Kenny Shiels urges Scottish football to move to summer season

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Callum McGregor and Iain Wilson
Sunshine graced Scottish football grounds at the weekend

Kenny Shiels has urged Scottish football to make the transition to a summer season.

The former Kilmarnock manager is in charge of Derry City, who compete in a February-October calendar in Ireland.

Rivals Dundalk came within one tie of the Champions League group stage before competing in the Europa League.

"There's only one negative with the summer season, the pre-season training is done in very wet conditions, that's the only one I have," said Shiels.

"The summer league certainly suits our style of play.

"With the exception of Celtic, who play a great brand of football, the other clubs, the Aberdeens and these teams, need to start playing with more innovation and then summer football I'd say is better for that type of game.

"It'll encourage coaches to put a brand there that's entertaining.

"We have to be mindful that the game was created for local villages to bring entertainment to the parish, to the community."

Shiels led Derry into Europe in his first season in charge and they will take their place in the Europa League qualifiers in June, when they will be midway through their domestic campaign.

Graeme Shinnie playing for Aberdeen against Maribor
Aberdeen have featured in the Europa League qualifying rounds for the last three seasons

Scottish clubs other than Celtic have struggled to make an impression in Europe in recent years.

Since 2011, Celtic are the only Scottish side to have competed in the group stage of either the Champions League or Europa League.

And Shiels said: "If there's good surfaces, which there will be [in summer], it will encourage entertainment and what's the point in having a full house if we're discouraging entertainment?

"Entertainment is at the top of our priority so it will enhance that and the chances of doing better in Europe."

Kilmarnock locals 'deserve entertainment'

Shiels parted company with Kilmarnock in 2013 having led them to the first League Cup in the club's history the year before.

The Northern Irishman, who was initially brought to Rugby Park as Mixu Paatelainen's assistant, was asked what he has made of the club since he left.

After a pause, he said: "Difficult. When I took the job, I said to my chairman, 'look, if I'm sacked, can you please give the job to someone who will continue to give the club an identity?'

"Kilmarnock are never going to win the league. Unless they turn into a Leicester City, their best hope is to win a knock-out tournament.

"Kilmarnock is a town that has had a lot of problems, losing a lot of their industry, so it's quite impoverished and the people of the town - which a football club is for - deserve an entertaining product.

"I explained all this and I said that, when I'm leaving, it's important that you bring in someone who is like me, who is going to develop young players and is going to give them identity back.

"How you win is so important to a club the size of Kilmarnock and I'm disappointed in that aspect."

Shiels was replaced at the Rugby Park helm with Allan Johnston, who - thanks primarily to the goals of Kris Boyd, prevented the club being relegated from the top flight.

"They didn't go for that type of manager," Shiels suggested. "I wish they'd have gone for someone who would go and play.

Allan Johnston (left) in the Kilmarnock dugout
Allan Johnston (left) replaced Shiels at Killie but left after 18 months

"Allan Johnston took over and, to be fair, Allan did his best, but I think it was the wrong type of manager at that time and I like Allan - it's not anything against Allan the person.

"But they needed someone in there who had a proven track record and having a football philosophy to entertain.

"They all need it and they all need to start getting their act together and entertain first and foremost. The results will then take care of themselves.

"Scottish footballers are technical, they're skilful. Over my lifetime, you go through all the players that have represented Scotland, they were right up there. Billy Bremner, Charlie Cook, you could go on and on."

Irish sides 'could beat top clubs in Scotland'

Shiels could soon be facing Scottish sides again with the introduction of League of Ireland clubs to the Irn-Bru Challenge Cup from next season.

Sligo Rovers and Bray Wanderers, who finished fourth and fifth respectively last year, will join teams from Northern Ireland and Wales in the competition from next season after the latter two nations entered this term.

St Mirren's Stelios Demetriou and The New Saints' Chris Marriott
Welsh side The New Saints reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup, losing to St Mirren

And Shiels believes sides across the Irish Sea could cause problems to sides in the Scottish top flight, let alone those competing in the Challenge Cup.

"It's good as long as they are good teams going in," Shiels added.

"Sligo play decent football and it'll be interesting to see how it goes because this is full-time in every sense. It's a very professional league.

"The Scottish Premiership is a better standard, but there's teams in the League of Ireland - and we're one of them - that could beat top clubs in Scotland.

"Maybe that's a bit audacious of me, but there are teams in our league that could do that.

"Over the piece, the Scottish Premiership, I have to be honest and say, is probably above the League of Ireland.

"In terms of winning games, they would beat us, but the style of play in the League of Ireland is way ahead of the Scotland if you take away Celtic."