Clarke criticises fixture schedule in Scotland

Steve Clarke branded the SPFL’s scheduling as amateur as Kilmarnock geared up for their post-split fixtures with a 2-0 win over Saint Johnstone.

Clarke is unhappy that his side will play their final five matches over the next six spring weeks but were forced to play as many as seven in the month of December when the weather was not so good.

“It’s one of the vagaries of the Scottish amateur league, sorry the Scottish football league”, he said.

“We’ve got two weeks off for an international break, pack three games into a week and then have another two week break before we play another league game.

“We’ve got five allocated Saturday’s between now and the end of the season. So when we get really good weather we spread the games out but in the winter we pack them all together. It’s really clever.”

Clarke was speaking after his side’s third win in five – a result that keeps Killie ahead of Aberdeen on goal difference.

A Chris Kane own goal and a Kris Boyd penalty did the damage for the hosts as they kept up hopes of securing European qualification for the first time in 18 years. But Clarke insists it has barely crossed his and his players’ minds.

He said: “We don’t talk about it in the dressing room. We just keep chasing the next win. Even when we went through the bad patch and everyone was knocking us and say we couldn’t win any more, we believed in what we were doing and just kept plugging away.

“I haven’t thought about it much because we haven’t got European football and it was never the aim. The aim this season was to finish in the top six.

“It would probably mean a slightly earlier start to pre-season and probably a financial loss.”

Saint Johnstone’s ambitions between now and the end of the season will be to finish at the top of their new mini league.

Manager Tommy Wright’s attention has already turned to next year though, as he revealed his side are likely to lose captain Joe Shaughnessy.

“We have been speaking to his advisor since November and I believe Aberdeen are the same,” Wright explained.

“We asked Joe if he was going to be committed to the club next year and his advisor said he was not in a position to make that decision so we have drawn a line under it.

“Our offer has expired which is disappointing because I know how hard the chairman has worked to keep Joe and I know how hard he worked with regard to the deals he has put on the table. I have to plan for next season and at the minute I have to plan without Joe.”

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