Could Steve Clarke be the man to turn the tide at Ibrox?
When the curtain comes down on another Scottish Premiership season in May, expectation is Rangers and Graeme Murty will part ways. The 43-year-old has done his best in testing circumstances but a brief revival between New Year and the most recent in a long line of disappointing Old Firm results has not been enough to secure an endorsement from Gers fans.
A range of names has been mooted as Murty’s successor, the initial clamouring for him to be appointed permanently now very much a thing of the past. Attention is instead turning to other candidates. Current Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke is the name most regularly mentioned.
Clarke joined Killie midway through October and has transformed them from anchored no-hopers to challenging for a European spot all in the space of five months. Incredibly his record over 22 league games in charge projects the Ayrshire-based club into second, behind only Celtic, over the course of a full season.
Kilmarnock majority shareholder Billy Bowie has been quick to insist Clarke will still be at Rugby Park next season, citing the two-and-a-half year deal currently in place. Regardless speculation continues to grow.
Some 'sections' of the press have talked down the likelihood the former Chelsea assistant would join Rangers, falsely suggesting he grew up a Celtic fan. That is categorically untrue. A 1980s interview in Shoot magazine, somehow uncovered, reveals Clarke himself confessing he was a Killie fan as a boy.
That immediately debunks the myth surrounding his childhood allegiances but there are other considerations to take into account. Firstly would Clarke want the job? The man is careful with his career choices. After leaving Aston Villa in 2016 he took a year off before accepting the hot seat at Kilmarnock.
His impact since arriving has been nothing short of incredible. It’s safe to say he’s at least partially restored what was once a respectable reputation within football. In a few months Clarke has already outgrown the Kilmarnock job. He was probably overqualified to begin. There will be plenty of clubs now monitoring his progress. Consensus is he’ll want to return to England, where his stock was at its highest. That would not be surprising.
One would think the Rangers board would have at the very least mentioned Clarke’s name, particularly as he has proved a scourge to the Light Blues on three separate occasions this season. Clarke’s first game in charge of Kilmarnock took him to Ibrox. Barely introduced to his squad he escaped with a 1-1 draw. The next two encounters brought back-to-back wins. Rangers fans are still reeling from the most recent.
Logic would lead you to believe Clarke is equipped to achieve success at a bigger club with more resources. Gers certainly tick those boxes although the pressure of leading such an expectant fanbase has proved too much for the job’s most recent incumbents.
When push comes to shove, this entire discussion could prove academic. Until the club announces a decision, however, speculation surrounding the most desirable candidate will only increase. If you believe what you read, that man is Steve Clarke. Rangers, as they’ve proven with recent appointments, could do a lot worse.