Chris McLaughlin's words of the weekend: Steve Clarke silences Killie critics

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke
Steve Clarke took over from Lee McCulloch, who was sacked as Kilmarnock boss in October

BBC Scotland's senior football reporter, Chris McLaughlin, analyses a talking point from the weekend's action, asking what's behind the words.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke after his side came back to beat Rangers 2-1 at Rugby Park on Saturday
"I don't think anybody could begrudge us this win."

Spare a thought this Christmas for someone who, in the past few months, has found his role within the Scottish game completely and utterly redundant.

A man with no purpose - a character stripped of his meaning by the cruel hand of success. As you raise a glass and hold family near, spare a thought for the ranting Kilmarnock fan this festive season.

As regular as Sportscene, his foul-mouthed fury would find its way on to social media after another dire display from the men he loved to hate.

With his upstairs neighbours cowering in a corner, we would laugh as he delivered his very own tactical analysis to a shaking, saliva-soaked mobile phone. That's gone now and he has one man to blame.

For more years than seems possible for a top-flight club, there's been something not quite right at Kilmarnock. From the moment you walked through the door you could feel it.

It felt hollow somehow - a club, a stadium, a complete set-up lacking substance. A fractious board, stay-away fans and a succession of managers sucked in and spat out by the unmistakable malaise.

Youssouf Mulumbu, Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy
Youssouf Mulumbu, Kris Boyd and Eamonn Brophy have been in great form for the Rugby Park side

It seemed never-ending, but Steve Clarke has blown it all away and Kilmarnock has a club again.

With Santa Claus ready to do his rounds for another year, the club finds themselves sixth in the table, having lost only twice in 12 games. They've just won three league games at home in a row when not so long ago they were haunted by an inexplicable inability to record victories at Rugby Park.

Eamonn Brophy is tearing up the wing, Kris Boyd is reborn up front and, in Youssouf Mulumbu, they've found a midfielder with real composure and genuine class.

So what sorcery is at work in Ayrshire?

The former West Bromwich Albion manager will tell you there's no secret formula. His players will tell you the same, but clearly there's been a massive shift somewhere.

Consistency in selection could be key. Since their last defeat - at home to Aberdeen in November - seven of the same players have started every week.

The spine of the team never changes and it's full of experience, from Jamie MacDonald in goal through Kirk Broadfoot, Stephen O'Donnell, Gary Dicker, Alan Power and Boyd. Brophy brings flair, guile and the energy of youth to compliment the experience.

Underpinning it all is a man who keeps it simple and allows the players to trust themselves and believe.

Kilmarnock badge

When asked if top six was now the target following yet another win, Clarke was quick to temper expectation. Pulling clear from what is shaping up to be a pretty fierce relegation dogfight is all he's concerned about.

His matter-of-fact, at times aloof, tone with the media suggests a man completely comfortable and at ease in his new role. As Scottish football scratches its head and then applauds in quiet astonishment at his Rugby Park revolution, Clarke shrugs his shoulders and gets back to the training ground.

As one particular supporter packs away his camera and curses a short-lived social media career, the rest of the Kilmarnock fans can't believe their luck. Confidemus - 'We Trust' - says their club crest and, at last, they do.

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