Since the turn of the century, Rugby Park has been home to a diverse range of talent. Players who have bowed out from the big stage while wearing the blue and white stripes, some emerging talents who moved onto bigger stages and some cases of unrealised potential.
Here I propose my 21st Century Starting XI. Feel free to post suggestions/alternatives/abuse.
GK- Camy Bell
Despite Marshall and Combe coming into form towards the end of their time at Killie; and Jamie MacDonald making big contributions recently- Camy Bell, season after season, saved Killie vital points; well into double figures. This helped maintain the club’s top-flight status. As well as his league form, his man of the match performance in 2012’s League Cup final win over Celtic showed just how important he was to our success.
RB- Gus MacPherson
His less than athletic appearance belied his ability to bomb forward and overlap, providing an attacking threat while his stamina ensured that it was not at the expense of his defensive duties. Having since become a promotion winning manager proves he has real determination, substance and communication skills too- something we could do with now.
RCB- Manuel Pascali
I would certainly admit this one is up for debate. Centre back was not Manu’s first choice position and was often only playing there out of necessity. He was a better midfielder than defender but there is no place for him in this team’s midfield. There is a noticable dirth of talent/consistency at centre half- Pasca’s leadership and drive are what earns him his place.
LCB- Freddie Dindeleux
When I said there is a dirth of talent at centre half looking at the recent history of Kilmarnock, this man is not included. Killie took full advantage of the recent Bosman Ruling as well as the income from a lucrative television deal (as many Scottish teams did… it didn’t really work out in the long run). Freddie arrived injured but highly thought of from Lille and once fit he imposed his solid, uncompromising play and has set the benchmark which is yet to be reached.
LB- Ben Gordon
Despite only hanging around for 5 mintues, Ben Gordon gets in the team because he provided a marauding full-back style akin to that which Gus had provided a few years previous. Gordon has had uneventful stints here and there since leaving and he was certainly helped by the players around him but within that team, for that short while he was certainly an asset.
CM – Ian Durrant
Were it not for a horror tackle by Neil Simpson, Durrant could have went on to great things and been a stalwart for Scotland. The way things went, Durrant had to rebuild his career after around 3 years out the game. Thankfully for Killie, he did that rebuilding at Rugby Park. It shows the strength of the man that he achieved a level of performance that was so solid, so consistent, so driving, so dependable and ultimately rewarded him with a Scottish Cup winner’s medal at Killie.
CM- Craig Bryson
Bryson experienced playing with Killie when there were gifted players there and when there were not. Either way, his workrate was peerless. He was as likely to be found breaking up attacks on the edge of our own box as he was to be found providing an assist for our strikers. Currently playing for Derby, he was a major part of the club’s tilt for promotion which ultimately just fell short. An absolute role model of a player in terms of effort.
RM- Souleymane Coulibaly
Another short-term stay. Despite the Ivorian’s stay in Ayrshire only lasting half a season, he made a long-lasting impression. He had real strength and skill but it was his bizarrely frequent, spectacular goals that will live long in the memory. A 40 yard thunderbolt against Craig Gordon at Celtic Park, several overhead kicks and some jinky runs finished with neat shots. The £1m offer from Egypt was just too much to turn down.
CAM- Alexei Eremenko
The closest thing to Cesc Fabregas the Scottish top-flight has ever seen. Relaxed, classy and with imperious technical ability; the Finn showed the type of creativity that Killie fans had never seen (at least not by one of their own players). As well as breezing past opposition players and spreading the ball with ease, he was also a set-piece specialist; getting his fair share of goals from dead ball situations.
LM- Steven Naismith
It’s all the more special when one of your own does good and in Naisy’s case he has done everything he could to make Killie fans feel proud whenever he chalks up another achievement. His application, movement and goalscoring ability dragged an unimpressive Killie team higher in the table than they perhaps should have been; winning an SFWA Young Player of the Year Award and a SPFA Young Player of the Year Award along the way. Since then he harboured an impressive medal haul during his time at Rangers (3 league titles, a League Cup and a Scottish Cup) and gained over 40 caps for Scotland.
CF- Kris Boyd
It’s not bad being able to choose the all-time top scorer in the Scottish top-flight division as your centre forward. An incredibly natural goalscorer who has had 3 stints at Rugby Park in all. Though not always the most mobile, his savvy play, significant frame and eye for goal have made him a legend of Scottish league football.
So there it is, a team of players who individually stand out but would also work well as a unit. A good mix of workers and flair players, natural ability and graft, youth and experience.