under this banner. My favourite was the 2-1 win over Celtic in December.

The level of performance was as good as I’ve seen from any Killie team I’ve watched. Brendan Rodgers’ side were made to look distinctly average by how good our players were. I’ve every confidence the gaffer will regularly continue to get results like this against the big two.


Damaging defeats

The new manager bounce that is often spoken about never really occurred for McInnes. Yes, he won his first game at Queen of the South and then Inverness a few weeks later. However, things remained bleak in the Championship after a double-whammy against Arbroath and Ayr. Total dejection. The hope of promotion was rapidly fading after a dismal few days for the team, capped off by that lot winning at Rugby Park.

Away form leading to relegation battle

It’s been incredibly well-documented how bad the away form has been under McInnes, granted things have markedly improved this season, thankfully. However, after getting back into the Premiership, it seemed that the team’s inability to get any points on the road would be its undoing and send us on a one-way ticket back to the Championship. It took until April 2023 (Buddies Away) for an away win, with the odd point picked up here and there. 

Another victory (3-0 at the Arabs) on the road post-split was ultimately enough to see us over the line, but generally speaking, the constant threat of relegation made for grim viewing.

Scottish Cup embarrassment

They say that a cup run can act as a welcome distraction for teams going through the mire. I think back to when Birmingham City won the League Cup under Alex McLeish, or when Wigan lifted the FA Cup under Roberto Martinez as prime examples of that. Even our League Cup semi-final last term when things weren’t going smoothly in the league. So, to go 1-0 at Inverness and somehow conspire to throw away that lead last March, it was little wonder supporters were left so despondent afterward. With a healthy travelling crowd, I can imagine that Friday night is up there with one of the worst ever following Killie away.

Hearts quarter-final loss

There haven’t been many disappointments this season. The team has performed well and risen to the challenge set out by the manager to hang around the top six for as long as possible. Fourth place is in Killie’s grasp, and fingers crossed European football can be secured. To be totally truthful though, losing out on another trip to Hampden with a last-minute defeat at home to Hearts was a sore one. There’s no way Killie should’ve lost that match based on the second-half showing. A regret for sure.


By Ewan Paton@epates_22Sports Writer

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