2017/18 Preview – Kilmarnock

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With Lee McCulloch spending his first summer in charge of Kilmarnock, it has been a summer of change for the Rugby Park men. I look at their current squad and how that shapes up for the season ahead in the Scottish Premiership.

With Lee Clark bringing in a number of loan signings, many of them returned to their English parent clubs at the end of the season. Key figures Freddie Woodman, Luke Hendrie and Sean Longstaff all left Ayrshire come May and that left three big positions needing filled. With Nathan Tyson and Kristoffer Ajer amongst the other players who haven’t returned for this campaihn, it was going to be a large overhaul of players during the close-season and I must admit, I think McCulloch has recruited well.

Thankfully for the former Rangers captain, he has had an able deputy between the sticks in Jamie MacDonald to replace the impressive Woodman, however, there have been rumours of a Killie return for former goalie Cammy Bell. That would be an excellent capture for the Premiership side and only aid their ambitions. If this led to an exit by MacDonald, they would still be able to call on highly-rated youngster Devlin Mackay.

When you look at the options available defensively this season,, compared to last term, I think there has been a definite improvement. The signings of Kirk Broadfoot and Gordon Greer are very impressive and this should make Killie a much harder force in the Premiership. With Stephen O’Donnell coming in on a long-term deal, the departure of loanee Luke Hendrie shouldn’t be felt as badly now, while Calum Waters has joined from Alloa and he will provide competition for Stevie Smith at left-back. This is a very impressive group for McCulloch to work with and this is without mentioning players such as Scott Boyd and Greg Taylor also being available for selction. If McCulloch views Broadfoot as a centre-back only, then I would say cover for right-back is likely required, but, if Broadfoot is seen as the backup option in this area of the park, I do not see any further reinforcements being brought in.

Looking further up the field and it is central midfield where I feel a little bit more nous is required. The experienced Gary Dicker and new signing Alan Power provide the defensive side of the match but I feel another one is needed in this position to add a little bit more cover and competition. The breakthrough of youngsters Iain Wilson and Dean Hawkshaw is positive but I do not think Killie can rely on them fully just yet and another member of the squad with an experienced head in this area of the pitch could become vital between getting into the top six and not. Greg Taylor and Stevie Smith can also cover in this position, but, again, with the likelihood of these guys being required on the left hand side, it maybe isn’t an ideal scenario.

The creative influence at the club cannot be disputed though. Chris Burke having came in alongside Dom Thomas offers great variety down the flanks. If you add this to Rory McKenzie, Greg Kiltie and Jordan Jones, then I think Kilmarnock are well stocked for creating chances, and with strikers Kris Boyd and Lee Erwin looking to be the beneficiaries of these, I suspect a lot of goals could be scored by McCulloch’s men this term.

The one question I would pose, again, is depth. The only real cover I can see is on-loan youngster Alex Samizadeh and I ain’t sure if that is enough. As I have said in previous reviews about other sides heading into their campaigns, I think an additional striker to provide extra and added firepower could be the difference and if Kilmarnock can bring one more player in to this position, I can see a good charge towards the top six this season. I think it will be a tough battle with the majority of sides fighting for the same position but I genuinely cannot see why Kilmarnock will not be up there battling it out with similar sides, such as Dundee; Partick and Motherwell.

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