STUDENTS of the game in Northern Ireland will not have been surprised when Kilmarnock approached Tommy Wright to help retain their Premiership status.
The Ayrshire club have lost each of their last seven matches and are now above Hamilton in the play-off position only on goal difference. Today they travel to Pittodrie to face Aberdeen, whom they have failed to beat in their last ten meetings.
It’s a position which would have been hard to believe when current Scotland manager Steve Clarke led them to third place less than two years ago.
Unfortunately, following the ruinous reigns of Angelo Alessio and Alex Dyer, Wright has been left to pick up the pieces. It’s a tall order but, like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, the 57-year-old insists he’s had worse.
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“I’ve taken over teams that were bottom of the league when I was in Northern Ireland,” he explained. “Limavady had lost seven or eight in a row and Distillery had lost nine out of 10.
“At Limavady, I had plenty of time and we ended up finishing seventh and, at Distillery, we won eight of our last 11 to stay up and then won the cup the following season – and that was while we were in administration.
“I’ve been involved in worse situations in football so it’s not panic stations just yet but I’m a realist and the players should realise we must get better.
“I’ve tried to come in and be positive and concentrate on the team above us. We haven’t mentioned the relegation word. I don’t think you have to because the players are fully respectful of the position we’re in at the minute.
“There are nine games left [providing]plenty of points and the main aim is to stay in the league and move up the table.
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“Plus, from the players’ personal point of view, there are 17 of them out of contract so everyone should be fighting and scrapping to make sure the club stays in the league and they get new deals here or somewhere else.
“We’ve been talking to one or two already. I’ve been working with [head of football operations]James Fowler since I came in in terms of what we see the squad being next season, what types of players we want and who we definitely want to keep.
“The jury will be out on one or two because I’ve only been in two weeks and I need more time to assess the squad but you can’t stop working towards the future.”